Thursday | June 05, 2003
Why the snipe hunt matters
With each passing day, it becomes more likely that we are never going to find large stocks of WMD in Iraq. The worry on both sides of the pond is clear. Every place they looked turned up a dry hole. They're banking on some driver to tell them about some secret dump where he drove them, but that's not likely to happen.
There may be hidden stocks of WMD. But it is unlikely. Why? Because this not gold. These are weapons and they have to be deployed to use. They have to be in depots and storage areas. If not at the battalion/regimental level, then at the divisional or corps level. They were at none of them. Not in the field, not at the division or corps depots. So the odds are really strong that they weren't deployed at all.
So given the fact that they would have had to make new shells to replace the ones blown to crap by the UN in 1998, where are the production facilities? They would have had to have some kind of assembly line facility. Where are the places they would have had to have made these chemicals and bioweapons?
Also, someone has to care for them and observe them. If they were stuck in the desert, there would be truck tracks, refueling points, watering points. It couldn't be too far off the highway and given the Iraqi aversion to the desert, close enough to Saddam that he could control them in case one of his generals got the idea to replace him.
So if they're in a central location, if they aren't in metro Baghdad, they're near Tikrit. But they aren't. The Iraqi senior military leadership is marching around asking for money. Why in God's name wouldn't they tell the US where these chemicals are. They won't need them and the money for telling the US is impressive. Are we supposed to believe that the colonels are still protecting the seniors who took US bribes.
Oh yeah, about those bribed generals. Why don't they know about chemical weapons? Saddam keeping it a secret from them as well?
So if the Army didn't know, who exactly was supposed to use these weapons? Uday and friends?
When you start putting the pieces together, the idea that the Iraqis had chemical weapons becomes less and less likely. Even if they did have them, they were unusable. They weren't deployed, the senior officers had no weapons to use, and the sites we've checked are empty. Bush and Blair would, if they were clever, let the UN announce there are no weapons. They are not clever. They are going to ride this down in flames.
But in the end, the snipe hunt matters less for what they find than what it triggered. Which is the full-scale hostile occupation of Iraq. We are now engaged in daily firefights with random, anonymous groups. We don't know whom they are. Meanwhile, the clerics are plotting to make Iraq an Islamic Republic.
The obstacles we face in Iraq was explained in detail in this Washington Post article from Monday
At 11:30, it was 103 degrees as the patrol arrived at the Rami Institute for Autistic and Slow Learners, a house on a side street with a big lime tree in its walled front yard.
On a green chalkboard, written in English and Arabic, was the message, "This building is protected by U.S. soldiers. We will use deadly force to protect this building."
Bravo Company is determined to help the school, in part because it has been attacked. People who don't like the school, Callan said, "break in, pop shots, terrorize them to get them to leave."
The soldiers left their weapons stacked in the yard, under guard. "It scares the kids," he explained.
They also left their grim "game faces" outside. In the small school, they knelt and talked gently with the children, encouraging them to respond. Callan put his helmet on one child's head. He visited all five classrooms. They lingered for more than half an hour.
As the squad prepared to leave the school, Pvt. Ian Hanson, who had been standing guard out front, was having a playful debate with a local teenager. "I'm not a baby, you're a baby," said the 19-year-old from the Fox River town of Little Chute, Wis. "You're two years younger than me. I'm a long way from home. You're living at home."
The soldiers looked pleased with themselves. They liked helping the school. They admired its teachers, and their hearts went out to the children.
But outside, neighbors took a very different view of the troops' visit to the women who run the school.
"We're not against the presence of the school, we're against the presence of the Americans," said Saif Din, 23. "We don't want them here."
He and his friend, Mohammed Ahmed, 22, said they suspected the soldiers were having sex with the women inside. "Only God knows," Ahmed said. "I haven't seen it with my own eyes. But I've heard about things."
"We don't like it," said Din, wagging his finger. "We don't like it."
For a moment, they debated the occupation. Electricity was better and looting had waned. But the phones still did not work, and public transportation was a mess. The Americans dissolved the Iraqi army, depriving hundreds of thousands of a salary. And the future?
"The future is obscure," Ahmed said. "Their goals aren't clear."
"Their goals are clear," Din answered. "They're here to occupy us."
This is, of course, the kind of vast cultural misunderstanding which gets people killed. We don't speak Arabic and we don't understand their culture. And like a good occupying army, we are now breaking into homes and seaching them.
No one can argue that Saddam was a good ruler. But the Iraqi people are on the edge of interethnic violence which could totally destabilize the country. The moderate Shias are none too happy about the fundamentalists, the Sunnis dislike the heavyhanded and aggressive nature of the US occupation and all Iraqis have the subtle fear that they're going to wind up like the Palestinians, powerless and occupied forever.
The snipe hunt unleashed forces we are only begining to understand. We've got a bunch of groups, all of them armed, and most opposed to the US in some way, shape or form.
Eight soldiers have died in eight days from combat. Every day US forces are in Iraqis faces, a soldier dies. Someone fires a rocket, which already places them one up on the Palestinians, and an American dies.
Why are we in this position? The snipe hunt.
The snipe hunt made it seem that Saddam was a danger to the US and our allies, one so immediate that we had to stop him. While people are now more worried about the MTV Movie Awards, every day a family finds out their son is not coming home.
If there are no snipes, people are going to ask why their sons and daughters are being killed by any pissed off Iraqi with enough time to root around and find a rocket launcher. Those weapons searches are useless, since everyone can own one AK-47 anyway. They bury the rest until needed.
Oddly enough, Ice-T described this situation in a song "Buried in the backyard, I got 10 AK's and a case of hand greandes". I think the Iraqis have figured out how to hide their small arms. Of course, bursting into conservative Sunni homes and talking to the women is enough to anger the men and make them shoot at Americans.
The snipe hunt is important less for what we may find than what we are finding, people who want us to go home sooner rather than later.