OPINION

Shock waves

No one is talking any more about the US invasion of Iraq being a «picnic.» The outcome of the fighting shows how fundamentally mistaken were those who thought the Iraqi army would abandon the regime en masse and that the Iraqi people, particularly the Shi’ites in the south, would welcome the US troops as «liberators.» The powerful Iraqi resistance, combined with the relentlessly increasing number of civilian victims, threatens to turn the conflict into a «patriotic war» by Iraq. If this does happen, the USA’s strategy will be blown sky-high. Iraqi and American losses will be far greater and it will be extremely difficult to stabilize the postwar occupation regime without bloodshed. The declaration by the Shi’ite religious leader of resistance against the Americans does not bode well for the latter. The Shi’ites were the only large sector of the Iraqi population, apart from the already pro-American Kurds, that the Bush administration hoped would join their cause. Instead of crowds of Iraqis cheering wildly at their American liberators, television screens around the world have been showing images of US Marines either dead or taken prisoner. Although for obvious reasons these images have been banned from American TV, it would be a serious mistake to underestimate the shock waves this war has begun to send through American society. The difficult position of British Prime Minister Tony Blair is indicative of what could happen in the US. Clearly, Iraq is not going to become another Vietnam, but nor is it another Afghanistan, where nearly a year and a half after the overthrow of the Taliban, bloodthirsty local warlords are once again absolute rulers of almost the entire country, while the pro-American Karzai regime controls only the capital, Kabul. The Bush administration, hostage to an arrogance rooted in the knowledge of its overwhelmingly superior military might, regarded the war against Iraq as a «picnic» of just a few days, and its critics as cowardly representatives of an old Europe in decline. Yet it now seems that those who had expressed reservations were correct. Hardly any war to overrun a foreign country ever turns out the way it was planned. No one doubts the Americans’ ability to defeat Iraq. However, what is of major political importance is how fast they can do it without causing dozens or even hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths, or without the loss of a large number of American soldiers, which just might turn the American public against the war.