OPINION

Iraq troubles

The rocket attack on Baghdad’s Rashid Hotel on Sunday, a highly symbolic act against one of the most secure compounds of the Iraqi capital that was hosting Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, summed up the problems facing the American efforts to assert control over Iraq. «We did not expect it would be quite this intense this long,» US Secretary of State Colin Powell told NBC television, referring to the incident. The numbers are indeed stunning. Over the past 20 days there has been an average of 25 attacks per day on US troops, while more than 110 American soldiers have been killed since the end of the war. Another 12 men have committed suicide, hundreds have been sent back to the States suffering from serious psychological problems, hundreds have been wounded and are receiving medical treatment in US bases in Europe, before they are sent back to their homes. According to a survey that was recently conducted by the Pentagon, half of the American soldiers now serving in Iraq will quit the military after the end of their contract. Leading US Republican Senator John McCain shocked the US public on Sunday when he evoked parallels between the Iraq and Vietnam military campaigns, suggesting that the Bush administration is trying to gloss up the current situation in Iraq. It may be that the senator is exaggerating. Leading Republican congressmen are more reassuring, insisting that Washington is in control of the situation. «It can’t be fun to be occupied,» US administrator in Iraq Paul Bremer admitted in an attempt to explain growing Iraqi insurgence, while also stressing that the missile strikes on the hotel accommodating Wolfowitz were not an indication that the security situation in Iraq is deteriorating. A realistic assessment of the situation in Iraq leads to the conclusion that local resistance will be subdued in the long term. This, however, does not justify the efforts of the Bush administration to distort the current situation in Iraq where local insurgents have proved capable of inflicting damage on all sorts of American targets, even the most secure ones. An average of two American soldiers have been killed each day recently, while on Monday alone, the Americans and their allies suffered 224 injured. Given that the Europeans have yet to fall behind the US stance on the issue of war and the Iraq-occupying force, it is becoming clear that Washington will have to go it alone in crushing Iraqi resistance. Until then – and until Washington decides on a change of course, the US will continue to pay the price (in blood and money) on its own.