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More Pentagon Lies

The Giuliana Sscregna Shooting, and the Nature of the Iraqi Insurgency.

The surreal story of how U.S. troops in Iraq almost killed Giuliana Scregna--the reporter for the Italian Ieftie daily Il Manifesto--moments after her release by the anti-U.S. insurgents who'd kidnapped her--destroys whatever little Continental goodwill The Twit managed to generate in his recent European tour (it wasn't much, contrary to what U.S. telly told us), and also says a lot about why the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a continuing disaster (or, as Scregna's editor put it, how "everything that's happening in Iraq is completely senseless and mad.")

If our trigger-happy boys in uniform are blasting away at nice 57-year-old white ladies freshly escaped from their Islamist jailers, can you imagine what they're indiscriminately doing to the folks with high melanin content who live on the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates? Too bad that the Berlusconi spook who got her released got offed by our lads when he threw his body on top of Giuliana's to save her. But who really cares if she took one in the shoulder and one in the chest? She's only a journalist, after all, and some sort of Commie to boot, wasn't she? so blasting away at her is really no big deal. (Of course, she was decorated by Italy's president--not known for handing out medals to dangerous subversives--for her courageous coverage from Baghdad as the bombs fell during "Shock and Awe.") Kinda makes one wonder, though, about that witch-hunt that chased CNN chief newsie Eason Jordan from his job after he dared to breath a few common-sense questions about the remarkable number of journalists the U.S. invading and occupation forces have managed to snuff since The Twit began his high-tech imperial adventure in the Cradle of Civilization (even if Jordan did so a tad ineptly--Marc Cooper had a good post about the Jordan matter that you should read if you missed it).

Dramatic breaking news from Europe: the Nouvel Observateur 's daily news bulletin reports in a Saturday afternoon posting that Scregna says the conduct of the car in which she was being transported to liberty couldn't possibly justify the fusillade that riddled it and its occupants with bullets. "Our car was rolling along at normal speed, so it was impossible for there to have been a misunderstanding," Scregna told the Italian magistrates who've been charged with investigating the murderous incident, according to the Italian wire service Ansa-- which also says her account has been confirmed by one of the Italian secret service agents in the car with her, who was likewise wounded. These two testimonies from the victims of the shooting completely contradict the Pentagon's account that Scregna was in a speeding car that was heading straight for a checkpoint and was shot at to stop it. In fact, says Scregna, there was no checkpoint--"just a patrol that started shooting at us as soon as they bracketed their headlights on us." In the same dispatches, Scregna's boyfriend, Pier Scolari, says Washington wanted to eliminate her because Scregna--who'd reported extensively on the abuses at Abu Ghraib--had "important new information, and the U.S. forces didn't want her to get out of Iraq alive," according to the Nouvel Obs. Scolari went so far as to speak of an "ambush."

In any case, the ignorant American blunders won't stop. It's not just that the Pentagon's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Translate" policy means that Rummy and Company have been defenestrating Arabophone translators just for being queer (three times more than previously thought), so we don't have enough folks who speak the local dialects in Iraq. No, it's in part because the fundamental U.S. strategy for beating the Iraq insurgency is based on a total misunderstanding of what that insurgency is all about, how it's organized, and what it's composed of.

That's the subject of a terrific original piece on TomDispatch, "'Going to War with the Army You Have': Why the U.S. Cannot Correct Its Military Blunders in Iraq," by NYU's Michael Schwartz. With a ton of useful links in his sharp-eyed piece, Schwartz goes a long way to demolishing the current White House/Pentagon claim that the Iraqi insurgency has a centralized command and control structure constructed by an alliance between Ba'athist and Saddamist recalcitrants and the administration's current hobgoblin, the odious Abu Massab al Zarqawi (a claim that our easily manipulated mass media have largely transmitted uncritically.)

Schwartz suggests why "the foundation upon which these descriptions are built -- that these forces now dominate the resistance, supply its leadership, or provide the bulk of its resources -- is likely to prove profoundly inaccurate. This is most easily seen by consulting -- of all sources -- the CIA, which issued a contrary report about the time the Newsweek article appeared.

"According to the CIA, the Zarqawi faction and his Saddamist allies were 'lesser elements' in the resistance, which was increasingly dominated by 'newly radicalized Sunni Iraqis, nationalists offended by the occupying force, and others disenchanted by the economic turmoil and destruction caused by the fighting.' There is, in fact, a vast body of publicly available evidence in support of the CIA's perspective, including, for example, most first-hand accounts of the resistance in Falluja and other cities in the Sunni triangle.

"In the short, dreary history of America's Iraq war, our leaders have repeatedly acted on gross misconceptions about whom they were fighting -- sometimes based on faulty intelligence, but sometimes in the face of perfectly accurate intelligence. This is, in all likelihood, another instance where they believe their own distortions, and it is worthwhile attempting to understand the underlying pattern that produces this almost predictable error.

"One way to characterize this propensity to mis-analyze the resistance is to see that all the portraits thus far generated of the Iraqi resistance have been based on the assumption that it is organized into a familiar hierarchical form in which the leadership exercises strategic and day-to-day control over a pyramid shaped organization. Such a structure is described by both military strategists and organizational sociologists as a 'Command and Control' structure.... No one exercises such control over the forces that fought against the Americans in Falluja or Sadr City and those that are currently fighting a guerrilla war in Ramadi and other Sunni cities that boycotted the recent elections.

"Guerrilla wars violate the command-and-control portrait in two important ways: local units must, by and large, supply themselves (since an occupation army would be likely to interdict any regular shipments of supplies); and they are likely to have substantial autonomy (since hit-and-melt tactics do not lend themselves well to central decision making)... [Guerrillas] are less vulnerable to attacks on supply lines and to the targeting of commanding officers -- two key strategies of conventional warfare.

"The resistance in Iraq reflects this dialectic of guerrilla war. The mujaheddin in Falluja, for example, seem to have been notoriously decentralized; even local clerical leadership reportedly achieved only a tenuous discipline over the troops. This same lack of discipline, however, made it impossible for the U.S. to identify and eliminate key leaders. During the second battle for the city in November, their hit-and-run tactics allowed them to hold out for over a month against a force with overwhelming technological and numerical superiority. The command and control portrait is not a useful tool when it comes to analyzing a large component of the Iraqi resistance, and it is of little use if it is applied to the movement as a whole..."

Schwartz is bang-on when he points out that a successful anti-guerrilla operation always requires the assistance of the local population--read his whole, longish piece by clicking here. But the U.S. long ago forfeited the possibility of winning such assistance from all but handfuls of the bribed--because nearly every Iraqi has a civilian friend or relative who's been wounded or killed by the U.S. military command's indiscriminate bombings and shellings -- and by its shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later attitude, which resulted in the near-assassination of Giuliana Scregna.

Just to further confound the Bushies, there's somewhat surprising news today from The Twit's and Rummy's former Iraqi favorite, the endlessly corrupt Ahmed Chalabi--he's trying to gin up a new coalition against the U.S. occupation with hardline Sunnis! Chalabi and the Association of Muslim Scholars had a big parlay on Friday to hammer out this anti-American alliance--so relays the eagle-eyed Juan Cole in a post today based on Arab newspaper accounts. This news, by the way, sure shoots holes in the claim by Judith Miller, Chalabi's gullible familiar at The New York Times, when she told Chris Matthews just a month ago that the Bushies were pushing Chalabi for a top job in the new Iraqi government, possibly Interior Minister. Another Miller invention that the Times refused to publish shot down in flames, like so much of the argy-bargy she peddles on the tube to those who are as credulous as she is...

MUST-READ FOR YOUR WEEKEND: Frank Rich has another great column on a Newsless America in the Age of Gannon: "What's missing from News in the United States is the news. On ABC, Peter Jennings devotes two hours of prime time to playing peek-a-boo with UFO fanatics, a whorish stunt crafted to deliver ratings, not information. On NBC, Brian Williams is busy as all get-out, as every promo reminds us, 'Reporting America's Story.' That story just happens to be the relentless branding of Brian Williams as America's anchorman - a guy just too in love with Folks Like Us to waste his time looking closely at, say, anything happening in Washington...." This is Rich at his sardonic best: read it all by clicking here.....