What happened in Iraq this week was a beautiful lesson in the weird laws of guerrilla warfare. Unfortunately, it was the Americans who got schooled. Even now, people at my office are saying, "We won, right? Sadr told his men to give up, right?" Wrong. Sadr won big. Iran won even bigger. Maliki, Petraeus and Cheney lost.
If you want to know how NOT to think about Iraq, just start with anything ever said or imagined by Cheney or Bush. Our Commander in Chief declared a week ago, when the Iraqi Army first marched into Basra, "I would say this is a defining moment in the history of a free Iraq." But when the Iraqi Army fled a few days later, he suddenly got very quiet. But anybody could see how deluded the poor fucker is just by all the nonsense he managed to cram into that 15-word sentence. I mean, "the history of a free Iraq"? That’s like that Mad Magazine joke about the "World’s Shortest Books." But that’s nothing compared to Bush’s fundamentally wrong notion that there’s even such a thing as a "defining moment" in an urban guerrilla war. Guerrilla wars are slow, crock-pot wars. To win this kind of war, the long war, takes patience. Trying to force a "defining moment" by military action is not just ignorant and idiotic, but risks further demoralizing your side when that moment doesn’t happen, as it inevitably won’t. What happens when you launch premature strikes on a neighborhood-based group like the Mahdi Army is that you just end up convincing their neighborhoods that the occupiers are the enemy, and the Mahdi boys — all local kids you’ve known all your life — are heroes, defending your glorious slum from the foreigners and their lackeys.