Blast from the Past

BAGHDAD (still) — So, check this blast from the past from my buddy Matt Stannard at the _SF Chronicle:_ Iraqi stragglers still pose threat to allied troops patrolling capital / Hit-and-run attacks likely to persist

Organized military opposition to U.S. and British forces in Iraq has evaporated rapidly since the fall of Baghdad, U.S. military leaders say, but small groups of fighters — irregulars — are still defending the fallen regime.
These “pockets of resistance” — the preferred phrase used widely by pundits — have existed since the first days of the campaign, when American generals said such stragglers would be “mopped up” once the main thrust was complete.

The story dates from April 11, 2003, two days after the U.S. “helped” pull down the Saddam statue in Firdos square near the Palestine Hotel. Ah, we were so young. No one really knew it at the time, but Stannard was eerily prescient in his description of a “third type” of resistance:

A third type of resistance may prove even harder to handle, analysts said: suicide bombers such as the one who reportedly killed himself and injured four Marines at a Baghdad checkpoint Thursday.
Dressed in civilian clothing and willing to die for relatively small military victories, those individual Iraqis — or, in some cases, foreign nationals visiting Iraq specifically to attack Americans — may prove the thorniest challenge for U.S. and British forces in coming days, analysts said.

It was just after these early days — in June and July — that the Iraqi resistance/insurgency formed around these vestigial cells of Ba’athists and fedayeen. Throw in some foreign fighters, sprinkle in a whole lotta Gulf money and bingo — you’ve got a quagmire. It’s really a shame that no one predicted this. Oh, wait! “Someone did!”:

Instead of a nice, clean occupation that results in the first Arab democracy — and a network of Army bases from which to project power throughout the region — I predict the United States will have years of guerilla insurgency from nationalistic Iraqis (some of the fiercest nationalism in the Arab world), the dirty job of suppressing Kurdish and Shi’ite independence movements and Sunni power grabs, the problem of al Qai’da slipping across the borders (with the help of Iran and sympathetic Saudis) into the country to stike at American troops and meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs by Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Russia. And don’t forget the resentment in the region that will occur when the United States begins exploiting the Iraqi oil fields for its own purposes. No one will like that, least of all the Iraqis.

OK. So I wasn’t 100 percent right on all of this. (Russia? What the hell was I thinking?) But I was pretty close. As were a lot of other people a whole lot smarter than me.
But crowing “I told you so!” — which is not even emotionally gratifying anymore — does little to solve the problem. But I don’t know what the solution is anymore. We’re a hair’s breadth away from civil war, American troops can neither stay or go without an even higher body count and we have a political process that is awash with egos, sectarian tensions and lacking in leadership. And that’s just in America. It’s even worse in Iraq.
I have to confess: I can’t see a way out of this briar patch without a whole lot more bloodshed. And at the risk of sounding defeatist — hell, I’ve been here a long time, I can say what I want — I see the likely end as defeat and ruin for Iraqis, the United States and the region. Feel free to use the comment section to suggest realistic solutions ’cause I’m fresh out of ideas. (By the way, if you don’t post a comment, then the terrorists win.)