Sunday, October 17, 2004

# Posted 2:09 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

COLLATERAL DAMAGE: With good reason, Spencer Ackerman is concerned about the civilian casualties inflicted by US airstrikes on Falluja. (Hat tip: MY again.) With reference to the lessons of Vietnam, Ackerman writes that
The insurgency grows stronger, not weaker, as a result of embittered civilians who suffer the consequences of the attack.
I agree. But doesn't the acceptance of this principle imply that the insurgents have antagonized even more Iraqi as a result of their indiscriminate and intentional suicide bombings across Iraq?

How often does the newspaper article (or left-of-center blog post) describing such an attack suggest that it will play to the advantage of the United States? Not often. Instead, one tends to read that Iraqis blame America for failing to provide the sort of security that would protect them from suicide attacks.

One possible justification for this double-standard is the fact that Iraqi nationalism leads most Iraqis to blame the United States regardless of who is responsible for the deaths in question. Or to be more precise, Sunni Arabs in Iraq will blame the United States no matter what, whereas Kurds and Shi'ites -- who are often the victims of such suicide attacks -- will approach such matters with a more open mind.

Yet when a suicide bomb detonates in the heart of Baghdad, it is almost as likely to kill a Sunni as it is a Kurd or Shi'ite. Can Iraqi Sunnis forgive such indiscriminate slaughter even if they support the objectives it hopes to achieve? I suspect not.

Of course, Falluja is enemy territory so there are no suicide bombings there. Thus, civilian casualties tend to be American inflicted. On the other hand, the threat of an American-led assault seems to have provoked a divide between native Fallujans who prefer to negotiate and those foreign fighters who prefer to fight to the death. Let's hope that the sensibilities of the natives prevail.
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