As a young man, in 1974, I was riding on a bus traveling from Beirut to Damascus. The man I sat next to was an English-speaking Iraqi whom I asked at one point in our conversation, "Can you describe your nation in a sentence?" "No problem," he immediately answered. "We Iraqis are the most barbaric people in the world."
I obviously never forgot that man's words, and therefore anticipated great cruelties in Iraq. But neither I nor anyone who predicted a civil war had so much as a premonition of this unprecedented mass murder of the men, women and children among one's own people as a military tactic to defeat an external enemy.
It is, therefore, unfair to blame the Bush administration for not anticipating such a determined "insurgency." Without the mass murder of fellow Iraqis, there would hardly be any "insurgency." The combination of suicide terrorists and a theology of death has created an unprecedented form of "resistance" to an occupier: "We will murder as many men, women and children as we can until you leave." Nor is this a matter of Sunnis murdering Shiites and vice versa: college students, women shopping at a Baghdad market and hospital workers all belong to both groups. Truck bombs cannot distinguish among tribes or religious affiliations.
If America had to fight an insurgency directed solely against us and coalition forces -- even including suicide bombers -- we would surely have succeeded. No one, right, left or center, could imagine a group of people so evil, so devoid of the most elementary and universal concepts of morality, that they would target their own people, especially the most vulnerable, for murder.
That is why we have not yet prevailed in Iraq. Even without all the mistakes made by the Bush administration -- and what political or military leadership has not made many errors in prosecuting a war? -- it could not have foreseen this new form of evil we are witnessing in Iraq.
That is why we have not won.
There are respectable arguments to be made against America's initially going into Iraq. But intellectually honest opponents of the war have to acknowledge that no one could anticipate an "insurgency" that included people leaving children in a car and then blowing them up.
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