Saturday, March 03, 2007

Who's fighting who in Iraq? Ask Evan Kohlmann

Interested in who is fighting who in Iraq? How about asking the guy who has spent the last three years operating a clearinghouse of virtually every communiqué in any format -- video, audio, Internet, printed -- issued by insurgent groups in that country. Evan Kohlmann has become sufficiently knowledgeable to be hired as a consultant by the U.S. Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the CIA.

Yeah, yeah, I know. Supposedly Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, "Scooter" Libby and a number of others were sufficiently knowledgeable to get hired by the government to demonstrate their expertise, and that whole group has failed miserably. But they are NeoCons. Kohlman is a real expert. He hasn't been appointed by Bush-annointed Politicians to lie us into an unnecessary war.

So go read the Salon article by Kevin Berger." [Salon Day-Pass (easy) or membership required.] The article is entitled "The Iraq insurgency for beginners."

I'd send it to "Shrub," but he doesn't really read. I won't waste it on him. Dick Cheney handles all that foreign and military stuff anyway, and we know that since Dick (in his opinion and that of the other NeoCons) knows everything foreign, military and Intelligence-related, he won't read it either.

OK. Enough of my anger and disgust at the incompetence of the Republicans and the Bush administration. Let me offer a few quotes from Evan Kohlmann:
Question: Every day you look at Iraq through the lens of insurgent videos and Internet postings. What do you see?

Kohlmann A picture of fundamentalism. Shiite fundamentalism clashing with Sunni fundamentalism clashing with American fundamentalism. We have tried imposing things upon Iraq that are totally foreign to it. Now each side is unwilling to acknowledge the right of the other to have a voice in what's going on. It's a disaster.

Question: Describe the insurgency.

Kohlmann You have to be careful when you say "insurgency." You have to distinguish between the Shiite militias and the actual insurgency, which is the Sunni groups. Most of the Shiite militia activity is not directed at the U.S., it's directed at the Sunnis. The Sunni insurgency, meanwhile, is directed at everyone -- the U.S., the Iraqi government, the militias.

The best way to divide it up is into three camps. You have
  1. Sunni nationalists, initially a large portion of the insurgency;
  2. the moderate Sunni Islamists>, who use Islamic terminology and talk about establishing a government based on Sharia law;
  3. and you have the Salafists, like the group Al-Qaida in Iraq. To them, the fight is not about preserving the borders of Iraq, it's about revolution, about rebuilding something completely new on the basis of some kind of idyllic Muslim empire.
Question: What drives people to join the insurgency?

Kohlmann I've called up families of fighters and when I ask that question, the response is always the same: Wouldn't you?

They are extremely upset about what's going on in Iraq.
  • Some of them have a burning hatred for the U.S. They see the U.S. as imposing its will on their countries.
  • Some of them have a burning desire to be a missionary and martyr for Islam.
  • You have people who have broken out of prison and gone to fight in Iraq.
It's now a vacuum sucking in every disaffected voice in the region.

Question: How has the insurgency evolved?

Kohlmann When the U.S. invasion began in 2003, it was mainly Baathists, ex-Iraqi military, and Saddam loyalists. They were Iraqi nationalists, opposed to foreign occupation, who saw Iraq as a competitor with Egypt for the control of the Arab world. It was an issue of national pride. Video recordings and communiqués were coming out from everybody who had an AK-47. But as the war dragged on, some of these groups started coalescing; others were destroyed. Only the strongest, the most hardcore, the best financed, the people with the most training, survived, despite airstrikes and the arrest of their senior leaders by the U.S. military. [Snip]

Question: Has the U.S. invasion, in fact, strengthened al-Qaida?

Kohlmann Definitely. And this is the depressing thing. The hardcore true believers of al-Qaida at one time were probably 10 percent of the insurgent groups. Now they're 50 percent. Al-Qaida is growing in places it shouldn't. You have groups like the Islamic Army of Iraq that have transitioned from being traditional insurgents to extremist ones. Or take a popular insurgent group called the 1920 Revolution Brigades. The very name of the group has a nationalist, not Islamist meaning. And yet very recently, the head of al-Qaida's Islamic State in Iraq issued a statement in which he said that people from the 1920 Revolution Brigade were now fighting alongside al-Qaida. The U.S. is failing miserably at containing the spread of al-Qaida.

[editor's Note: I reformated the quotation above to add the HTML lists and underlining for ease of reading.]
This short selection is just the beginning of the excellent and very informative Berger interview.

When I read this guy, and then compare what he says to what our (Republican) Politicians (Plus the non-Democrat Joe Lieberman) the distinction becomes very clear. The Republicans and Joe are speaking in TV soundbites which have little real meaning. A person cannot use those soundbites to decided who to shoot when in Iraq.

Evan Kohlmann is speaking in a precise language that makes much finer distinctions. The material Kevin Berger is providing is the kind of Intelligence that if I were in Iraq carrying a rifle would be more likely keep me and my troops alive and probably sane.

So go read the rest of the Salon article by Kevin Berger." It should tell you which American politicians are telling the truth, and which ones are operating with a blind, self-serving agenda and trying to influence your vote away from good sense.

[Corrections made 03/10/2007

I originally read the Salon article and improperly attributed the quotations of the expert to Kevin Berger, the author of the Salon article. Kevin wrote a very good article, but the expert he was quoting was in fact Evan Kohlman. Evan Kohlman should get the credit for his excellent work. I apologize to both of them for my error.

My thanks to DE for bringing this to my attention.]

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