Give ‘Em All Guns and Hope For the Best

‘The single most effective weapon against our deployed forces’

By Rick Atkinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, September 30, 2007; A01
It began with a bang and “a huge white blast,” in the description of one witness who outlived that Saturday morning, March 29, 2003. At a U.S. Army checkpoint straddling Highway 9, just north of Najaf, four soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division, part of the initial invasion of Iraq, had started to search an orange-and-white taxicab at 11:30 a.m. when more than 100 pounds of C-4 plastic explosive detonated in the trunk.
The explosion tossed the sedan 15 feet down the road, killing the soldiers, the cabdriver — an apparent suicide bomber — and a passerby on a bicycle. Lt. Col. Scott E. Rutter, a battalion commander who rushed to the scene from his command post half a mile away, saw in the smoking crater and broken bodies on Highway 9 “a recognition that now we were entering into an area of warfare that’s going to be completely different.”

. . . The costly and frustrating struggle against a weapon barely on the horizon of military planners before the war in Iraq provides a unique lens for examining what some Pentagon officials now call the Long War, and for understanding how the easy victory of 2003 became the morass of 2007.


Nice try. That presupposes that an ‘easy victory’ existed other than in the minds of The Five and a whole lot of experts thought it didn’t.

Another inconvenient truth beyond Al Gore’s prognostication is that most of what is coming back to haunt us in the way of easily-found munitions were put there by us and by Russia in those bad old days of client nations. The now famous picture of Rumsfeld shaking Saddam’s hand isn’t congratulatory, it’s deal-sealing. We armed Iraq in its war against Iran, basically because of the humiliation we had suffered in the embassy-hostage standoff and because Iran had become Russia’s client.

Great reason to arm a mentally unstable and vicious troublemaker. Yet we keep on doing it. You don’t pick up 100 pounds of C-4 at Wal-Mart.

We’re packing arms and weapons into Pakistan to shore up General Musharraf as he trembles on the edge of defeat in his own country. Bush stands at the podium in the United Nations and castigates the military junta in Burma while he arms an equally repressive military junta in Pakistan. Do we really think the sovereign nations of the U.N. (and their variously troubled populations) don’t see that contradiction?

We’re wild-eyed about Iran at the moment and quiet to the point of forced silence on Pakistan.

  • Yet Iran is a relatively stable country with a government we don’t like and an overwhelmingly young, literate, well educated population that is friendly to America. They Mullahs insist their nuclear program is energy related and we insist it’s weapons related. But it’s an argument and not a fact.
  • Pakistan is a country unstable to the point of coming apart over Musharraf bulling his way to an unconstitutional 2nd term. Its population is marginally literate and anti-American in the extreme. It already has a stockpile of nuclear weapons. That’s a fact and not an argument.

We may well (probably will) face our own weapons in Pakistan if things come apart. We already are facing American weapons we gave Osama in the mountainous tribal regions of the country where al-Qaeda is holed up. Is that some kind of poetic justice, or a more directly applicable irony? Irony is not supposed to be, but is more and more the long-term result of our ‘give ’em all guns and hope for the best’ foreign policy.

Thus the deals we make today become tomorrow’s sad photographs of smiling future Secretarys of Defense, sealing deals with shaky dictators and funding them to murder and jail their citizens, dissidents and press. It’s a foreign policy bound to fail. The only question is how many years and how many presidential cycles it takes for that stuff to come down around our ears.

But the rhetoric is always great. Burma and Iran equal bad dictatorships, Saudi and Pakistan are as polished as new-picked apples. In both cases, freedoms are repressed and in both cases the fuse is lit.

We are complicit, there is no other word for it.

Which might at least be honest and understandable to the world, if we said “these are rat-shit governments, equally repressive and repulsive, but it suits our national interest to support this one and undermine the other.”

Then we wouldn’t have to invite Pervez Musharraf and Nouri Kamel Mohammed Hassan al-Maliki to the White House and watch an American president squirm as he tries to make sense of nonsense.

The single most effective weapon against our deployed forces is sixty years of failed policy that hasn’t done a damned thing other than determine who will serve and who will eat. Those forced to carry the plates of the Saudis, Pakistanis, Israelis, Burmese, Colombians and Indonesians are hanging up their aprons.

It’s not all that much of a surprise that George Bush is having a hard time finding a waiter when he needs one.

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