Defining the resistance in Iraq - it's not foreign and it's well prepared
UN weapons inspector saw 'blueprints' for Monday's insurgency
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A chilling realization overcame us when we entered a gymnasium-sized room and saw that the floors were painted in a giant map of the neighborhood. The streets were lined with stacked metallic "in-box" trays - each stack represented a house or apartment building. A three-story building, for example, contained three levels of trays; each tray contained dossiers on each citizen living on that floor. Similar units existed in other neighborhoods, including those deemed "anti-regime."Skip to next paragraph
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Hussein's government was - and its remnants are - intimately familiar with every square inch of Baghdad: who was loyal, where they live, and who they associated with. (The same can be said about all of Iraq, for that matter, even the Kurdish and Shiite regions.) This information allows officials from the remnants of Hussein's intelligence and security services to hide undetected among a sympathetic population. Indeed, a standard quotient among counterinsurgency experts is that for every 100 active insurgents fielded, there must be 1,000 to 10,000 active supporters in the local population.
Though the Bush administration consistently characterizes the nature of the enemy in Iraq as "terrorist," and identifies the leading culprits as "foreign fighters," the notion of Al Qaeda or Al Ansar al Islam using Baghdad (or any urban area in Iraq) as an independent base of operations is far-fetched. To the extent that foreigners appear at all in Baghdad, it is likely only under the careful control of the pro-Hussein resistance, and even then, only to be used as an expendable weapon in the same way one would use a rocket-propelled grenade or IED.
The growing number, sophistication, and diversity of attacks on US forces suggests that the resistance is growing and becoming more organized - clear evidence that the US may be losing the struggle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people.
To properly assess the nature of the anti-American resistance in Iraq today, one must remember that the majority of pro-regime forces, especially those military units most loyal to Hussein, as well as the entirety of the Iraqi intelligence and security forces, never surrendered. They simply melted away.
Despite upbeat statements from the Bush administration to the contrary, the reality is that the Hussein regime was not defeated in the traditional sense, and today shows signs of reforming to continue the struggle against the US-led occupiers in a way that plays to its own strengths, and exploits US weakness.
For political reasons, the Bush administration and the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) haven't honestly confronted this reality for fear of admitting that they totally bungled their prewar assessments about what conditions they would face in postwar occupied Iraq.
The failure to realistically assess the anti-American resistance in Iraq means that "solutions" the US and CPA develop have minimal chance of success because they're derived from an inaccurate identification of the problem.
The firestorm of anti-US resistance in Iraq continues to expand - and risks growing out of control - because of the void of viable solutions. Unless measures are taken that recognize that the tattered Hussein regime remains a viable force, and unless actions are formulated accordingly, the conflict in Iraq risks consuming the US in a struggle in which there may be no prospect of a clear-cut victory and an increasing possibility of defeat.
• Scott Ritter, a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998), is author of 'Frontier Justice: Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Bushwhacking of America.'