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Joseph A. Palermo Headshot

To Kill A Nation

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According the United Nations, there were over 20,000 people kidnapped in Iraq last year, and 34,000 civilians killed. The combatants are as diverse as the ideological and religious forces that animate them. The hundreds of armed factions operating in Iraq today are impossible to sort out. They include:

The Salafists, who are tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and wish to see a Sunni Islamic state in Iraq;

The Wahhabists, who largely come from Saudi Arabia and wish to overthrow the Arab regimes and impose strict Islamic law;

The Jihadists from all over the Arab world, who want to kill the "crusaders" and "occupiers," and learn the techniques of urban guerrilla warfare;

The Ba'athists, who are secular Sunni nationalists who wish to make Baghdad ungovernable to prevent the Shia from ruling Iraq;

Moqtada al Sadr's Mahdi Army, which functions as an anti-imperialist Shia army, based largely in poverty-ridden "Sadr City";

The Badr Bridages, which is the largest of the Shia militias and a presence throughout the South, which follow Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and his political party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI);

The Sunni and Shia militias that have mobilized at the neighborhood level to protect their communities and also engage in attacks;

The splinter groups from the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades that neither Sadr nor Sistani can control;

The smaller gangs that have split off from the splinter groups;

The armed Sunni groups from diverse ideological and religious orientations;

The Shia death squads operating from within the Interior Ministry;

The criminal syndicates engaged in smuggling oil, weapons, people, cars, and explosives;

The suicide bombers who have come to Iraq from Jordan and Saudi Arabia;

The teams of experts who build car bombs and Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs);

The suicide car bombers;

The freelance torturers and assassins for hire;

The kidnapping and extortion rings that sell their victims to the highest bidder;

The sniper schools that offer to teach Iraqis to kill Americans and pay higher wages for snipers than the Iraqi Army and Police;

The intelligence operatives from the CIA, the Israeli Mossad, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and Syrian, Jordanian, and Saudi intelligence;

The private contractors functioning as small mercenary armies;

The American and British Military Police and Military Intelligence officers;

Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, and splinter groups of Al Qaeda;

The over 140,000 American military personnel;

And the 21,000 more American soldiers sent to Iraq as part of Bush's "surge."

The Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education announced that 146 university professors were assassinated in the past two years. The first wave of murders against the Iraqi intelligentsia targeted scientists (even if their specialties had nothing to do with weapons). But the killings soon fanned out to include educators who specialized in Arabic, history, archaeology, journalism, philosophy, and other disciplines.

A March 2006 report claimed that 311 teachers were killed in a four-month period. And there were 182 pilots and 416 senior military officers murdered in the first three months of 2006. According to the United Nations' International Leadership Institute, "84 percent of Iraq's higher learning institutions have been burnt, looted or destroyed."

Iraq's historical existence as a sovereign Arab state has suffered immensely from the pillaging of its archaeological museums and historical sites, and the destruction of its libraries, archives, and universities. There has been the disassembling of the physical and institutional infrastructure of the country. Bush's "reconstruction" policies have transformed Iraq from a "rogue state" into a "failed state."

Even more sinister than the civil war and the sectarian bloodbath is the evidence that there are powerful outside forces at work that do not want Iraq to become a viable nation. American politicians and pundits tell us that the Bush Administration has made a series "blunders" in Iraq. But perhaps the Bush policies all along have been designed to degrade Iraqi society to the point where it could never again express Arab nationalism in any form and threaten American "interests" in the region.

Part of this permanent neutering of Iraq has been achieved by a deliberate policy of targeted assassinations against the intelligentsia, which has torn up the cultural identity of the nation. Maybe Bush's policies are not "mistakes" at all, but great successes that are consistent with the Administration's true goal of the occupation.