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The War Nerd July 10, 2003
Iraq: the “Duh!” Theory
By Gary Brecher Browse author Email
Page 3 of 3
The guerrillas spread these rumors as fast as they can. When everybody hates the liberating troops enough, the killings start picking up speed. Every day another GI gets picked off. And the way they do it makes our guys even madder.

I read a quote from a US soldier in Iraq that really got me depressed. He said, "I don't want to say anything bad about these people but the way they attack us is really sneaky." Well, that's the whole idea of guerrilla warfare, the sneakier the better. But to a soldier it seems like murder, cowardly murder. So the soldiers get madder and madder, and eventually, on some hot-as-hell day when the smelly locals have been jeering at them for hours, some half-assed Lt. Calley type loses it and orders his men to fire on the crowd. And in about 20 seconds you've got dead demonstrators and thousands of angry relatives.

So how do you get out of a mess like this? Ask the Israelis. They're the best CI troops in the world, and they haven't figured out a way to back out yet. There are no good ways. The two classic occupations of the last few decades were the Israelis on the West Bank and Gaza, and the British in Ulster. The British came in with the idea they were going to protect the Catholics from the Protestants, but a year after they arrived their troops were getting pelted with rocks every time they went into a Catholic neighborhood. They fought the IRA for 25 years and nobody won. But the British lost, because they had something to lose. The Brits did a "white paper" on the cost of the war in Ulster and figured they lost hundreds of billions of dollars on it. Not from paying the troops but because every time a package came into the UK it had to be searched. Every time a car came into London it got searched. Worst of all, nobody was going to invest in a country that seemed to blow up every week or so. And all for a crummy welfare slum they didn't even want. And they didn't even win.

The Israelis had one advantage: they actually wanted the land they were fighting over. So they fought harder. And after the Holocaust, they had this big moral advantage. Nobody wanted to say anything bad about them for like 30 years. But the Palestinians played it smart in the first Intifada: they lost on purpose, attacking tanks with rocks. After the TV audience saw a few hundred Palestinian kids get blown away for throwing rocks, the Israelis lost the propaganda war, and now it looks like they're finally going to just get the Hell out.

There aren't any good solutions when you occupy a foreign population. There are some techniques that help, but they're cold-blooded stuff that won't make the home folks happpy. For example, you can play tribe against tribe, say Iraqi Shiites or Kurds vs. Sunni. But that takes years, guarantees lots of blood, and doesn't make the "liberators" look too good on the nightly news. Or you can do what Stalin would've done: kill'em all. But we're not Stalin, so we won't do that.

What we'll do is keep losing a man or two a day, running around blasting the wrong people, making the Iraqis feel tough for the first time in history, and wondering "Why, O why, don't they love us?"

Well, I hope I answered that question at least.

Q: Why don't they love us?

A: Cause we invaded them, DUH!

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Gary Brecher
Browse author
Email Gary at, but, more importantly, buy his book.
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