Monday, April 12, 2004

Iraqi Vukovar

When I watch the news coverage of the events in Fallujah, I can't shake the feeling that I heard similar news and saw similar images before.

Similarities between events in Iraq today and events in Croatia thirteen years ago are good reason why so many Croatians rooted for Saddam's forces one year ago and why many root for Iraqi insurgents now.

Fallujah fits the pattern of Vukovar almost perfectly. Fallujah is, just like Vukovar, city situated in plain. It is surrounded by overwhelmingly superior military force. It is defended by small bands of lightly armed but effective militia. The urban combat is messy and costly for invaders. Huge numbers of civilians die. Carnage is interrupted with ceasefires and arrivals of food/aid convoys. The town becomes the symbol.

On the other hand, events in Fallujah, tragic as they are, perhaps show the light at the end of the tunnel. For the first time during this conflict, US military has engaged in negotiations with insurgents/Baathists/foreign fighters/Islamists or the "enemy". These talks might have little practical effect, they might not stop the carnage, but their symbolic importance should never be played down. They represented the clear precedent, American admission that their omnipotence was illusion and that brute force alone can't bring them success in Iraq.

Those talks would gradually pave the way to some sort of negotiated settlement, which is, in my humble opinion, the only way for insurgency to end. They would also give some sort of importance and legitimacy to Iraqi Governing Council – instead of being insignificant puppets of the occupation authorities, IGC is going to become valuable conduit between CPA and Iraqi people. And those talks also give another sort of precedent – teaching Iraqis to solve problems by talking and not fighting between themselves. Because, the new, democratic Iraq for which this war was supposed to be fought could be create only by Iraqis themselves.

Perhaps I'm little bit over-optimistic. On the other hand, I would really like to believe that the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis and dozens of Coalition soldiers served some purpose.


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