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Monday, August 06, 2007


The 190,000 missing weapons

The big scandal in the news today is the report that 190,000 weapons given to Iraqi security forces are unaccounted for. But the entire story, as I've seen it in print and on talk shows, has missed the forest and seen only the trees. People, especially Democrats of course, want to play this up as yet another "Bush Administration incompetency" story, which I'm sure it is. They don't even have serial numbers for all the weapons they gave out. Plus there's the "military really needs more money so it can modernize" angle, exemplified by this: "the records are on a spreadsheet that requires three computer screens lined up side by side to view a single row."

But so what? What difference would it make if they had all the serial numbers? The problem isn't that they don't have the serial numbers, or that they didn't keep track of where they went. The problem is that they gave them to Iraqis who in large measure don't want the U.S. there, and were all too willing to sell (or give) the guns to resistance forces, or who were themselves resistance forces infiltrating the Iraqi army and police. The problem, in other words, is the fundamental problem of an occupation, and the resistance that exists to that occupation. Once a weapon is in the hands of the resistance, does it really matter if the U.S. military knew what the serial number was?

To repeat: the problem for U.S. imperialism isn't missing weapons. The problem is the missing support for the occupation, and the converse, the very definitely not missing resistance.

For more than two years I've written about the sham "exit strategy" (the no-longer-mentioned "as Iraqis stand up we'll stand down strategy), in words like this:

Because the only way in which the Americans, the best-equipped ground force in the world, have managed to score major victories against the resistance is through the massive use of aerial power, in the form of attack planes and helicopter gunships. Is there any chance at all that the U.S. is not only training Iraqi pilots, but also preparing to leave attack planes, helicopters, and cruise missiles behind for the Iraqi government to use on that mythical day when American forces leave? Are you kidding? And let them fall into the "wrong hands" when that government falls the week after the Americans leave? Not on your life.
I was wrong about one thing though. I wrote: "And let them fall into the "wrong hands" when that government falls the week after the Americans leave?" As the lesson of the guns illustrates, it isn't what happens after they leave that worries the Americans. Imagine what would happen while they were still there were they ever to put a tank or a fighter jet or an attack helicopter in the hands of an Iraqi. Fuhgeddaboudit.

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