In 1983, the Iranian backed Hezbollah committed a suicide truck bombing in Lebanon, which devastated a U.S. Marine Barracks and precipitated Ronald Reagan's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from that country. Suicide bombings continued to be at the forefront of Hezbollah's subsequent guerrilla war against Israel, until it withdrew its forces from Lebanon in 1985. It is that model that may believe has been followed by Palestinian terrorist groups in their suicide attacks on Israeli military and civilian targets. At around the same time, in Afghanistan, Russia was confronting tactics which included the kidnapping and videotaped beheadings of hostages by guerrillas who opposed their occupation. Saudi and Egyptian terrorists were responsible for the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center. And today, Thomas Friedman tells us that the reason for our difficulties in Iraq is that, in the midst of a sea of terrorist factions which use similar tactics, we simply didn't imagine that Iraqis might use them in opposing a U.S. occupation:
Let me explain: America's greatest intelligence failure in Iraq was not the W.M.D. we thought were there, but weren't. It was the P.M.D. we thought weren't there, but were. P.M.D., in my lexicon, stands for "people of mass destruction." And there were far more of them in Iraq than anyone realized.Take note of the accusation implicit in that statement - that the Bush Administration was lying when it said that part of the justification for invading Iraq was its support for terrorism, and that we were "fighting them over there so we won't have to fight them over here". After all, if either assertion is true, Friedman's thesis falls apart.
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You know all those masked Iraqi youth you see in the Al Jazeera videos, brandishing weapons and standing over some foreigner whose head they are about saw off? They are the product of the last decade of Saddamism and sanctions. Those youth were 10 years old when the U.N. sanctions began. They are the mushrooms that Saddam and the sanctions were growing in the dark. The Bush team had no clue they were there.
Now, granted, Friedman suggests that this inclination toward long-used terrorist tactics and suicide bombings was imported to Iraq as a result of Saddam Hussein's policies under a decade of sanctions. Was the Bush Administration really as oblivious to the realities on the ground as Friedman suggests? Or is Friedman describing his own incredulity, his having endorsed the war in Iraq as a "war of liberation" long before the Bush Administration grasped onto that particular excuse for invasion. I do think that the Bush Administration significantly overestimated the gratitude and reception the U.S. could expect for deposing Hussein, as did Friedman, but I don't think that the Bush Administration shared Friedman's expectation that Iraq's insurgents would not embrace the techniques which much of the Arab world credits with driving both the U.S. Marines and Israel out of Lebanon, nor the horrific tactics used against the Russians during their clumsy and brutal occupation of Afghanistan.