October 17, 2007
The New York Times links to a video op-ed by Steve Connors and Molly Bingham on the insurgency in Iraq during the early phases of the war. Abu Muqawama has met and spoken with the film-makers a few times -- no, reader, he wasn't one of the insurgents they filmed -- but disagrees with their op-ed, which he think overestimates the power of the insurgents in the first year of the war relative to the U.S. forces and perhaps romanticizes the insurgents as well. They don't address, example, the very real sectarian hatred and potential for violence within Iraq. Sure, 100% of Iraqis disapprove of attacks against Iraqis. Easy questions, easy answer. But scratch beneath the surface a bit and you get a different story. (To some Sunnis, the Shia aren't even real Iraqis.) Abu Muqawama doesn't think it helps here that neither film-maker speaks Arabic and thus relied on translators the whole time. He also doesn't think it helps they spent most of their time with the insurgents. No, they don't become partisan, per se, but they can't help but internalize the narrative of the insurgent, who sees himself as part of a legitimate, national movement against the occupation. Alas, after the fall of Saddam and the incompetence of the U.S. military in the first few months, the only thing "national" left in Iraq was the football team.*
But come up with your own opinions. You can find out more on the film here and watch a sneak preview here.
*When Abu Muqawama criticizes the performance of the U.S. military in the first few months after the invasion, it should go without saying that he includes his own performance in that criticism. Like most tactical leaders in the 2003 and 2004, he wonders what he could have done better. Unlike most tactical leaders, though, and because he is now a specialist in COIN, he knows what he could have done better.