30 March 2008

Paying Once

There is an old saying that an army should not pay for the same ground twice. That goes for going after the same enemy twice…the exact same enemy. Two instances come from the long-running war in Iraq (and I mean from 1990/1 until the present): Saddam Hussein and Moqtada al-Sadr.

When President Bush (41), urged by then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Colin Powell, let Saddam off the hook in 1991, it set the stage for the present. From 1991 until 2003, the US, along with British and (sometimes) French airmen, patrolled the skies over northern and southern Iraq. After 12 years of aerial occupation, something had to give. In 2003, President Bush (43) finished what his father did not, and in doing so, paid for the same ground twice to defeat the same man again.

Now US and British forces are dealing (again) with Moqtada al-Sadr and his so-called Mehdi Army. When Marines had al-Sadr cornered in Najaf in August 2004, he was let off the hook for political/religious reasons, thus ensuring that Coalition and Iraqi forces would have to fight al-Sadr later down the road.

Over the past four years, al-Sadr’s fighters have a tendency to take control of towns and cities at politically opportune moments. This is followed by Coalition and Iraqi military action against al-Sadr, which cause al-Sadr to call for his troops to lay down their arms. These statements do not seem to have an effect, other than to give Coalition and Iraqi forces some hope that this confrontation will be the last, never mind the obvious stiff-arm tactic by al-Sadr.

The question is, will al-Sadr be let off the hook this time. That may be more of a question for Iraqi Prime Minister al-Malaki. But if the fighting grows more intense and bloody, direct contact between Brit and US regular forces and the Mehdi Army will come to pass…again. And in the legacy of peaceful reconciliation with an armed foe in Iraq, our guys will pay for taking the same “ground” twice.

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