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Thursday, April 05, 2007



(CHICAGO)(April 5, 2007) At the beginning of April 2003, I was still amazed that we had invaded Iraq. I had marched against the war, written against the war and predicted calamitous consequences if we invaded. And we did.

Within a few days I would start living in Baghdad as an
independent analyst/investigator/writer and Internet Bureau Chief.

I had been part of the Viet-Nam War, and truly thought we had fought a "War to End All Wars," the name originally given to World War I. But obviously I was wrong. The lessons of Viet-Nam were largely forgotten by the time our army rolled across the border into Iraq.

I had started traveling to the Middle East in 1970; over the decades the area was not improving. But the desert is a seductive place. You come to love the terrain, and ultimately to love the people.

And so as I look back at my year in Baghdad from the perspective of four years, I am still a little amazed at all that has happened since then.

I was an early critic not only of the invasion but also of the occupation. When we invaded in March I did not expect to end up living in Baghdad in April. And then I was on the road.

There were two routes into Iraq: the "official" route with the U. S. Military, through Kuwait, and the "unofficial" route down the Highway of Death from Jordan. I chose the unofficial passage.

They called the Amman-Baghdad route, which consisted of mostly two-lane blacktops in Jordan and a divided superhighway in Iraq, the "highway of death" because it was a dangerous passage. A few days before my first trip some people had been killed. No one was quite sure how.

I landed in Amman after Saddam disappeared, and set up camp in the Intercontinental Hotel. The next night I was on the highway to Baghdad. It was a route with which I was to become uncommonly familiar over the next nine months.

By the time I got to Baghdad an "occupation" was beginning to evolve from the "liberation." Then the military made a critical error in judgment: instead of dispersing our forces and putting them out among the people—a policy that was not implemented until 2007—the Generals (and politicians back in Washington) became obsessed with "force protection."

I knew then "force protection" would become the policy of death, and it has.

As an abstract principle, protecting your forces is a sound idea. As an obsession, force protection leads to a hopeless situation and ultimately to defeat for an army.

My specialty is the study of revolutionary warfare, or as some call it "insurgency," guerilla warfare or special operations. My mentor, the late Professor Bernard Fall, was clear that armed resistance was always "revolutionary" in origins and always needed to be addressed initially as a political, not a military challenge.

Professor Fall died along the "Street Without Joy," Highway One in Viet-Nam in 1967, just before I arrived "in country" to continue my studies. And now I was the "old man" in another war. I was founding Executive Director of the Revolutionary War Research Center. I knew that Iraq would test the theories we had been discussing for over three decades.

I realized America would be facing a classic revolutionary war. But George Bush & Co. didn't. My awareness was to make me an unpopular man in Baghdad.

We called the original foray "Operation Searching for Saddam." I found myself down at the bottom of a "bunker buster" bomb crater in Baghdad, sifting through debris where we had bombed to kill Saddam. We missed, but demolished a large area. It took the army a couple of months to catch up with me. When they arrived at the crater they brought a steam shovel, not a spade.

During the early weeks after Iraq fell, and just about the time the president landed on an aircraft carrier claiming "Mission Accomplished," Iraqi civilian deaths slowly began to mount. It was all part of force protection. Commanders thought it was better to kill civilians rather than expose troops to danger. And it was a disastrous policy.

Our problems in Anbar Province began in Falluja, with an inadvertent massacre of innocent civilians. It was shoot first and ask questions later. Force protection. Innocent people died. The seeds of the resistance were planted.

In Baghdad, by May the hapless viceroy Paul Bremer was setting up his Fuhrerbunker, the "Green Zone." I refused to step inside the perimeter and coined the term "Emerald City" to describe Bremer's redoubt. He had isolated himself. And us.

And so force protection became a policy of enforced isolation. Army Apartheid if you will. Americans were deliberately separated from Iraqis to protect Americans. I knew the policy would only lead to unnecessary deaths and endanger our troops. Force protection would become the Policy of Death.

In protecting our forces we were increasing the dangers to which they were exposed, and increasing, not reducing, combat deaths during peacetime.

Ironically, because the dangers created by "force protection" were so slow and incremental in building, few senior officers realized they had created a monster that would soon start consuming American forces. Paul Bremer didn’t see anything coming. There are none so blind…as those who will not see.

Instead of growing closer to the Iraqi people, we were becoming more and more isolated. More and more arrogant and insensitive. And more and more endangered.

The highway of death had led me to the policy of death. And there was nothing I could do but write about the dangers, and take the abuse that I received in return. No one wanted to listen; no one wanted to see. No one wanted to admit. We had "won," hadn't we? We were the occupying power, weren't we? Well, maybe. Maybe not. Time would tell.

NEXT: Return to Iraq: Part Two: Finally an Ambassador Who Speaks Arabic.

------------------------------------------Chicago-based Internet journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of © Copyright by Andy Martin 2007. Martin covers regional, national and world politics with forty years of personal experience. He is America's most respected independent foreign policy analyst. Andy has been traveling to the Middle East since 1970. Columns also posted at and Comments? E-mail: Media contact: (866) 706-2639. Web sites:;


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