This is a response to Joey Tartakovsky’s article, “Battling for Their Lives” (Daily Nexus, April 2, 2003). Throughout the article, Tartakovsky repeatedly refers to the resistance put up by Saddam’s paramilitary forces, the Fedayeen, as a nuisance: “They harass Allied troops, thus slowing the advance on Baghdad.”
He goes on to explain that the Fedayeen lack the heavy artillery and tanks used by Allied forces and thus rely on hand grenades, machineguns and rocket launchers to put up a defense and often resort to ploys such as wearing civilian attire and using the white flag to lure Allied forces. I’m not sure if Tartakovsky would rather have the Iraqis simply sit back as their country is invaded, but I will say that it is absurd to expect this.
This resistance is the valiant attempt of a weak country to defend itself from the unprovoked invasion of an overwhelming force. It is inaccurate to claim that Iraq poses any kind of threat to the United States. The Gulf War of 1991 should serve as proof that Iraq did not stand a chance against the United States then, and in 1998 U.N. inspectors reported that Iraq was subsequently 95 percent disarmed. What about weapons of mass destruction? Allied forces have captured more than half of Iraq; still, the best evidence of these weapons so far has been a handful of gas masks. An Iraqi chemical plant that the United States claimed would be shown to be manufacturing chemical weapons turned out to be a simple chemicals plant.
Tartakovsky also argues that the resistance offered by the Fedayeen “[thwarts] any challenges to Saddam’s rule from Iraqis themselves.” What he is saying is that the Fedayeen resistance does not represent the overall desires of the Iraqi people. Though the Gulf War prompted many revolts against Saddam, this conflict has not spawned the same kind of response. Besides a few incidents of Iraqis welcoming the U.S.-led invasion, Iraqis are not rejoicing in the streets as President Bush promised. And let us not forget that Saddam’s Fedayeen is an all volunteer army.
Tartakovsky also argues that many in Iraq’s regular army are forced to fight or be shot. Although this is atrocious, it is not something that is new to war. In any historical war, soldiers attempting to flee the battlefield were subject to being shot by their officers; this is war, and it is unrealistic to hold Iraq to a higher standard than everyone else.
So what of the white flag ruse that Tartakovsky calls “particularly disturbing”? The Iraqis are in a position where they are forced to use any means necessary to protect themselves and their loved ones. Few Americans could claim that they would not do the same in a situation where their lives were threatened by an overwhelming force, if one can be imagined. For those lacking imagination, I will offer an empirical example: During the Revolutionary War, the rebels used tactics such as shooting from behind trees and dressing in ordinary clothing. These tactics were, at the time, also viewed as disturbing and ungentlemanly by the English, yet few patriotic Americans today will deny that this was morally allowable and crucial in America’s success against the overwhelming power of the English.
It is ridiculous to think war can be fought by a set of rules. Although there are several accords that stipulate the allowable treatment of POWs and civilians, these are laws that apply to non-threatening situations. In battle, however, there can be no laws. Any sensible, freedom-loving person would do anything necessary to protect his or her life and the lives of his or her loved ones. Few Americans can claim that they would not do the same.
Edward M. Gorenshteyn is a sophomore political science and Slavic studies major.