Like so much news coming out of Iraq that is missed by the Western media, al-Jazeera last week published some startling poll results:

More than 90% of Iraqis believe the country is worse off now than before the war in 2003, according to new research obtained by Al Jazeera. A survey of 2,000 people by the Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies found that 95% of respondents believe the security situation has deteriorated since the arrival of US forces…Nearly 66% of respondents to the Iraqi survey thought violence would decrease if US forces were to leave.

This last result flies in the face of current Bush administration thinking, namely an injection of thousands more troops. At this stage, however, the Iraq war isn’t about the Iraqis, it’s about convincing a highly sceptical American public that “victory” is still achievable.

Amidst all this rhetoric slipped out a most intriguing document over the weekend. The Pentagon released and posted on the web the US military’s new 282-page Counterinsurgency Manual. It is the first such document on counter-insurgency published by the US in 20 years.

The mainstream media has generally ignored this document, but it was spotted by Iraq Slogger, a new site started by former CNN chief news executive Eason Jordan (who was forced to resign from the news network in early 2005 after he allegedly said that US forces deliberately targeted journalists in Iraq).

The Counterinsurgency Manual details information on issues such as intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting (and has already been closely examined by jihadists).

The forward, written by Lt. Generals David Petreaus and James Amos, explains: “With our Soldiers and Marines fighting insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is essential that we give them a manual that provides principles and guidelines for counterinsurgency operations.” Of course, providing such tactics for the world to see may make these US forces distinctly uncomfortable.

“Winning” against the insurgents, a key aim of the manual, relies on at least a partially sympathetic populace, but all the latest polling, as stated above, proves the opposite. A sizeable amount of Iraqis support and cheer attacks against “Coalition” troops.

Perusing the manual one is struck by the constant reference to understanding the country in which the insurgency lives and breathes, yet any number of reports over the years have shown US generals and soldiers stunningly ignorant of Iraq’s history and tribal culture. The Geneva Conventions is cited, though we know how the Bush administration views this “quaint” document. Mao’s “Theory of Protracted War” is explained and troops are urged to understand the lessons from the Chinese megalomaniac.

The US is fighting a losing battle in Iraq but in all likelihood the next President will have to deal with the mess left by George W. We can expect two more gruelling years of “victory” in the ravaged nation.  

Peter Fray

Save 50% on a year of Crikey and The Atlantic.

The US election is in a little over a month. It seems that there’s a ridiculous twist in the story, almost every day.

Luckily for new Crikey subscribers, we’ve teamed up with one of America’s best publications, The Atlantic for the election race. Subscribe now to make sense of it all, and you’ll get a year of Crikey (usually $199) and a year’s digital subscription to The Atlantic (usually $70AUD), BOTH for just $129.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW