Austin Bay, just back from Iraq, had an important observation about a key driving force in the insurgency there:
[Before the war,] no one knew the Baath hardcore had so much money. . . . Saddam stole billions. How much of the trove remains? I don’t think the Swiss, Persian Gulf and Asian bankers who helped him stash it know. Recall the crisp $600 million U.S. soldiers found in a building in Baghdad. No doubt stockpiles of Baathist cash remain hidden in Iraq and elsewhere in the region.
The Baghdad rumor mill says Baath warlords pay bombers anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 per attack, so even a million dollars can buy a lot of bang. It also buys TV time. The thousands of trucks that successfully deliver goods in Iraq don’t make CNN. The one that the mercenary bomber blew to bits does.
It’s a strategic weakness every PR operative knows: TV demands drama. TV magnifies the thug’s bomb.
(Link via Instapundit). This is a huge point. It’s also why I can’t understand why we’re not turning some serious screws to get Oil-for-“Food” documents out of the UN’s grubby hands – the faster we find the money, the faster we can strangle the insurgency. (Unless we already have that stuff behind the scenes and are not making a big public stink so it’s not widely known we have it, or unless the trail’s gone cold enough that it’s no longer urgent)
See here for more on how the Oil-for-“Food” money may have been used to fund al Qaeda as well, despite the conventional wisdom that Saddam would never have anything to do with terrorists. (Hat tip: CQ)
Meanwhile, Ollie North, also back from Iraq, offers his own perspective; you may not like North, but he has two advantages that many reporters don’t: he’s a combat veteran himself, and he actually went back to re-embed in some of the hot zones to see what was going on. He makes an important point about why, even if it stretches the definition of “terrorist” to cover people attacking foreign troops in their own native land, they can hardly be described as anything but:
[T]his is no “guerrilla insurgency.” By definition, “guerrillas” or “insurgents” represent an organized political alternative to an established regime. Radical Sunni and Shi’ite clerics like Muqtada al-Sadr, who tortured and killed 200 men, women and children and buried them in a mass grave in Najaf, don’t promise to make things better for the Iraqi people. Nor do the remaining Ba’ath Party warlords or foreign extremists like Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. These men inciting gunfights in Iraq aren’t “insurgents” � they are anarchists. They offer no unified “platform” other than “jihad.” When not shooting at coalition or Iraqi security forces, they are trying to kill each other. Dangerous? Yes. A “guerrilla army”? No.
I’m not sure I agree with regard to al-Sadr, who clearly has an endgame in mind that results with him gaining some form of political power. But many of the Sunni insurgents, Zarqawi included, fit this description to a T.