Divide and Conquer

Success in foreign affairs, where domination is the goal, is often accomplished withn a divide-and-conquer strategy.
Conn Hallinan, 2004:

    It was “divide and conquer” that made it possible for an insignificant island in the north of Europe to rule the world. Division and chaos, tribal, religious and ethnic hatred, were the secret to empire. Guns and artillery were always in the background in case things went awry, but in fact, it rarely came to that.
    The parallels between Israel and Ireland are almost eerie, unless one remembers that the latter was the laboratory for British colonialism. As in Ulster, Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories have special privileges that divide them from Palestinians (and other Israelis as well). As in Ireland, Israeli settlers rely on the military to protect them from the “natives.” And as in Northern Ireland, there are political organizations, like the National Religious Party and the Moledet Party, which whip up sectarian hatred, and keep the population divided. The latter two parties both advocate the forcible transfer of all Arabs — Palestinians and Israelis alike — to Jordan and Egypt.

And in Iraq, there was the Samarra mosque bombing in 2006.

    The world-famed Golden Mosque, a Shiite religious shrine located in Samarra, Iraq, was bombed Feb. 22. The mosque’s golden dome was blown off in the explosion, which touched off a round of Sunni-Shiite discord across the country.


The Samarra mosque bombing happened in a city under complete US military lockdown, just after an all-night enforced curfew ended. According to witnesses US soldiers were observed in the area but of course al-Qaeda was blamed.

    “I believe that it is al Qaida that has done the most in terms of trying to stoke sectarian violence, from the bombing of the Samarra mosque a year ago February to the second bombing of the mosque just a couple of weeks ago, and to try and provoke exactly the kind of reaction that happened after February of last year,” Gates said. “So I think that at least in terms of the combat operations that we’re conducting now, the principal enemy that they are facing is in fact al Qaida.” But when a McClatchy reporter asked him about the assertion, Gates said that he knew of no hard evidence linking al Qaida in Iraq to the explosion.

This event sparked an Iraq civil war which, according to design, required continued US military occupation.

    January 26, 2007, Press Availability with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates at the Pentagon
    SEC. GATES: Well, I would say this. First of all, General Casey has given something like 35 years of service to the United States. He has spent 30 months in Baghdad in an 18-month tour. He has responded to the changing circumstances. After all, a year ago there was a plan to bring home a substantial number of troops before the end of 2006, and after the Samarra mosque — (inaudible word) — attack and the rise of the sectarian violence, he adjusted the tactics and strategy and made it clear that the troops that had been planned to return home were going to be needed.

Could there be a Samarra II to again cause the US to change its withdrawal plans and continue the Iraq occupation indefinitely?

    March 01, 2009, Secretary Gates Interview on Meet The Press with David Gregory
    MR. GREGORY: General Odierno, Odierno has said he expects and would want, in fact, U.S. forces there at some level, perhaps 35,000, at least until 2015.
    SECRETARY GATES: Well, I, I also have said that I thought perhaps we would need to have troops there beyond that time. That was all–what certainly my remarks were before the SOFA was signed.
    MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.
    SECRETARY GATES: And before we made a commitment to be out of there by 2011. If we’re there beyond that, it’ll be because of a new agreement and negotiated with President Obama and, and based on what he thinks is in the best interests of our country.

And there are problems:

    SECRETARY GATES. Well, first of all, I think it’s important to remember we have another 18 months, and we are going to have a substantial force there. I would disagree that there is a, a significant instability in Basra. I think Basra is one of the real success stories from Prime Minister Maliki’s offensive down there last year. So I–Mosul is a problem. The Arab-Kurb tensions are a problem. The need to get an oil law is a problem.
    So, so there are problems. We have the, the concerns associated with a national election at the end of this year, is one of the reasons why General Odierno wanted to keep those troops there as long as possible, or a significant number of troops. So there’s no question, we’ve had a significant military success. There has been real progress on the political side, but there is clearly unfinished business in that arena as well. But we will still be there with a significant presence for another 18 months.

Isn’t it wonderful that President Obama, as the new Decider, “based on what he thinks is in the best interests of our country,” might personally negotiate a new agreement? Call me cynical, but I would say that this is a real possibility, and is the logical result of (1) the Democratic senate’s (under the control of Obama/Biden) failure to treat the SOFA as a treaty, a law, last fall, as well as (2) a logical extension of Obama’s continued backsliding on Iraq withdrawal and (3) the US military policy of never leaving a defeated country.
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Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket.

9 thoughts on “Divide and Conquer

  1. Inkan1969

    You don’t have any hard evidence to back up this Samarra conspiracy theory. Civil war was bad news for the Bush administration. They wanted the U.S. public to embrace an image of happy Iraqis welcoming U.S. troops as liberators. Instead we saw the chaos of civil war. That turned opinion in the U.S. public against the continuing occupation. The U.S. lost instead of gained from the outbreak of civil war.

  2. Alex

    Could there be a Samarra II to again cause the US to change its withdrawal plans and continue the Iraq occupation indefinitely?
    There already has been a Samarra II. It occurred on 13th June 2007, when the minarets of the shrine were blown up, under conditions very similar to those of the original bombing on 22 Feb 2006. And the political effect on Iraq was zilch, which is why you have forgotten about it. The fact is, the time is past when that kind of provocation can work.
    The campaign of bombing in Baghdad in November 2008, just before the signature of the SOFA/Withdrawal Agreement, can also reasonably be attributed to the US. Again the political effect was nothing.
    Nobody would deny an intent to divide and conquer. It is obvious.
    The problem with cynicism is that you are always on the road to Rome. Even if you U-turn and walk away, you are still on the road to Rome. In this case, you accept the givens of the imperialists, that whatever they decide, can be put into effect.
    In reality, the position is far more complicated. There are conflicts in Washington between the imperialists and the less-than-imperialists. Who knows what the result will be?
    In Iraq the fight is more or less over. Nationalism has won, with a Shi’a colouring. No further provocation would work. Suppose that Maliki were assassinated, would that change things very much? I doubt it.
    Where a provocation might work is in the relationship of Arab Iraqis and the Kurds. The problem with this is that the position of the Kurds is in decline. The Kurds are the ‘friends’ of the US. If a conflict were provoked, the danger is that the Kurds would lose, with Talabani and other Kurdish ministers being expelled from Baghdad. Definitely a no no for the US.
    My view is as it has always been, that the US is stuck with obeying the SOFA/Withdrawal Agreement. The US may not want to, there is a lot of rebellion, but in the end there is no choice. The alternatives are too difficult and too expensive. That is certainly the thinking of Obama, as he stated in front of the Marines. The question you are posing is whether he will win, against the imperialists.

  3. Alex

    Re Inkan
    The balance of the evidence is indeed that the Samarra bombing was work of the US. It was done deniably, of course. Nobody is going to hauled before the War Crimes court in the Hague.
    I discovered more in a recent academic conference, and I would say, consequently, there is not much doubt.
    When you speak polemically of ‘hard evidence’, of course there is not. The witnesses, no doubt, are dead.

  4. John Francis Lee

    So, so there are problems. We have the, the concerns associated with a national election at the end of this year, is one of the reasons why General Odierno wanted to keep those troops there as long as possible…
    It’s not just the national election that Odierno wants to “turn out right”, it’s the Iraqi referendum on the SOFA itself. As far as being “on the road to Rome”, that “is the logical result of the Democratic senate’s (under the control of Obama/Biden) failure to treat the SOFA as a treaty, a law… “, which is after all reminiscent of the Roman Senate’s inability to reign in Roman tyrants, dictators, and emperors… and the unitary desire of senators then and now to be one.
    The inner springs of the SOFA have been evident since it was new: it has within itself its own nullification clause(s).
    Yes, it’s divide and conquer. Joe Biden has explicitly said so and pushed for that policy to be explicitly embraced in Iraq. Biden has been the handmaiden of the Israeli far-right since before Barak “the snake” Obama could spell AIPAC, let alone crawl on his belly before it. A good bit of the Iraqi army is Kurd, is it not? What’s going to happen to the Iraqi army after the Sunni push into Kurdistan?
    There is no more hope of rescuing Bush’s wars or SecDef than there is of rescuing his bubble economy or the banksters. We will be consumed and destroyed by Obama’s efforts in both those directions.

  5. Michael Murry

    O.K., Don. As you wish. I’ll call you cynical.
    It saves the time and trouble of composing complete sentences and cogently developed paragraphs which seem to completely escape your comprehension.
    Actually, calling you a cynic probably exaggerates things a bit since a cynic, by definition, “knows the price of everything and the value of nothing,” while this posting shows scant evidence of an acquaintance with either.
    Any more hot scuttlebutt about those rumored “oil riches” of Vietnam making that moribund economy the newest member of OPEC?

  6. Arnold Evans

    When Samara happened, I thought it could not be pulled off without US connivance. The city was under US curfew.
    At the time, it seemed to me to be in line with US goals for Iraq, which, it seemed to me, were clearly to dissolve the country into at least three separate regions whose Kurdish region would give the US a permanent presence.
    I thought at the time that it was a ridiculously stupid goal. I thought it was about the worst thing the US could do.
    At the time my feeling was that Israel favored breaking up the country for reasons described in some neo-con document supposedly written by an Israeli strategist. An Iraq in civil war would never again send support to Palestinian rejectionist groups or send Scuds to Israel. It was openly discussed that there were Israeli bases in Kurdistan (!)
    At the time I thought it was the US. I still don’t know who could have gotten around the curfew and put tons of dynamite into a mosque overnight while US soldiers patrolled the area.
    It also seemed in line with my understanding of US goals at the time.
    The US since then has become much more hostile towards the idea of breaking Iraq up. I think the turnaround came around the time the US began discussions with Iran over Iraq. The Kurds never got their Kirkuk plebescite and may never get it.
    It’s like adults are in charge of Iraq now, when children were in charge at the time of the Samarra bombing.
    But I’ll agree with Inkan, Alex. Don’t just say you saw evidence. Describe what evidence struck you as so convincing.

  7. Don Bacon

    Re: evidence of Samarra mosque destruction
    The destruction of the golden dome required drilling holes in its stone columns and planting charges, an operation that according to an Iraqi government expert must have taken all night. This in a city under full US-military enforced curfew around a world-famous mosque.
    from an eyewitness report:
    My name is Muhammad Al-Samarrai, I own an internet-cafe near the [al-Askari] mosque, I sleep in my shop because I am worry about my computers from thieves.
    8,30 [Feb 21, 2006] (evening) joint forces of Iraqi ING [Iraq National Guard] and Americans asked me to stay in the shop and don’t leave the area.
    9,00 (evening) they left the area.
    11,00 (evening) they came back and started to patrol the area until the morning.
    6,00 (next day morning) ING leave the area .
    6,30 Americans leave the area .
    6,40 first explosion.
    6,45 second explosion.
    He confirmed again that the curfew starts at 8,00 (evening) until next day 6,00 (morning), INGs and the Americans will surround and patrol the city all that time.
    http://www.roadstoiraq.com/2006/02/23/the-night-before-the-bombing-two-eye-witnesses/
    Of course the US forces later obtained a confession from an AQI operative that claimed responsibility for the Samarra mosque bombing, but we know how that happens, don’t we.
    The best evidence of US complicity: The mosque destruction fully served the US goal of continued military occupation “to prevent a civil war.” So what might the US dream up for Samarra II “in the best interests of our country?”

  8. Salah

    Don Bacon,
    All Iraqi knows what and how their country destroyed by US and others, the only side don’t believe or acting and stay in state of denial are the the westerns.
    Its so appalling you guys talking now after more than six years about what evidences and presenting this and that.
    While Iraqi telling these things in same day and from day one when US troops entering Baghdad and the destructions of Iraqi museum gate by US tanks and solders and let the looters(internal, and international gang) get in museum and robed it.
    Or those UK solders who caught read handed and taken to Iraqi police station then UK forces free then and demolished the station and left rune.
    There are more and more real stories telling what US did and doing in Iraq, but what we can say with people hear with one ears and are deaf and blind when Iraqi talk.
    Any way do you really hear what stories happing on the ground?of course not all media source warned of reporting….
    What about Death Squads Don?

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