A Mesopotamian Stalingrad?
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Aug 26 08:43:43 MDT 2002
NY Times, Aug. 26, 2002
Iraq Said to Plan Tangling the U.S. in Street Fighting
By MICHAEL R. GORDON
WASHINGTON, Aug. 25 President Saddam Hussein of Iraq will try to
compensate for his armed forces' glaring weaknesses by raising the specter
of urban warfare if the Bush administration moves to attack the Iraqi
government, according to Pentagon officials and former United States
In anticipation of an eventual American attack, Iraq has already started
military preparations, they say.
Iraqi forces have been digging defensive positions for military equipment
around Baghdad. The Iraqi military has also been moving air defense units
around the country and dispersing army units in the field to make them less
vulnerable to a surprise air attack.
During the Persian Gulf war of 1991, the Iraqi troops who captured Kuwait
dug themselves into positions in the open desert. That made them vulnerable
to allied air strikes and the fast-paced attacks by the United States'
better trained and more maneuverable ground forces.
But this time Mr. Hussein's goal is not so much to hold ground as to hold
power. That means that Iraq can be expected to use the threat of urban
warfare to try to deter the United States from attacking in the first place
and to raise the political costs if Washington decides to press ahead with
"Iraq has no hope of prevailing in a straight military fight, and after
Desert Storm the Iraqis probably realize that," said Kenneth M. Pollack,
the director of national security studies at the Council on Foreign
Relations and a former C.I.A. analyst of the Iraqi military.
"Their best and most likely strategy will be to try to create the political
conditions that would lead the Bush administration to think twice about an
attack," Mr. Pollack said. "And one way to do that is to make us believe
that we are going to face a Mesopotamian Stalingrad."
Most people who became radicalized during the 1960s have no trouble
understanding the importance of General Giap's victory over the French at
Dienbienphu or the defeat of the 'gusanos' at the Bay of Pigs. In both
cases victories of the liberation movement over imperialist invasions
helped to lay the foundations for further advances in the class struggle.
For a previous generation, the Battle of Stalingrad, which began in the
summer of 1942 and ended in January 1943, had a similar importance. In this
most costly of military engagements, the Nazi army suffered not only its
first major defeat, but one that essentially paved the way for the collapse
of the Third Reich. The ability of the workers state to defeat the
seemingly invincible fascist army lifted the morale of every antifascist
and anticapitalist armed movement worldwide, from Mao's Red Army to the
French Resistance. Despite the determination of Anglo-American imperialism
to pick up where Hitler left off, the mood of resistance continued well
into the 1950s as the Soviet Union remained a symbol of working-class power.
For those who had lost faith after the defeat of the Spanish Republic or
with the signing of the 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact, the victory at Stalingrad
brought a sense of renewal. Painters, sculptors, novelists and poets found
ways to express their admiration for the Soviet people, including Pablo
Neruda who wrote "Nuevo Canto de Amor a Stalingrad" in honor of the
victorious Russian people.
The Nazi defeat also opened the door to new horrors. Arno Mayer argues
convincingly in "Why the Heavens Did not Darken" that the Judeocide (his
term--and one that makes sense to most scholars outside the "Holocaust
industry") was provoked by the disaster at Stalingrad. Prior to January
1943, Jews had been persecuted but there was no systematic attempt to
exterminate them as a people. After this turning point, Hitler, probably
understanding that his days were numbered, began to turn his sights on a
defenseless people. The Jews became the ultimate scapegoat for the Third
Reich's inability to impose its will on a people who did know how to defend
German losses at Stalingrad were staggering. The Sixth Army, under the
command of Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, began its campaign with 600,000
soldiers. On Jan. 31, 1943, Paulus disobeyed Hitler and surrendered. On
February 2 the last of his remaining 91,000 troops turned themselves over
to the Soviets. The Soviets recovered 250,000 German and Romanian corpses
in and around Stalingrad and total Axis losses (Germans, Romanians,
Italians, and Hungarians) are estimated to have been 800,000 dead. Of those
taken captive, only 6,000 lived to return to their homeland.
At one key battle for control of a factory, there were more casualties than
during the entire campaign in France the previous year. Official Russian
military historians estimate that 1,100,000 Soviet soldiers lost their
lives in the campaign to defend the city, all this in a span of six months.
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