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Bush and Napoleon

Revenge is an important element in Arab culture. In the epicenter of anti-occupation resistance in Iraq, US troops comb alleyways for armed fighters, hoping to prevent deadly new attacks on their units.

But people in Falluja, 50km west of Baghdad, say the men firing rocket-propelled grenades at occupation forces are just ordinary taxi drivers, laborers, and professionals avenging the deaths of relatives. Locals say the US military has underestimated traditional tribal codes of revenge in this town, where it has faced many of the most deadly attacks against its troops.

"Saddam's people have nothing to do with Americans killed in Falluja. If you want to know why we hate the Americans so much in Falluja, look at this," said one local who was badly injured when US troops fired on a demonstration. "I was in my house when the Americans started shooting. They hit my leg, they killed my brother and they left me jobless with eight children" (Reuters, 11/7/03).

Bush in Iraq may be compared with Napoleon in Spain. The Spanish monarchy was decadent and corrupt. Napoleon sent his troops into Spain and put his brother Jose on the throne. Jose was a decent fellow and he instituted some reforms, but he was not Spanish, and resistance began. The French tried to suppress it, leading to the famous scenes depicted by Goya, the First of May and the Second of May. Guerrillas played an important part in the expulsion of the French from Spain; that was when the Spanish word guerrilla entered the English language. The royal claimant to the throne became known as Fernando el Deseado, Ferdinand the Desired He became king, but the Spaniards soon learned the sad truth about him. Bush is trying in Iraq what Napoleon tried in Spain. Let us hope the outcome will be happier.

Ronald Hilton - 11.07.03