To­tal vic­tory

For those who are left

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

WHO CAN blame the long-suf­fer­ing peo­ple of Iraq for tak­ing to the streets, wav­ing flags, and gen­er­ally cel­e­brat­ing deep into the night? When word of V-E Day, then V-J Day, came via Amer­i­can news­pa­pers, peo­ple on these shores were pho­tographed kiss­ing strangers in Times Square.

The prime min­is­ter of Iraq sounded near eu­phoric when Mo­sul fi­nally fell, emphasis on fell. For the place re­mains in ru­ins.

“This great feast day crowned the vic­to­ries of the fight­ers and the Iraqis for the past three years,” Haider al-Abadi fairly shouted. “From the heart of the lib­er­ated city of Mo­sul with the sac­ri­fices of Iraqis from all the prov­inces, we an­nounce the ma­jor vic­tory for all Iraq and Iraqis.”

Last week, Iraqi forces fi­nally cap­tured the cap­i­tal of ISIS and the coun­try’s sec­ond-largest city three years af­ter it was taken over by ter­ror­ists bent on mak­ing it the cen­ter of their global caliphate. In a mod­ern-day Bat­tle of Cow­pens, the Iraqis backed the last pocket of re­sis­tance against the banks of the Ti­gris. The dif­fer­ence between last week’s bat­tle and that long-ago strug­gle in an­other era: This time the ag­gres­sor won. Thank God.

——————

But it wasn’t easy. It might be years be­fore a “fi­nal” death toll can be reached. If ever. Does any­body know the ex­act fig­ures af­ter the Bat­tle of the Bulge? Down to the last man? For, to that last man, one num­ber off is the dif­fer­ence between his life and his death. It mat­ters.

Those who’ve been watch­ing Mo­sul just say “thou­sands dead.” Be­cause there’s no way to know how many al­lies have been killed by ter­ror­ists, ter­ror­ists killed by al­lies, ter­ror­ists killed by ter­ror­ists, civil­ians killed by ter­ror­ists, civil­ians killed by al­lies . . . . A more spe­cific num­ber, but doubt­less just as wrong, is that 897,000 peo­ple have been “dis­placed,” which is UN-talk for peo­ple liv­ing in tents, if they’re lucky. And on the run, hun­gry, and fear­ful of ev­ery sound.

They say the city has been re­duced to rub­ble from the airstrikes, sui­cide bombers and shelling. Fight­ers for the gov­ern­ment had to blow holes in walls, house to house, to make some­thing of a sup­ply chain to avoid snipers. The city still must be cleared of ex­plo­sives that re­main booby-trapped to doors and win­dows and chil­drens’ toys. Which is no sur­prise. In the last few days, ISIS fight­ers used their own fam­i­lies—their wives and daugh­ters—as hu­man shields. Why wouldn’t they booby-trap toys? This is the na­ture of the en­emy.

So now the gov­ern­ment of Iraq de­clares a week-long hol­i­day to cel­e­brate its vic­tory. Which re­minds us, once again, of a writer named Or­well. In his book about speak­ing an­i­mals on a farm (which was re­ally about the Soviet Union in the 1930s and ’ 40s), around about chap­ter 8 the an­i­mals fought off the neigh­bor­ing hu­mans at the Bat­tle of the Wind­mill. It was symbolic of the Nazi in­va­sion of 1941-45, which left the USSR in ru­ins, not that the com­rades in Moscow or the pigs in the farm­house would no­tice. Or as only an Or­well could put it in An­i­mal Farm:

“They had won, but they were weary and bleed­ing. Slowly they be­gan to limp back to­wards the farm. The sight of their dead com­rades stretched upon the grass moved some of them to tears. And for a lit­tle while they halted in sor­row­ful si­lence at the place where the wind­mill had once stood. Yes, it was gone; al­most the last trace of their labour was gone . . . .

“As they ap­proached the farm, Squealer, who had un­ac­count­ably been ab­sent dur­ing the fight­ing, came skip­ping to­wards them, whisk­ing his tail and beam­ing with sat­is­fac­tion. And the an­i­mals heard, from the di­rec­tion of the farm build­ings, the solemn boom­ing of a gun.

“‘What is that gun fir­ing for?’ said Boxer. “‘To cel­e­brate our vic­tory!’ cried Squealer.

“‘What vic­tory?’ said Boxer. His knees were bleed­ing, he had lost a shoe and split a hoof, and a dozen pel­lets had lodged them­selves in his hind leg . . . .”

They had won, but they were weary and bleed­ing.

Those who’ve spent the last few years in Mo­sul know this all too well.

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