by RAY FLEMING
THERE cannot be many worse jobs in the world today than that of an American soldier in Iraq. As the almost daily death toll tells, these troops are vulnerable to surprise attacks from assailants who come out of the shadows and cannot be identifed before they return to them. It is so very different from the welcome by a grateful liberated people that they had been led to expect. Fortunately, their new commander in Iraq, General John P Abizaid is a realist. At his first press conference this week he described what was happening as “a classical guerrilla-type campaign” carried out by hardened fighters drawn from Saddam Husssein's most committed loyalists and some foreign terrorist groups.” This no-nonsense assessment contrasts strongly with the efforts made by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and others in Washington to characterise the attacks and killings as too haphazard to constitute any form of organised resistance. General Abizaid, who is of Arab descent and speaks fluent Arabic, has the task of containing and defeating the guerrilla campaign while at the same time integrating the peace-keeping role of his forces into the tentative political developments that are beginning to take shape. Apart from the important British contribution, the burden of this task will be carried by the United States. Other countries have shown a disinclination to become seriously involved, especially since no United Nations authority for the occupation of Iraq exists. Hot, exhausted and disillusioned GIs may have to stay in Iraq for twice as long as they expected; there are already worrying signs of dissension being expressed openly through the media and directly to their families at home.