May 08, 2005

Iraq Slipping into Civil War

Iraq is slipping into the type of hell that knowledgeable people warned of before Bush blindly and obstinately decided to take out Saddam. Heady with the dreams of empire, Bush wanted to be known as a wartime president and the leader of the world and so he conspired with his henchmen and his good buddy Tony Blair to create the case for invading Iraq. What he has created is a horror show for our soldiers and a nightmare for the Iraqis.

Photograph: AP Photo/Michael Yon via U.S. Army

As Juan Cole writes in Salon today, George H W Bush declined to push to Baghdad because he feared the breakup of Iraq. Today we see the forces pulling apart Iraq accelerating as each decision the Bush admnistration has made (not enough forces to provide stability right after the invasion, Abu Ghraib, using corrupt and incompetent companies to "rebuild" Iraq, etc.) has exacerbated the situation.

Update: Phillip Carter discusses this photo in conjunction with the artwork about Abu Ghraib.

President Bush, as usual, tried to put the best possible light on the situation, saying in his April 28 news conference that he believes "we're making really good progress in Iraq" and praising the new government for exemplifying "unity in diversity." Many Iraqis, shell-shocked by the bloody attacks and the unraveling of the Iraqi social fabric, begged to differ. In addition to the massive bombing campaign that greeted the formation of the new government, sectarian strife continued in the mixed Sunni-Shiite areas south of Baghdad. In another alarming development, major rioting broke out Tuesday and Wednesday at Baghdad University between Shiite and Sunni students and professors.

...Sunni Arabs constitute about 4 million of Iraq's population of 25 million and predominate in Baghdad and its western and northern hinterlands. They had been the elite of the country in the 20th century, and they dominated the upper reaches of the civilian bureaucracy and the officer corps, as well as being large landlords and entrepreneurs. Under Saddam Hussein, the Baath Party became an important source of wealth and patronage for Sunni Arabs, the top leadership of which kept Kurds and the majority Shiites politically marginalized.

...The entire Bush administration-driven political process since last November has worked at odds with its own goals. The U.S. military attack on Fallujah enraged most Sunni Arabs and spread the guerrilla war to previously quiet cities such as Mosul. As a result most Sunni Arabs were not able to vote or were too angry to do so. Sunnis ended up with only 17 seats in the 275-member Parliament. Attempts to put them in the new Cabinet have produced new wrangling and delays and bitterness. The Sunni question in Iraq is now on the front burner. Given all the explosives still missing in Iraq, that is a dangerous place for it to be.

On his blog, Juan Cole noted that even though we have over a hundred and forty thousand troops in Iraq, the US military does not control the capital city of Iraq.

Few commentators, when they mention such news, point out the obvious. The United States military does not control Baghdad. It doesn't control the major roads leading out of the capital. It does not control the downtown area except possibly the heavily barricaded "green zone." It does not control the capital. The guerrillas strike at will, even at Iraqi notables who can afford American security guards (many of them e.g. ex-Navy Seals). If the US military does not control the capital of a country it conquered, then it controls nothing of importance. Ipso facto, Iraq is a failed state.

Meanwhile, the deadly bombs wrack Baghdad. Riverbend's latest tale is about how her cousin's life was saved from a nearby deadly car bomb simply because he had stopped to purchase the carrots his mother had asked him to buy. When does Iraq turn into Sarajevo or even worse, Rwanda? This is just one of the gifts bestowed on the world because of Bush's hubris.

Posted by Mary at May 8, 2005 03:55 PM | Iraq | TrackBack(1) | Technorati links |

I've been amazed with media comments along the lines of "there's a danger Iraq could fall into a civil war." Right now, we have armed Iraqis, primarily Sunnis, killing other armed Iraqis, associated with the government, such as it is. Isn't that a civil war? And hasn't there been a civil war ongoing for some time? I note in today's papers that the Bush admin is now pushing claims that the insurgents are increasingly foreign fighters. They obviously don't want the media drawing the conclusion that a civil war is already ongoing.

Posted by: Mike R at May 9, 2005 12:36 AM

Mike R, while I certainly don't disagree with the concept of Iraq exhibiting signs of civil war, it may be presumptive to assume the Bush administration is trying to spin the character of the attacks. It DOES seem that Sunni-based attacks on US and Iraqi forces have declined, in terms of IEDs and mortar attacks. What has gone up considerably are suicide bombings, which are much more the province of foreign fighters. The Post article you might be indirectly citing here, notes that so far no Iraqi has been documented as a car bomber, a claim I find very interesting if true. Furthermore, the claims are being made not by Rumsfeld, Cheney or Bush, but by commanders on the ground, who I implicitly trust to give (in the aggregate) fairly accurate tactical accounts. IF they're seeing a tactical shift, I'm wont to believe them.

Again, all of which is not to dispute this thread's thesis, which is that things are continuing to deteriorate between factions. The university riots are especially unsettling news.

Posted by: torridjoe at May 9, 2005 01:38 PM

torridjoe, you may well be right. I guess I need to distinguish between commanders on the ground and the generals in Washington. I do recall reading that some of the suicide bombers may be Iraqis whose families have been threatened. I guess the fundamental problem is that because journalists can't really cover the insurgency adequately, the public is largely at the mercy of the military and the Bush administration as regards news. We seem to be getting the kind of "47 insurgents killed" headlines that harken back to the daily body count news in Viet Nam.

Posted by: Mike R at May 9, 2005 03:14 PM

Well agreed, Mike. For perhaps the first time (maybe the 2nd) since the war began, I saw a splashy headline with a body count and thought, "Can I believe this or is it plain hype?" Al-Jazeera printed claims it was indeed a lie, but of course they're not exactly reliable either.

I certainly believe threatened Iraqis could be doing bombings. While that's true, I also believe they are likely predominantly jihadists.

You're absolutely right about the media. It used to be that they were simply enjoined from embarrassing areas; now they just can't go if they'd like to stay unkidnapped.

Posted by: torridjoe at May 9, 2005 11:46 PM

I'm glad the Iraqis think things will work out for them.

However, Bush is running for President of the United States, not Iraq. All this stuff about helping Iraqis is besides the point. Since when do Republicans go in for foreign aid?

The problem with the Kerry campaign is that they're too politically correct to really make this an issue. They've taken an occasional swipe at Bush over this, but fundamentally, they're too "decent" to push the sort of xenophobic buttons that a Jesse Helms or Pat Buchanan would.

Posted by: Hann at May 23, 2005 06:56 AM