Saturday, August 19, 2006

The mess in Iraq, we've got a plan.

Newsweek reported last week that: "President Bush will move U.S. troops out of Iraq if the country descends into civil war according to one senior Bush aide who declined to be named while talking about internal strategy. 'If there's a full-blown civil war, the president isn't going to allow our forces to be caught in the crossfire,' the aide said. 'But institutionally, the government of Iraq isn't breaking down. It's a unity government.'" (Pass the kool-aid!)

It is? Didn't I just read something about Iraqi PM Nuri al-Maliki having to make a bee-line back to Baghdad from meeting with W. to prevent a coup? And didn't he get raked over the coals for going to Washington by some clerics connected to Party within the government? Sheikh Khafaji, a confidant of Mutada al-Sadr -- who’s Party, by the way, has 30 seats in the "unity" parliament intoned from his fiery pulpit last month, "What forced you to eat with the occupiers? Is that your reward? Islam is aloof from you!" [LA Times]

I don't know, call me crazy but the government doesn't look all that unified to me. Not to worry, though, the US military has a plan to keep the country from going over the edge. (As if it hasn't already) Richard Wolffe and John Berry write for Newsweek that:

"The U.S. military has completed several elements of contingency planning in case of civil war, based on lessons learned from Bosnia and Kosovo. The military's approach revolves around three principles. The first is to stop massacres by physically separating communities, moving minorities out of harms way if necessary."

Wait a second: Isn't separating the various religious groups exactly what the Shiite and Sunni death squads have been trying to do all along? How does assisting the militias to draw clear sectarian lines throughout the country prevent the breakup of the country?

"The second is to stop the flow of paramilitary gangs across the country."

Good luck doing that with only 133,000 troops. . .

"And the third is to halt any incitement to violence on Iraqi TV and radio."

Censorship? So much for teaching the Iraqis the joys of democracy! By the way, didn't we try to shut down one of al-Sadr's papers once? How did that work out, I forget?

And now we get to the big plan for stopping the country from falling into civil war.

"Baghdad will pose the biggest problem, requiring a strict curfew and a ban on road traffic. The security measures would include widespread checkpoints and a ban on carrying firearms or explosives."

Wait; let me check the date on this story again. . . 'August 14, 2006.'

Yep, just wanted to make sure. Isn't all of this what they've been doing since the 14th of June when Nuri al-Maliki began 'operation futile flailing' or whatever it was called. "The raids during this plan will be very tough . . . because there will be no mercy toward those who show no mercy to our people," he said back then. Famous last words!

I read today that the government of Iraq has issued yet another ban on vehicle traffic. AP reports: a government statement says this time around it is, "'absolutely forbidden' to carry weapons, cell phones and any type of bags, even plastic ones into the shrine." That's one way to provent violence. Just lock everyone up in their homes.

Unfiortunetly, another year has gone by and it's time for Shiites to again honor Imam Moussa ibn Jaafar al-Kadhim, bringing an estimated 2 million Shiahs into Baghdad. Last year while we were all transfixed by Katrina 1000 Iraqis died when a rumor of suicide bombers in the crowd caused people to panic on a bridge. This year I'm sure things will go just as well.

More bad news:

Now, some people -- like the overall commander of US forces in Iraq, John Abizaid, and General Peter Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs -- say Iraq is on the verge of a civil war, but W. knows better. 'People are talking about civil war this and civil war that' but the Iraqis "had a chance to fall apart and they didn't." (He's given them every chance and they haven't taken it!)

It's not like the avalanche of bad news coming from Iraq would lead anyone to come to the conclusion that things have been going from bad to horrific over the past year. Figures from the Iraqi Health Ministry and the Baghdad morgue show that about 110 Iraqis are dying each day. In the past month the body count was 3,438 up 9% from June. This toll is nearly double the number of dead in January. The NYT reports that the Baghdad morgue received 1,855 bodies in July, an 18% increase over June.

In another story the NYT reports that the Pentagon has published statistics showing that July had the highest number of IEDs exploded or disarmed since the war began -- "despite the killing of al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." (Imagine that!) Although the number of American soldiers killed in action went down the number of those wounded reached a whopping 518, up from 287 in January. [US military deaths reached 2,600 this week] The Times quotes a "senior Defense Department official who agreed to discuss the issue on condition of anonymity" -- because he wants to keep his cushy government job -- as saying; "the insurgency has gotten worse by almost all measures, with insurgent attacks at historically high levels. The insurgency has more public support and is demonstrably more capable in numbers of people active and its ability to direct violence than at any point in time."

And all this after Nuri al-Maliki began his big crackdown back on the 14th of June, right after W. looked in his eyes and decided he could get the job done. Judging al-Maliki's efforts to be somewhat less than successful, the US military has now decided that flooding Baghdad with troops is the answer (it's worked so well in the past!). Operation "pull together forward" is now in full swing. US and Iraqi army troops are going to be going from neighborhood to neighborhood --sealing them off, searching houses and rounding up insurgents -- to show the Baghdadis that the government can provide security.

This is really the final push because if after three years the US can't get a handle on controlling the capital city there isn't any way the Iraqi government is going to be able to run the country.

To most people not living in the alternative universe occupied by W., Cheney and Rummy, this situation in Iraq is pretty desperate and the stakes couldn't be higher. Newsweek quotes a military officer who warns that if the country does go into a civil war and the US pulls out, "all the neighboring powers would be drawn in. It would become a regional war."


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