Trapped In A Failed Strategy
Although only two weeks have passed since the formation of the long-anticipated Iraqi government, all signs show that this “watershed event,” using President Bush’s own words, will be another episode with no real impact on Iraq’s future. Since the beginning of the occupation, the Bush administration has ceaselessly listed the many “milestones” the Iraqis have achieved, while the conditions on the ground have further deteriorated, bringing the Iraqis ever closer to the precipice. Isn’t it about time this administration accepted that its Iraq adventure has been a colossal failure and that maintaining the course, as the President insists the United States must do, after his admitting to have made several bad mistakes in the conduct of the war, is a recipe for even greater disaster?
The administration‘s hope that the formation of a unity government in Iraq would substantially reduce and might even end the insurgents’ attacks has proven to be wishful thinking, another of its pipedreams about the war and its effect on the Iraqi people. Following the establishment of the Governing Council, several national elections, and the passage of the Constitution, the situation has only worsened. The Pentagon has to this day failed to understand that the insurgents’ agenda has nothing to do with the role that some Sunni politicians may or may not play in the new government. They have lost their political power and are fighting for their very survival. What goes on inside the Green Zone that houses the American Embassy and the Iraqi government has very little to do with what is occurring outside the zone, where the Sunni militia control the streets and their leaders are scattered all over Iraq. To suggest that the absence of a government for five months has aggravated the sectarian killing makes no sense because there was never a connection between the two.
By all definitions, scope and consequences, a civil war is raging in Iraq; Sunnis are killing Shiites and Shiites are killing Sunnis; scores of ordinary people as well as those “in authority” are murdered daily in execution style solely because of their religious affiliation. An Iraqi source tells me that only two or three out of ten attacks that result in the death of dozens of innocent Iraqis are reported in the Western media. The new Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki is ideologically committed to the idea of Shiite control; thus, he will do everything he can to prevent the Sunnis from gaining any real power. This means he also will not work toward national reconciliation between the two main religious sects at the expense of the Shiites. When the Prime Minister says that he will use maximum force to end the sectarian killing, he actually means that he will use all the power at his disposal against the Sunnis. In addition, it is ludicrous to think or act as if the Iraqi army and police function at the behest of the central government. The Mahdi Army and the police are virtually inseparable, and the military is greatly infiltrated by the Mahdi army as well by the followers of the cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf.
It is true that the American forces are reducing, for the time being, the chances of an all-out civil war, but there is also no doubt that the occupation is, in large measure, the reason for the intensifying insurgency. To suggest that it is necessary to keep U.S. military in Iraq until Iraqi police and military forces are ready to take over is as far fetched as all the other assumptions made by this administration. There is simply no way to weed out the militia from these forces, and the administration might as well accept that the Shiite-dominated government intends to keep the Sunnis at bay at any price and that the mutual killing will continue unabated.
Trapped in its failed policy, the administration’s constant adjustments to the unintended consequences of the war have not worked. It seems that the White House is now resigned to stay the course, regardless of how heavy a price the United States is paying in terms of American lives lost and billions of dollars squandered. Meanwhile, the Iraqi people are paying even more dearly for some nebulous notion that democracy, freedom, and normalcy are in the offing. When I asked an administration official, who spoke on the condition that he may not be identified, “How do you think these tragically sad events will end?” he replied, “I guess we’ll have to leave it to the next administration to clean up the mess.”
Hurray to the neo-conservatives who charged into Iraq with grandiose ideas that were exceeded only by their utter ignorance of what Iraq and the rest of the Middle East were all about! Possibly the worst consequence of this tragic mess, beside the horrors inflicted on the innocent Iraqi people, is that they have tarnished America’s image and moral authority to lead. This will take decades to repair, and the costs will far exceed the one trillion dollars that the American people will have to pay for this war.