Thursday, December 14, 2006

Iraq: Is it "Civil War" Yet?

Iraq Bush, originally uploaded by wazdat.

To Bush it's all semantics. To the rest of us, it's a real horror.

250 dead Shiites kind of tells you that maybe a low intensity conflict is in fact, underway, no matter what kind of rose-colored frames and blinders Bush, Cheney & Co. The administration continues to refuse to characterize the conflict as a "civil war," but it's all a game of semantics.

Hmmm, let's see, 60 tortured bodies a day. That wasn't "civil war" enough for Bush. Setting up a government that squeezes out Sunni Arabs, Lack of security and the ethnic violence that followed were not causes for war? That same lack of security made possible an arms supermarket. That and the neocon's lack of planning for the reconstruction of lraq provided the fuse and the match for the explosion. It sounds like a civil war to me!

Now CNN calls it a "civil war." NBC calls it a "civil war."

At the heart of all this was lack of foresight. During Cobra II, Donald Rumsfeld's misconceived notion that speed without mass still means power didn't take into account that without sufficient force you could not secure your rear. It violates every basic tenet of military occupation! You corral the enemy army first and secure their arms. These things were not done. The occupying army has a ready force multiplier in the surrendered units that can be trusted to cooperate in maintaining order. The Coalition released the Iraqi army with arms, thus surrendering a vital tool in occupying an enemy's territory. That, additional troops and securing the enemy's arms would have gone a long way to calming the situation.

But the neocons did not want the calm of a hopeful nation. They wanted a country of zombies. And so, the citizenry of Iraq to this day are forced to endure not more than 3 hours of electricity, unemployment, and hunger to support the New Capitalist Playground. Zombies, it was reasoned would accept all of the new pro-business anti-labor laws that were imposed by fiat.

Instead, what they got was government by militia, a bifurcated society and two major sets of enemies who hate each other only a little more than they hate us. We are smack in the middle of no man's land, and neither combatant would cease-fire. Did any of those militias visit that free 480-ton ammunitions bazaar west of Baghdad? You can bet they did!

Now we find that our variety of choices in Iraq is growing increasingly slimmer.

Each side is receiving support from outside players, People at an average of 120 a day are being killed according to the U.N. says MSNBC.

And now, lo and behold... two days before he resigned, and on the eve of the Democratic Party's victory in the Congressional elections, Donald Rumsfeld SAW THE LIGHT!

"The situation in Iraq has been evolving, and U.S. forces have adjusted, over time, from major combat operations to counterterrorism, to counterinsurgency, to dealing with death squads and sectarian violence. In my view, it is time for a major adjustment. Clearly, what U.S. forces are currently doing in Iraq is not working well enough or fast enough. Following is a range of options:"

"Sectarian violence?" So, there is a whole lot of "sectarian violence" going on, between people who live in many of the same cities, in many cases the same neighborhoods, with "ethnic cleansing" in full force, and this is not a civil war?

Let's see, what are the prerequisites for a civil war according to Tony Snow? You need factions with opposing ideologies, (or sects as the case may be.) You need deadly force, in order to capture territory and to fight for control of a country.

Let's see what a journalist, one who actually lives in Baghdad can tell you.

Aparisim Ghosh of Time Magazine had just returned to Iraq in August of this year when he wrote the article I'm quoting. He describes an Iraq that is lethally divided:

"The only available escapism is via TV. The one post-Saddam freedom Iraqis can unreservedly enjoy is access to satellite television--Lebanese music videos, Egyptian soaps, the Oprah Winfrey Show (with Arabic subtitles), sports. The soccer World Cup was a welcome distraction. Since Iraq didn't qualify, people invested their emotions in foreign teams, like Brazil and Italy. When the Italians won the tournament, it was our driver Wisam--not our Milanese photographer, Franco Pagetti--who had to be restrained from shooting an AK-47 into the air, the traditional Arab celebration. But even the enjoyment of a faraway sporting event can be poisoned by sectarian suspicions: a Sunni neighbor asked me, with a knowing smirk, whether our Shi'ite staff members had supported the Iranian team. When I said no, he was surprised. Many Sunnis believe that Shi'ite sympathies--and not just in sporting matters--lie with Iraq's ancient enemy to the east. "In Najaf and Basra, the Shi'ites were praying for Iran to win," he said disdainfully. "What do you expect from these people?" When I asked him if he had supported the two teams from Sunni-majority countries in the tournament, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, he changed the subject."

He describes a government that has no control:

"Al-Maliki is getting very little help from other Iraqi leaders. The national-unity government is anything but unified. Shi'ite and Sunni ministers routinely contradict one another. It's hard to get consensus even among his fellow Shi'ites. His offer of amnesty for Sunni insurgents was compromised when a powerful Shi'ite leader publicly disagreed about who should be pardoned. Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said insurgents who had killed U.S. service personnel should be pardoned, directly contradicting al-Maliki's promise that those with American blood on their hands would not qualify for amnesty. Al-Maliki's plan was also criticized by al-Sadr. It's probably no coincidence that al-Hakim and al-Sadr control the two largest armed Shi'ite militias, the Badr Organization and Mahdi Army, respectively. While al-Maliki at least tries to present himself as a unifying figure, railing against Sunni insurgents and Shi'ite militias, many of his partners in the government are blatantly sectarian. Political leaders express outrage over the atrocities committed against their own sect but won't acknowledge that the other side, too, is bleeding. They often dismiss those wounds as self-inflicted. After the bombing of the Samarra shrine, many Sunni leaders told me the blast was the work of Shi'ite agents’ provocateurs working in concert with Iranian intelligence operatives. Likewise, Mahdi Army commanders routinely accuse Sunni insurgents of committing atrocities against their own kind and then blaming the Shi'ites."

So, the division is there along Shi'ite and Sunni lines. Now do they have armies?

"Sunnis like Mahmud now feel vulnerable in Baghdad, which for centuries was the citadel from which they lorded it over Iraq's Shi'ite majority. For the first three years after Saddam's fall, much of the violence in and around the capital was committed against Shi'ites by Sunni insurgents and jihadis. But since the beginning of this year, Shi'ite death squads--widely believed to emanate from militias like the Mahdi Army and the Iran-trained Badr Organization--have become the main practitioners of terrorist violence. Each side has its signature style of murder. When Iraqis hear news of car bombings or suicide bombers, they don't need to be told that Sunni jihadis were involved; when bodies bearing signs of gruesome torture (like the use of electric drills) turn up in a garbage dump or in the sewers, it's assumed Shi'ite militias were responsible."

Well, there's fighting going. And death. And as in all wars, it's the innocent who pay the most:

To bring me up to date with the news, Wisam rattles off a long list of recent atrocities: a high-profile kidnapping here, a massacre there, a car bombing someplace else. Long before we reach the city, I've heard so many ghastly things that the harrowing flight is already a fading memory. Sensing my sinking spirits, Wisam apologizes for the overdose of grim tidings. "You know how it is in Iraq," he says with a grin. "All news is bad news." Then he tells me about the 10 bodies that were discovered in his neighborhood in the past few days, all of them his fellow Shi'ites. The bodies were decapitated, the heads never found. He tells me how, since a suicide bombing in a nearby neighborhood, his wife has been suffering anxiety attacks when she goes shopping. I feel ashamed that a mere hour's worth of Baghdad's reality has brought me down; Wisam and his family live it all the time.

And the violence is conquering territory:

In the Red Zone (the name given to the rest of Baghdad by Green Zoners too nervous to venture outside the walls), the sporadic spurts of violence between Shi'ites and Sunnis have given way to a steady stream of blood. Partisans on both sides are arming themselves for battle, and ordinary folks are looking for ways to defend themselves. Owing to soaring demand, the price of a Chinese-made AK-47 has quadrupled, to $200, since the start of the year; the Russian-made version has doubled, to $600. The U.N. reports that nearly 6,000 Iraqis were killed in May and June, more than in any comparable period since the fall of Saddam. These days, almost all the killing is Iraqi on Iraqi. Many people are abandoning neighborhoods that were harmoniously mixed for centuries, instead seeking the safety of all-Shi'ite or Sunni-only districts.

So, both sides have gained territory.

And, is everyone playing for all the marbles?

If Wikipedia is on the money, then SCIRI's Badr Brigade is definitely in the control game:

The Badr Organization originally the Badr Brigade or Bader Corps was the armed wing of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Headed by Hadi Al-Amiri it participated in the 2005 Iraqi election as part of the United Iraqi Alliance coalition. Its members have entered the new Iraqi army and police force en masse and gained virtual control of Iraq's Interior Ministry.

Currently based in and around Karbala, the Badr Organization effectively rules that city and other parts of southern Iraq. It has played a leading role in fighting insurgents there. While the organization has lessened the burden on coalition troops there have also been tensions between the two. There have been reports of gun battles between the organization and British troops that occupied the area. The government of Iyad Allawi has accused the Badr Organization of assassinating Iraqi intelligence officers on behalf of Iran, something the organization strenuously denies. Also, the militia has allegedly been involved in several incidents of kidnapping, beating and torturing of Sunni Iraqis.

And yesterday the Sunnis showed that they too would stoop to low levels in order to kill. The victims? Day laborers just trying to get low paying temp jobs in order to feed their families

The 7 a.m. (0400 GMT) attack took place in Tayaran Square, a popular gathering point for carpenters, plumbers, bricklayers, painters and other workers who frequent the cafes and street vendors while waiting for the chance of some work. Many of the workers who gather at Tayran Square are poor Shias.

‘A driver with a pickup truck stopped and asked for labourers. When they gathered around the car it exploded,’ said a witness, who was helping a stumbling survivor with a blood-stained bandage covering his head.

'They were poor labourers looking for work. The poor are supposed to be protected by the government,' he said.

Calling the attack a 'horrible massacre', Shia Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki blamed it on Saddam Hussein sympathisers and Sunni Islamist Al Qaeda.

'These terrorist groups are trying to spread chaos by killing and fuelling sectarian strife,' he said in a statement.

The explosion, which sent a cloud of black smoke into the sky, set many cars on fire. Gunfire sounded after the blast.

Iraq is gripped by tit-for-tat sectarian killings between majority Shias and Sunni Arabs dominant under Saddam but now the backbone of the insurgency. Thousands have been killed in violence many Iraqis fear is pitching the country toward all-out civil war.

And some would say Iraq is already in one, and maybe the solution is to partition the country. Kurdistan and the Shi'ite south already virtually independent states. I guess Bush thinks that if you call it a civil war it makes it harder to resist the "get out now" crowd. He should relax. Many people including myself feel that leaving now would be disaster. We have a moral obligation to put right that which we did wrong. Also one hears that many Iraqis actually prefer that we remain for now to allow some semblance of order.

And today we hear that 24 more day laborers have died in a similar attack. And Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has given Dick Cheney an ultimatum stating that it would start funding Sunni insurgents if American troop levels aren't maintained.

Well, it looks as if everything meets all requirements for it. Is it a civil war Dubya? And we are jammed in real good!

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