Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Grim, grim reaper

US forces in Iraq appear not to have much effect upon the trajectory of increasing violence of what is finally being called a civil war in Iraq. If anything, they seem to serve merely as targets these days. This may be understating the US presence there but it hardly seems that US forces are preventing violence at all. To get a deeper flavour of the extant conditions throughout Iraq, Patrick Cockburn delivers a report on his travels around the country that is beyond sobering. And it will disabuse anyone of fanciful notions that there is some -- any -- solution to the problem of sectarian strife that is now rampant.

Early on in the war, Juan Cole had conveyed that Iraqi society was well integrated; Sunni and Shia inter-married and interacted socially and seemed to get along rather well. If anything, this would be the force that might save Iraq from all out civil war. That pluralism now seems to be the latest victim, among the many, as the civil war escalates:
Iraqi friends used to reassure me that there would be no civil war because so many Shia and Sunni were married to each other. These mixed couples are now being compelled to divorce by their families. "I love my husband but my family has forced me to divorce him because we are Shia and he is Sunni," said Hiba Sami, a mother, to a UN official. "My family say they [the husband's family] are insurgents ... and that living with him is an offence to God." Members of mixed marriages had set up an association to protect each other called the Union for Peace in Iraq but they were soon compelled to dissolve it when several founding members were murdered.
This is disheartening beyond belief. Just how or what the Baker group is going to suggest to "save" the situation will likely be insufficient to reign in a wide spread violence that appears to have infected every part single piece of the country. We have in Iraq, the sum of all Middle East fears and whether Syria or Iran or any collaboration can put a stopper on it remains to be seen. Maliki is being pressured by Bush to do "something." Just what the something will be is unknown, if indeed, it is anything at all. Ministries are overrun by sectarian militias and are simply beyond the control of the Maliki cabinet.
A new and ominous stage in the disintegration of the Iraqi state came earlier this month when police commandos from the Shia-controlled Interior Ministry kidnapped 150 people from the Sunni-run Higher Education Ministry in the heart of Baghdad.

Iraq may be getting close to what Americans call "the Saigon moment", the time when it becomes evident to all that the government is expiring. "They say that the killings and kidnappings are being carried out by men in police uniforms and with police vehicles," the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said to me with a despairing laugh this summer. "But everybody in Baghdad knows that the killers and kidnappers are real policemen."
What have we done?


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