15 June 2007

Stating the Obvious About Iraq

Sometimes it is worth getting back to basics when it comes to the Iraq War.

We have been in Iraq for more than four years. Several months ago, President Bush, over Congressional objections, directed a "surge" in U.S. troop levels in Iraq with a particular concentration of forces in Baghdad.

Yesterday, here's what happened in the capitol city:

Baghdad, Iraq - . . . extremists fired shells into the city's protected Green Zone during a visit by the U.S. State Department's No. 2 official.

The barrage of rockets and mortars included one that hit on a street close to the Iraq parliament less than a half-hour before Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte passed nearby. . . . Four Sunni mosques near Baghdad were attacked or burned . . . . Insurgents linked to al-Qaeda, meanwhile, released a videotape showing the execution-style deaths of 14 Iraqi soldiers and policemen[.]

Yesterday was a bad day in Baghdad, but honestly, not all that notable. Baghdad often this level of violence, and the events described above happened notwithstanding that fact that a curfew was in place, all non-military vehicles were forced off the streets, and the Green Zone was locked down.

Efforts to establish a legitimate Iraqi civilian government were supposed to pacify the nation. What happened? As Wikipedia notes:

Following the invasion, the United States established the Coalition Provisional Authority to govern Iraq. Government authority was transferred to an Iraqi Interim Government in June 2004 and a permanent government was elected in October 2005. More than 140,000 Coalition troops remain in Iraq. . . .

On October 15, 2005, more than 63% of eligible Iraqis came out across the country to vote on whether to accept or reject the new constitution. On October 25, the vote was certified and the constitution passed with a 78% overall majority, with the percentage of support varying widely between the country's territories. The new constitution had overwhelming backing among the Shia and ─Âurdish communities, but was overwhelmingly rejected by Arab Sunnis. Three majority Arab Sunni provinces rejected it (Salah ad Din with 82% against, Ninawa with 55% against, and Al Anbar with 97% against).

Under the terms of the constitution, the country conducted fresh nationwide parliamentary elections on December 15 to elect a new government. The overwhelming majority of all three major ethnic groups in Iraq voted along ethnic lines, turning this vote into more of an ethnic census than a competitive election, and setting the stage for the division of the country along ethnic lines.

The Iraqi Parliament is currently on summer vacation.

The yesterday's events, largely triggered by a successful attack on the Shiite Muslim Askariya mosque in Samarra, don't inspire confidence in the Iraqi police force that is supposed to maintain order so that we can leave Iraq in good order. As the Denver Post article linked and quoted in part above explains:

The first attack on the site in February 2006 sent the country into sectarian violence that destroyed Washington's hopes of a steady withdrawal from Iraq. On Wednesday, bombers toppled the two minarets that stood over the ruins of the mosque's famous Golden Dome. . . . The U.S. military issued a statement Thursday saying Iraqi forces had arrested the commander and 12 policemen responsible for security at the shrine, which holds the tombs of two revered ninth century Shiite imams. It was not immediately clear whether the police arrested are suspects in the attack or held for questioning.

In counties in a relative state of peace, you don't have the military arrest policemen simply in order to ask them questions about crimes committed on their watch.

According to another Wikipedia article: "As of 2006, 1.8 million Iraqis, out of a current population of 28.8 million, are living in other countries."

And consider these events of fifteen months ago:

the director of the Baghdad morgue fled Iraq explaining, "7,000 people have been killed by death squads in recent months." The Boston Globe reported that around eight times the number of Iraqis killed by terrorist bombings during March 2006 were killed by sectarian death squads during the same period. A total of 1,313 were killed by sectarian militias while 173 were killed by suicide bombings. The LA Times later reported that about 3,800 Iraqis were killed by sectarian violence in Baghdad alone during the first three months of 2006. During April 2006, morgue numbers show that 1,091 Baghdad residents were killed by sectarian executions.

What we are doing in Iraq isn't working. We need to do something profoundly different.

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