The Repubs are going to blame the coming debacle in Iraq on the Democrats. “See!” they’re going to yell, “We had it all under control until those guys came along and messed up our plan!”
That won’t work. The Republicans dropped the egg; now it’s broken and no amount of finger-pointing at the Democrats will relieve them of the responsibility for dropping it.
Numerous reports from Bush’s own security apparatus have revealed that we’ve screwed the pooch in Iraq. National Intelligence Estimates from last spring were giving bad news. Just like Hosni Mubarak had predicted before Bush started his war, the fighting in Iraq is creating, motivating, and training new terrorists; the war is decreasing America’s security.
As if things couldn’t get worse:
(16AUG06) Situation Called Dire in West Iraq
The chief of intelligence for the Marine Corps in Iraq recently filed an unusual secret report concluding that the prospects for securing that country’s western Anbar province are dim and that there is almost nothing the U.S. military can do to improve the political and social situation there, said several military officers and intelligence officials familiar with its contents.
The officials described Col. Pete Devlin’s classified assessment of the dire state of Anbar as the first time that a senior U.S. military officer has filed so negative a report from Iraq.
One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, “We haven’t been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically — and that’s where wars are won and lost.”
The “very pessimistic” statement, as one Marine officer called it, was dated Aug. 16 and sent to Washington shortly after that, and has been discussed across the Pentagon and elsewhere in national security circles. “I don’t know if it is a shock wave, but it’s made people uncomfortable,” said a Defense Department official who has read the report. Like others interviewed about the report, he spoke on the condition that he not be identified by name because of the document’s sensitivity.
Devlin reports that there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province’s most significant political force, said the Army officer, who has read the report. Another person familiar with the report said it describes Anbar as beyond repair; a third said it concludes that the United States has lost in Anbar.
The situation in Iraq has been called dire before, and it has been dire before. Now we have a top Marine Corps analyst saying that the US can hold the perimeters of its own bases, and the Iraqi government has no control at all, in a third of the country. And he says that it’s beyond repair. That’s the reality.
(11OCT06) The Lancet study of deaths in Iraq puts the total of excess deaths (the number greater-than-expected from other causes) at 650,000. That’s the midpoint of the estimate, the 95% confidence level — as the study says, the true number could be as low as 392,979, or as high as 942,636. Despite what the political pundits say, this was careful science, published in a respected journal. Consider too that the low-end estimate is still higher than the 300,000 people that Bush claimed Saddam killed in Iraq during his 23 years in power. That isn’t going to get the USA well-liked in Iraq, by any group.
The Mahdi Army is al-Sadr’s group. Whatever al-Sadr may be, he isn’t a Baathist dead-ender. Sadaam had his father killed. These are the Shiites — the guys who, according to the neocon mythology, should have been throwing flowers and sweets. Instead they’re throwing grenades.
The real significance is this: A private army took an entire city. While they were in control they hunted down members of the Badr Corps (yet another private army). When private armies are having stand-up fights against other private armies, or against the Iraqi Army, or against the US Army, that’s a civil war.
The day before, Bush met with some of the top generals dealing with Iraq. And all of a sudden it’s no longer “stay the course.” It used to be that timetables would only encourage the terrorists. Now, surprise! here’s a timetable. And the timetable is for 12-18 months before we leave. What did the generals tell Bush? I’d just be guessing, but my guess is that they told him “We can hold what we have for 12-18 months. After that we can shoot our way out.” So watch for helicopters on the Embassy roof in Baghdad no later than April, ‘08.
(25OCT06) Bush acknowledges setbacks in Iraq. Yep, the generals probably gave him a real talking-to. But “setbacks” is an interesting way to phrase “utter disaster.” Imagine how bad it must be for Bush to admit it.
Also before the elections: Bechtel bailed out of Iraq with less-than-stellar results. (The terms “fraud, waste, and abuse” come to mind.) Bechtel had been secretly offered the multi-billion-dollar Iraq Reconstruction contracts long before the invasion, back when Bush was still claiming that he was trying to avoid war. They’re pulling out, their projects uncompleted (for all that their pockets have been lined). The infrastructure situation in Iraq is only going to get worse.
Now for the real killer: this is why the pooch is screwed in Iraq, why Iraqization of the fight isn’t going to produce a win for the US, why Bush’s timetable won’t work, why the civil war is inevitable:
BAQUBA, Iraq — It did not take long for Col. Brian D. Jones to begin to have doubts about the new Iraqi commander.How do you know they’re insurgents? Because they’re dead….
The commander, Brig. Gen. Shakir Hulail Hussein al-Kaabi, was chosen this summer by the Shiite-led government in Baghdad to lead the Iraqi Army’s Fifth Division in Diyala Province. Within weeks, General Shakir went to Colonel Jones with a roster of people he wanted to arrest.
On the list were the names of nearly every Sunni Arab sheik and political leader whom American officers had identified as crucial allies in their quest to persuade Sunnis to embrace the political process and turn against the powerful Sunni insurgent groups here.
In late September, troops led by General Shakir arrested 400 people, nearly all of them Sunnis, during raids in Baquba. Colonel Fisher estimated that there was reasonable justification to detain perhaps 10 percent of them.
He said the raids, which enraged the Sunni community, prompted American commanders to require General Shakir to clear all operations with them — a step back from the July 3 transfer of “lead” authority to the Iraqis. Nevertheless, while the Iraqi Fifth Division remains under the United States chain of command, American officers say that General Shakir is not fully complying with their instructions.
On Oct. 14, for example, commanders got word of what they said was a rogue Iraqi operation aimed at a Sunni sheik who had become an ally of the Americans in Khan Bani Saad. General Shakir never received approval for the operation, but ordered it anyway, Colonel Jones said.
After learning of the raid, American officers sent troops to force the Iraqis to return to base. When Sunni fighters saw the Americans arrive in the same sort of Humvees that the Iraqi soldiers use, they opened fire, Colonel Fisher said. The Americans returned fire and killed seven insurgents, he said.
General Shakir said he was not aware of the firefight.
American commanders also say the security forces are intimidating and arresting Sunnis who could be contenders for high political office — perhaps with an eye to welding Diyala eventually into a Shiite-dominated autonomous region under Iraq’s new federalism law. That law would allow provinces to form into semi-independent states with wide powers over internal security.
“It just seems to be a deliberate attempt to make sure that the Sunnis are unable to organize politically here and represent themselves well in the next round of elections,” Colonel Jones said, “because there is an awful lot at stake in this province.”
General Shakir sought the arrest of Sheik Atta Hadi al-Sadoun, a general under Saddam Hussein, immediately after the sheik began to talk about running for governor, said Lt. Col. Frank Muggeo, who commanded a team advising an Iraqi Army brigade in Baquba.
Recently, Iraqi Army officials lured Sheik Atta to a meeting, where they arrested him. General Shakir was preparing to transfer the sheik to Baghdad when Colonel Jones intervened, he said, ordering the sheik into American custody because he feared he would be killed in Baghdad. “We saved his life,” he said.
The Americans released the sheik for lack of evidence, Colonel Fisher said. But the sheik’s nephew, who drove his uncle to the meeting and was seen leaving with General Shakir’s men, is missing and feared dead, he said.
I recommend that everyone read the full article.
“This is a tipping point. If we demonstrate to the Sunnis that we are not going to remove Shakir and that we are going to allow him to do business as usual, then they’re going to lose faith in us and faith in the reconciliation process. And this thing is going to go kinetic in a big way.”
What has the US tried to do about that situation?
What did they talk about? Negroponte told al-Maliki to disband the militias and get the death squads under control. Prime minister al-Maliki told Negroponte to get stuffed.
It’s understandable, in a way — al-Maliki is looking for some solution that doesn’t include him personally hanging by his neck from a Baghdad lamppost fifteen minutes after the US pulls out.
In the final days before Tuesday’s midterm election, President Bush dispatched two top officials to Iraq in a bid to pressure al-Maliki to quickly disband Shiite militia groups and death squads that have killed thousands of Sunni Muslims.
National Intelligence Director John Negroponte was rebuffed by al-Maliki, however, when he demanded the Iraqi leader disband militias and wipe out death squads this year.
A top aide to al-Maliki, who refused to allow use of his name because of the sensitive nature of the information, told The Associated Press the prime minister flatly refused and said the task could not be taken up until next year.
Al-Maliki’s refusal to act against the militias has caused deepening anger among Sunni politicians who took enormous risks in joining the political process.
Sunni lawmaker Salim Abdullah said the Iraqi Accordance Front bloc had sent messages to other political groups warning that if there is no balance and the militias are not dissolved “we will withdraw from the government.”
“We are under political pressure, and if these demands are not met we will abandon politics,” Abdullah said. “And this will leave us with only one alternative, which is carrying arms, and then it will be civil war. And we are against the civil war.”
“We will abandon politics.” That puts us in Clausewitz territory: War.
There’s a de facto civil war in progress right now. If the Sunnis withdraw from the government and field their own armies that’s a civil war de jure. Given the facts we know, the path seems inevitable.
Iraq was broken long before the recent elections. A Democratic congress will help, but the egg already hit the floor. No one is going to put it back together again.