2006 December 28 Thursday
The Iraqi Civil War Where America Is Fighting

Mark Santora of the New York Times spent a couple of days embedded with an American training on patrols with Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad. Santora found the Sunnis see the Iraqi military as agents of Shia ethnic cleansers and high level Iraqi government officials as obstructors of military operations that might hurt the standing of their factions.

BAGHDAD, Dec. 27 — The car parked outside was almost certainly a tool of the Sunni insurgency. It was pocked with bullet holes and bore fake license plates. The trunk had cases of unused sniper bullets and a notice to a Shiite family telling them to abandon their home.

“Otherwise, your rotten heads will be cut off,” the note read.

The soldiers who came upon the car in a Sunni neighborhood in Baghdad were part of a joint American and Iraqi patrol, and the Americans were ready to take action. The Iraqi commander, however, taking orders by cellphone from the office of a top Sunni politician, said to back off: the car’s owner was known and protected at a high level.

For Maj. William Voorhies, the American commander of the military training unit at the scene, the moment encapsulated his increasingly frustrating task — trying to build up Iraqi security forces who themselves are being used as proxies in a spreading sectarian war. This time, it was a Sunni politician — Vice Prime Minister Salam al-Zubaie — but the more powerful Shiites interfered even more often.

George W. Bush's coming big surge of US troops into Iraq will just train more Shias to fight Sunnis. The Shias will receive their training as soldiers in the Iraqi government. They will then proceed to use their skills and equipment to cleanse Baghdad of Sunnis. Some will do this while acting as Iraqi soldiers. Others will leave the Iraqi army and attack Sunnis in cooperation with the Shias who dominate the Iraqi security services. We call this "nation building".

“I have come to the conclusion that this is no longer America’s war in Iraq, but the Iraqi civil war where America is fighting,” Major Voorhies said.

Major Voorhies sees the obvious. Our soldiers are tasked with pretending there is a non-sectarian middle in Iraq that has control of the Iraqi central government. The idea is that if we just provide enough support and training to those officially part of the central government then the central government will become the more powerful middle against the sects and factions all around it. But there's no non-partisan center in Iraq. There's no objective and impartial civil service staffing the ministries. We are dealing with tribes motivated by clan loyalty which is sustained by the practice of cousin marriage.

American soldiers working with (predominately Shiite) Iraqi soldiers do searches for weapons in the Sunni Ghazaliya neighborhood of Baghdad. The Mahdi Army are battling to push out and kill the Sunnis in Ghazaliya. The net effect of US involvement is to help the Shias disarm the Sunnis so that the Shias can kill and push out the Sunnis when the Americans are not around.

“Anyone leaving Ghazaliya will get killed because they know you are Sunni,” said Fadhel A. Zaidan, who had lived in nearby Huriya for 50 years. “Now the Americans are taking our weapons, and when they leave, the Mahdi militia will attack.”

Mr. Zaidan has it right. Of course, some of those weapons are used to kill Americans. Though Shias are probably more often targets, both in defense and offense. The article reports that dozens of dead bodies are found on the streets of Baghdad every day. My guess that most of those dead are Sunnis. I'd be curious to know what the trend is in the ratio of Sunni to Shia dead. Probably rising.

American commanders say they are aware of this danger. In part, that is why residents are allowed one AK-47 and two cartridges.

The United States is effectively fighting on the side of the Shia majority against the Sunni minority. Never mind that Shias kill US soldiers just like Sunnis do.

If we were honest about the net effect of our actions we could at least help the Sunnis move away from the Shias so that fewer Sunnis would die in the process. But America's ruling elite and talking heads aren't up for that level of brutal honesty.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2006 December 28 11:42 AM  Mideast Iraq Ethnic Conflict

John S Bolton said at December 29, 2006 11:57 PM:

It still might be rewarding to raise the, admittedly unlikely, possibility that Iraq is also somewhat of a trial balloon towards what could be gotten away with back here.
If a government foments a civil war, in this case, two governments, one dependent on the other, while deciding independently most likely, and the rhetoric is national reconciliation, national unity, and democracy; isn't this the way to smash people's minds?
Imagine the same circumstance here; as may be suspected, is to be tried one day.
Foment civil war and the most violent divisiveness, while officials mawkishly cry:
National Unity government!
National reconciliation!
Democracy!-while also, rulers disregard every popular view which could result in some accomodation...
Is this not the most advanced psychological warfare way of hammering people's minds to pulp?
In the same vein; we would have officials cry brotherhood, while fomenting the most intractable hatred,
and have them make insufferable propaganda for unity, while promoting every division any way that can be gotten away with...
See how it works; you get them to react negatively to the propaganda, as if it were sincere...

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