Tom Lasseter of the McClatchy newspapers reports that almost all the US soldiers in Baghdad think the Bush Administration's troop surge proposal will fail to permanently lower the violence in Baghdad.
"What is victory supposed to look like? Every time we turn around and go in a new area there's somebody new waiting to kill us," said Sgt. 1st Class Herbert Gill, 29, of Pulaski, Tenn., as his Humvee rumbled down a dark Baghdad highway one evening last week. "Sunnis and Shiites have been fighting for thousands of years, and we're not going to change that overnight."
"Once more raids start happening, they'll (insurgents) melt away," said Gill, who serves with the 1st Infantry Division in east Baghdad. "And then two or three months later, when we leave and say it was a success, they'll come back."
Soldiers interviewed across east Baghdad, home to more than half the city's 8 million people, said the violence is so out of control that while a surge of 21,500 more American troops may momentarily suppress it, the notion that U.S. forces can bring lasting security to Iraq is misguided.
The troops think they are fighting for a lost cause. Lasseter finds optimism about the troop surge is rare.
Almost every foot soldier interviewed during a week of patrols on the streets and alleys of east Baghdad said that Bush's plan would halt the bloodshed only temporarily.
Yesterday I watched John Burns and Rajiv Chandrasekaran (who have extensively covered Iraq for the NY Times and WPost respectively) getting interviewed on TV by Tim Russert. Chandrasekaran says Sadr's militia has been told to lay low during the US troop surge. Sadr is going to use the surge troops to his advantage to have them hunt down dissident Mahdi split-off groups so that he emerges from the surge period stronger than ever. Also, many fighters are leaving Baghdad to fight elsewhere during the US troop surge.
As for the Iraqi government: It is not committed to Bush's strategy. Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki expects there to eventually be an all-out civil war between Sunnis and Shias. Therefore he does not want to burn his bridges with the big Shia militias. Contrary to Maliki's promises in a meeting with Bush, the Iraqi government has made little change in its treatment of Shia militias.
I think Sadr and Maliki are correct in their estimations. Once the US starts pulling out troops the civil war will scale up and the Shias and Sunnis will have it out.
These reporters also discussed the Washington DC blame game. For example, the Bush Administration is blaming General George Casey for the failure of the Bush Administration's 2006 strategy for Iraq and is putting Lt. Gen. David Petraeus in his place as top commander in Iraq. Others have blamed Paul Bremer, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and other Bush Administration members (and they all do deserve large doses of opprobrium). But Chandrasekaran thinks even if we'd done many more things right that the conflict between Shias and Sunnis was inevitable. I agree. The mistake was in the decision to invade. That mistake was compounded by sticking around in a foolish attempt to build democracy once Saddam was overthrown.
A few years ago Anthony Shadid, also of the Washington Post (and who apparently speaks Arabic) was out with a US patrol and he was asking the US soldiers what the Iraqis thought of them. The soldiers thought that only 10% of the Arabs waving at them in Baghdad were hostile toward Americans. But Shadid started asking the Arabs and found at least half were hostile all the way back in June 2003. So those American soldiers were way over-optimistic on how many were friendlies.
It bears repeating why the US intervention in Iraq was fated to fail from the very beginning. First off, Islam makes Muslims very resistant to non-Muslim rule. Also, the values in Islam are not compatible with liberal democracy. Plus, the intermarrying of cousins which forms the basis for about half the marriages in Iraq makes loyalties toward the state weak since much of the feeling of loyalty is directed at extended families. Corruption by government officials, voting for clan leaders in elections, and a lack of civic involvement to improve the conditions for everyone are all partially the products of the cousin marriage practice. On top of all that (and perhaps at least a partial cause of all that), Iraq has an average IQ in the upper 80s. We can't expect to reason with them using the same conceptual model of the world as smarter populations use. Not going to happen.
How many more soldiers dead, soldiers maimed for life, and hundreds of billions of dollars will we waste in Iraq? Bush and the neoconservatives are peddling a fantasy. The only antidote is a big dose of reality.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2007 February 04 09:31 AM Mideast Iraq Exit Debate|