As Bill Maher has quipped, we have had a balanced set of commentaries on the Iraq War on television news. We have heard from the generals and the retired generals. Today at the NYT we hear from some specialists and sergeants. In a thoughtful, analytically precise, and informed essay, they lament the pie in the sky thinking in Washington, admit that ‘hearts and minds’ are not being won and are unlikely to be, and decry contradictory US policies trying to please everyone that end up alienating everyone. They point to the massive number of Iraqis displaced abroad and the similar number internally displaced, to the lack of electricity, services, potable water, and above all security. They highlight how unreliable they find the Iraqi military, which they think penetrated at the street level by Shiite militiamen and their supporters. They tell a chilling story of a US patrol hit by a roadside bomb between two Iraqi military checkpoints, and almost certainly set by their Iraqi ‘allies’ or with their knowledge. One of the six suffered a severe head wound while in action during the period they were writing the piece. We can’t be too grateful for what these guys are doing for us. The essay is a major part of seeing through their duty to the American people, since in a democracy, for the people to have a clear-eyed view of the situation is essential to informed policy-making. I hope they will let us in the blogosphere know if we can help Staff Sergeant Jeremy Murphy and his family in the wake of his injury, which he is expected to survive.
This essay describes an Iraq I recognize from reading the Iraqi newspapers every day and watching Arabic satellite television. It has the Byzantine political intrigues, the seedy militiamen, the back-stabbing and deal-making, the electricity-deprived tenement dwellers baking in the August sun, the 4 million homeless families, the incommensurate political goals of the factions. It does not depict ‘a war we could win.’ Money graf:
‘ In the end, we need to recognize that our presence may have released Iraqis from the grip of a tyrant, but that it has also robbed them of their self-respect. They will soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal. ‘
The 4-party coalition backing PM Nuri al-Maliki met Sunday. They managed to convince Sunni VP Tariq al-Hashimi to attend. I saw him on Aljazeera after the meeting. He said that the possibility of the Iraqi Accord Front, his political bloc, joining the 4-party alliance was not broached. He said that for the moment at least, that was in any case not going to happen. Al-Hashimi has a list of 6 disagreements between Sunni Arabs and the al-Maliki government that won’t be easy to sweep under the rug.
VP al-Hashimi (Sunni Arab) released on Saturday photos of Iraqi prisoners held by the government in wire cages, provoking outrage. Al-Hashimi said that the problem would be resolved. At one point he tried to comfort a prisoner by pointing out that at least the penitentiary was safe, whereas Iraqis free on the outside are not.
Hint: When the vice president of your country thinks you are safer and better off in a wire cage prison than you would be walking free in the streets of your capital, that is not a good sign.
The LA Times observes that:
‘ Missiles and mortar rounds Saturday struck areas of Baghdad and central Iraq where violence and civilian deaths had decreased in recent weeks, raising concern that insurgents were adapting their strategy around an increase in the number of U.S. troops. ‘
Oxfam points to a humanitarian crisis in Iraq as the medical personnel flee the country.
I have been very worried that the referendum over the future of Kirkuk scheduled for December of 2007 has the potential for tearing northern Iraq apart. The upshot of Liz Sly’s article at the Trib, reporting from Kurdistan, is that the crisis may not occur just because the rest of the Iraqis are dragging their feet on arranging for the referendum. Mostly, postponing crises is unwise because they are just more difficult when they are addressed later on. In this case, foot-dragging is probably all to the good. Iraq cannot take another big meltdown at this point.
As many as 200 victims of the massive bombings of Yazidi villages were left in the rubble for lack of resources to attempt a rescue, according to one Iraqi official.
Steve Clemons on ‘Michael Ledeen’s Dangerous Iran Obsession.’ You say to yourself, but Ledeen is a crank, he couldn’t possibly be taken seriously in Washington. Then you remember how we got into the Iraq War, with such fringe elements actually running the Pentagon. Ledeen allegedly spends a lot of time on the phone with Karl Rove, ‘Bush’s brain.’