Saturday, August 14, 2004

Weekend Iraq Reader: Hell in a Handbasket
Let's not forget: securing peace, or at least stability, should have been part of the plan from the beginning. The treachery that US troops and Iraqi citizens now face from anti-American insurgents (which Fred Kaplan in Slate notes is only another way of saying "citizen" in some parts of Baghdad) was a more-than-foreseeable outcome. This lineup of bad news marks either a total failure to plan, a pre-war vision completely at odds with reality, or both. There was never any question about our ability to bomb the country all to hell and remove their dictator; this was always going to be the hard part right? And yet that realization seems to have played no part planning or decision-making process leading up to the war.

UPDATE: US-trained Iraqi soldiers are refusing to fight in Najaf (via Kevin Drum)--"I'm ready to fight for my country's independence and for my country's stability," one lieutenant colonel said. "But I won't fight my own people." "No way," added another officer, who said his brother - a colonel - quit the same day he received orders to serve in the field. "These are my people. Why should I fight someone just because he has a difference in opinion about the future of the country?"

1. Truce talks in Najaf fall apart--"The fighting in Najaf has set off the most serious challenge yet faced by the Allawi government in the seven weeks since it took power, with the return of sovereignty to Iraq. It confronts American military commanders with a widening series of attacks that have spread to a dozen or more Shiite towns and cities across a 300-mile swath of territory south of Baghdad. . . . As the talks imploded, fresh convoys of Sadr supporters were arriving in Najaf from the cleric's main stronghold in Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad slum that is home to two million Shiites, and from cities as far south as Basra, 200 miles away."

2. Professor Juan Cole remarks on the US bombing of Samarra--"I don't understand how they expected to inflict any significant damage on the guerrilla resistance if they announced the air raid before hand (which they must have, if the civilians mostly left). Is this symbolic warfare-- the buildings are being punished for having housed insurgents? The US military looks more like the Israeli every day. And, doesn't anyone besides me mind our military bombing a country that we occupy? How is that not a contraventions of the Geneva Conventions?
You can't bomb buildings in a city without wounding or killing innocent civilians. The bombs turn windows and bricks into a kind of shrapnel and send them flying into the eyes of children and the chests of women. The radical Islamists in Samarra (if that is what they are) may be bad guys, who blow up innocent civilians, too. But there has to be a better way."

3. Slate's Fred Kaplan takes the long view and believes there may be no solution--"The Marines could readily defeat the insurgents in Najaf, but only at the great risk of inflaming Shiites—and sparking still larger insurgencies—elsewhere. In the Sadr City section of Baghdad, as U.S. commanders acknowledge, practically every resident is an insurgent."

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