McCain’s little big picture – what is the real situation in Iraq?
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Senator John McCain's ridiculous remarks about Americans being able to stroll the boulevards of Baghdad brought derision from reporters on the ground there, described by one CNN reporter as "Neverland." However, to try and prove his point, and get out of an embarrassing blunder that might haunt his presidential campaign, McCain and a handful of other rednecks ventured out last weekend on a get-away break to
McCain in his new capacity as Iraqi Minister for Tourism tried to show how right he was about normal life returning by doing a walkabout. Having visited
Of course, the picture is a load of baloney. Avis didn't supply them with a self-drive saloon. Instead they traveled in special hummvees backed in a heavily armored convoy, which after all was probably safer than a helicopter, given the number which have been shot down recently. The walk about was chaperoned by General Petraeus himself who, as officers confirmed, never travels out without an armored convoy, hundreds of support troops and air cover. This time was no different; apparently the senators were accompanied on the stroll by over one hundred troops, a convoy of armored vehicles and the presence of six combat and recovery helicopters. No doubt they were disappointed to hear the Pentagon regulation that all personnel are required to wear body armor outside the Green Zone. However, they were eventually allowed to take off their helmets as they toured a market. Senator Mike Pence of
Undoubtedly, people do stroll around in
The reality is that in March we saw a 15% increase in the death toll from sectarian and insurgent fighting. More than 2000 Iraqis died, not just in the regions, but especially in
The fact is, the
In Tal Afar, previous one of Bush's "models" where 158 people died from two truck bombs, there was a retribution killing of 70 Sunni men by a Shiite police murder squad. (The police were arrested and later freed by the Iraqi Army on government orders). One could roll out a list for the month of 50 dead, 75 injured, 22 killed, 40 hurt, etc., etc. Had such repetitive incidents of mass casualties been the result of artillery or tank fire, then there would be no hesitation in calling it a civil war.
Even where everything has been done by the text book along the lines they are suggesting now in Baghdad and model communities have been established with electric and water supplies and schools build, etc., and where power was passed to the Iraqis, soon enough such towns as Saab al Bour, Tal Afar and Mosul have now slid into sectarian chaos. The once bustling streets of Saab al Bour are now a ghost town. These towns are microcosms for the whole future of the country.
Events are beyond US control. It clamps down on murder squads and sectarian killing increases through car and truck bombs. It clamps down on
A great piece by Toby Dodge in "Le Monde Diplomatique" gave a graphic idea of the scale of the anarchy. He points out that there are something like 23 different militias operating in
Each political party and government minister has his own private militia. The Prime Minister, Maliki, has formed the Wolves Brigade commandos, ostensibly special forces, but in effect an independent torture and murder squad, which controlled the Interior ministry. There are others like Serpents and the Scorpion Squads. Apart from these there are the tribal militias, the neighborhood protection militias and the very important pandemic of thousands of criminal militias that infest every crevice of society.
For security to be established all of these forces have to be suppressed and that is totally beyond the reach of the US Army and certainly that of the Iraqi government and armed forces. Worse still, Iraqi Army recruitment is falling and will be less next year when they are supposed to take over security of the country. Most fighting units are undermanned and under-trained, so much so that General Petraeus has been forced to call in Kurdish peshmerga mountain guerillas to
In the deceptively calm Shiite south all formal government has collapsed. Different political party and other militias, together with different sections of the police and army, have been fighting it out between each other for control of this or that town. At the moment, there is a battle waging in
The country is a myriad of competing armed power bases within and outside of the governmental structures. Once the US pulls back everybody knows there is going to be a ruckus like has never been seen before - not just involving battles between Shiites and Sunnis, but between Shiites and Shiites, Sunnis and Sunnis, Kurds and Arabs, Kurds and Kurds, police against other police, police versus army, army versus army, political party militia versus other parties, regional forces versus national, south versus north and a partition of Baghdad along sectarian lines. The
The only question remaining is which one of these forces will break to the surface first, regardless of the
The truth is the
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Edwards called ugly name; Primaries could be over by March