Thursday, December 20, 2007

Iraqis Blame U.S. for Sectarianism, U.S. Says That's Good

by Binh, author of the blog "Prisoner of Starvation", originally published on his blog and reprinted here with Binh's kind permission.

Every so often, you pick up a newspaper and read something that boggles your mind.

The Washington Post has a story with a big headline that says: "All Iraqi Groups Blame U.S. Invasion for Discord, Study Shows." The second paragraph starts with the following sentence: "That is good news, according to a military analysis of the results."

Say what? It's good news that Iraqis of all sects agree on one thing: that the U.S. military's invasion and occupation is the number one cause of sectarian warfare in Iraq? It's good news that despite the sectarian hatred that has ripped Iraq apart, they all agree that America is to blame?

These idiots are so desperate for good news they're spinning anti-occupation sentiment among Kurds, Shias, and Sunnis as proof that the surge is working.

The article mentions that other polls conducted by the State Department and private companies have all been consistent on one issue: a majority of Iraqis think a U.S. withdrawal would make their lives better. Duh. Not having the 130,000+ soldiers from the world's most lethal military and tens of thousands of armed, lawless contractors roaming your country killing at will would be an improvement.

Over a million Iraqis have died as a result of the occupation and the U.S. opted for a divide-and-rule strategy when a unite Shia-Sunni resistance became a threat in spring of 2004. Fracturing the resistance along sectarian lines helped maintain an otherwise unsustainable occupation but had the unintended consequence of igniting a full-scale civil war that has torn Iraqi society apart. Fear and sectarian militias now rule the streets.

Many Americans who oppose the war also oppose immediate withdrawal based on this reality. Their argument, echoed by mainstream politicians who want to stay in Iraq to protect its oil not its people, is that there will be genocide, chaos, and unthinkable bloodshed if the U.S. leaves. If anything, the opposite is true: there will be genocide, chaos, and unthinkable bloodshed if the U.S. stays against the will of the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, especially given that the main sponsors of the sectarian death squads, the Shia parties Dawa and SIIC, are in the government, control the armed forces, and have American protection. The fact that every year of occupation was worse than the last should be enough proof that what Iraq needs is not more of the same.

Withdrawing the largest, deadliest militia - the U.S. military and its Blackwater counterparts - would reduce the amount of Iraqi bloodshed exponentially. The polls of Iraqis show that 1) they want a total U.S. withdrawal ASAP and 2) they realize that the occupation is the main reason Iraq has become divided against itself. Removing the occupation from the equation will produce a much more democratic and representative government than what exists now in the Green Zone. Without American protection and sponsorship, the Dawa and SIIC parties, will not be able to stay in power. Indeed they've been blocking elections in southern Iraq because they fear they will lose, and lose badly, to the Sadrists.

Obviously Iraq will not become some kind of mythical paradise or utopia once U.S. forces get out. (Another duh.) The country has already been pushed back almost to an almost feudal era, without a national government, where warlords and their militias rule by fear and terror, where women are forced to wear veils in public, with little or no basic services like clean water, an education system, or health care, thanks to a decade of murderous sanctions imposed by Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton and a war launched by Bush Jr. That the U.S. government and companies like Halliburton who profitted from Iraq's destruction owe Iraq tens of billions in reparations is the understatement of the century.

Make no mistake: there will be a civil war to determine who will come out on top of the post-U.S. political order, but it won't be nearly as bloody as having a civil war and an occupation at the same time, which has been the situation for the past five years.

Neither the Mahdi Army, the Badr Brigade, the various Sunni resistance groups, Al-Qaeda, nor the Kurdish Pershmerga have anything remotely approaching the firepower or destructive capability of the U.S. military. They have AK-47s, mortars, rockets, and roadside bombs, all of which limit how many Iraqis they can kill, even assuming they want to conduct a full-scale genocide.

Furthermore, a post-occupation civil war wouldn't necessarily be a straight Sunni vs Shia vs Kurd battle. The sectarian parties that control the Shia south (SIIC, Dawa) and the Kurdish north (KDP, KUP) both have an interest in creating strong regional governments and a weak central government, which reflects their geographic and political sway. They want to monoplize control of the oil revenues, and the country's oil deposits are conveniently located in southern and northern Iraq.

The Sadrist movement, on the other hand, has strongly opposed any move in that direction because a weak central government would mean less oil money invested into the movement's Sadr City stronghold in Baghdad. This opposition puts the Sadrists in the same camp as the Sunni resistance, who contorl the central and western areas of the country, which would also receive little to no oil money if the central government is weak.

The problem is that these Sunni resistance groups see Al-Qaeda being closer to them than the Sadrist movement because of the sectarian murders committed by many members of the Mahdi Army. Sadr has declared a ceasefire against the U.S. to buy himself the peace he needs to purge his militia of the disloyal sectarians who, by murdering their Sunni brethren, have made it all but impossible to unite with the Sunni resistance against the occupation. At the same time, Sadr is also cramming to become an Ayatollah, to counter the influence of SIIC which has the backing of the top Shia religious authority in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

So I guess I agree with the U.S. military analysts. It is good that Iraqis blame the occupation for the sectarian strife. Hopefully that will be enough of a basis for them to unite and pry the eagle's claws off their country.