Ethnic Cleansing and the Abandonment of a US Soldier
The quantity of violence in Iraq today is staggering. But the nature of that violence – the audacity and grotesqueness of it – is even more appalling. Two stories from today underscore just how brazen the insurgents and militias are Baghdad. First is the seizure of a US soldier, establishment of checkpoints in Sadr City to hunt down the captors, and eventual abandonment of the checkpoints at Maliki’s urging. As Andrew Sullivan points out, we have essentially abandoned a US soldier behind enemy lines. There are strange circumstances surrounding the kidnapping; the soldier was Iraqi-born and had apparently married an Iraqi woman against army rules. Still the soldier was kidnapped. And we rightly cordoned off Sadr City in search of the kidnappers. This is no small matter. Hell, it even sparked a war between Lebanon and Israel recently. Then Sunni insurgents blew up a market in Sadr City, the Sadrites blamed the bombing on the Americans for preventing the Mahdi Army from patrolling the neighborhood. Maliki channeled the Sadrites claim, and the US acquiesced. What is the final result? Moqtada al-Sadr wins, and real questions emerge about our commitment to the “honor and sacrifice” of US servicemen. This is as disgraceful as the lynching of the contractors in Fallujah.
Then there’s another story about over 30 Shi’ites being dragged off a bus near Balad and kidnapped by Sunni insurgents. They are almost certainly dead by now. But worse than that, it is part of a campaign by Sunnis to encircle Baghdad and cut it off from the rest of the country. Shi’ite militias control Baghdad – especially the Eastern half. And Sunni insurgents control all routes into and out of the city. Food shortages are already occurring in some neighborhoods as residents cannot get to stores.
The scale of killing is already as bad as Bosnia at the height of the Balkans conflict. An apocalyptic scenario could well emerge – with slaughter on a massive scale. As America prepares its exit strategy, the fear in Iraq is of a genocidal conflict between the Sunni minority and the Shias in which an entire society implodes. Individual atrocities often obscure the bigger picture where:
* upwards of 1,000 Iraqis are dying violently every week;
* Shia fighters have taken over much of Baghdad; the Sunni encircle the capital;
* the Iraqi Red Crescent says 1.5 million people have fled their homes within the country;
* the Shia and Sunni militias control Iraq, not the enfeebled army or police.
No target is too innocent. Yesterday a bomb tore through a party of wedding guests in Ur, on the outskirts of Sadr City, killing 15 people, including four children. Iraqi wedding parties are very identifiable, with coloured streamers attached to the cars and cheering relatives hanging out the windows.
The overall picture here is that of a country completely out of control. I posted an article earlier about the quantitative breakdown in control; increased militia activity, murders, etc. But when you consider how impossible daily life has become for residents of Baghdad, it shocks the conscience. And then when you consider our unwillingness to rescue our own captured soldier, it becomes obvious that we have lost our ability to manage the security situation in Iraq – possibly for good. Cockburn may be right in suggesting that a US pullout would only lead to a cataclysmic escalation of the violence. But that may be happening even with us standing by.