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July 24, 2005

Is This The Worst?

In the NY Times, John Burns paints a gloomy picture of an Iraq headed for civil war:

From the moment American troops crossed the border 28 months ago, the specter hanging over the American enterprise here has been that Iraq, freed from Mr. Hussein's tyranny, might prove to be so fractured - by politics and religion, by culture and geography, and by the suspicion and enmity sown by Mr. Hussein's years of repression - that it would spiral inexorably into civil war.
Now, events are pointing more than ever to the possibility that the nightmare could come true. Recent weeks have seen the insurgency reach new heights of sustained brutality. The violence is ever more centered on sectarian killings, with Sunni insurgents targeting hundreds of Shiite and Kurdish civilians in suicide bombings. There are reports of Shiite death squads, some with links to the interior ministry, retaliating by abducting and killing Sunni clerics and community leaders.

The past 10 days have seen such a quickening of these killings, particularly by the insurgents, that many Iraqis are saying that the civil war has already begun.

Put aside for a moment that 10 days are not much to base a trend upon and accept Burns' assessment. Posit that Iraq is, in fact, headed for civil war. This is what the critics have long feared - or hoped for - depending on how cynical your outlook.

Is this - truly - the worst that could happen?

I wonder.

"Iraq is poised at the crossroads between two starkly different visions," he said. "The foreign terrorists and hardline Baathist insurgents want Iraq to fall into a civil war."

The new ambassador struck a positive chord, to be sure, saying "Iraqis of all communities and sects, like people everywhere, want to establish peace and create prosperity."

Sometimes the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. While no one wants to see Iraq plunged into more chaos and bloodshed, one wonders at what point the people of Iraq will lose patience with the obstructionists standing in the way of a free and democratic Iraq?

The facts are simple: the people of Iraq came out - overwhelmingly - and voted for representative government in January.

Since that time, the provisional government has made great strides toward forming a Constitution.

And since that time, a small but determined minority has used violence and bloodshed to harrass and intimidate the majority - trying to deter an entire nation from becoming free for the first time. Against such violence, what recourse is there, in the end? If the Sunnis persist in refusing to participate in the democratic process, that is one thing.

If they persist in preventing others from participating in it through violence and murder, that is entirely unacceptible. Would it then be such a shocking outcome if the new Iraqi forces decided they'd had enough of this civil disorder?

Would this be a "miserable failure"? Or would it truly be the first time the Iraqis have taken their future into their own hands. And would we "allow" them to do so, in their own country?

It is an interesting question. I have a feeling our media, with their reluctance to draw moral lines, will side with the Sunnis no matter what.

And I think they would be wrong to do so. At some point, law-abiding people have a right to go about their business without being subjected to suicide bombs and IEDs and mortar fire. This is not too much to ask.

If the Sunnis wish to have a voice in Iraq's future, let them do it at the ballot box, not at the point of a gun. Iraq's Sunni population have an important choice to make. Not all will side with the rebels, but if they care about Iraq's futre, the time to choose is now, before the fledgling nation is torn asunder by religious and sectarian strife. There is such as thing as the tyranny of the minority as well as the majority.

Posted by Cassandra at July 24, 2005 09:34 AM

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I think maybe the author is shifting the definition of "civil war" around a bit.

The battle lines right now in Iraq are clear. On one side is the nation of Iraq behind a freely-elected government. On the other side is a group of people, some Iraqi but most not, who are attempting ot topple that government. That's not a civil war by any stretch of the imagination. That's a pure insurrection, a coup attempt, or even a junta.

Now if the al-Anbar province were trying to break away from the nation, and had started fighting against the government of Iraq, that'd be a civil war. That's not what's happening here.

It looks to me that Burns is trying to conflate a "simple" insurrection against a duly-elected democratic government into a sectarian civil war where an oppressed minority, pushed to its limit, has taken up arms against the government.

Posted by: Jimmie at July 24, 2005 02:31 PM

Civil war? If the Iraqis want peace they will get rid of the insurgents. The difference between US being in there and not Saddam is that we are teaching them by precept and by example what a true representational (is that even a word?) government is all about.

Poland. POLAND of all the countries in the former Soviet bloc wants to have the visa restritions lifted. Secretary Rice has notified the respective governments of Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia what they need to do to have that happen.

My fear is that the terrorists will find another loophole to get into this country via the decreased requirements if we do not enact restrictions and engage in profiling on this end.

However, what led to the roadmap of lifting the restrictions was a survey done of young people in Poland. When asked the question of "if they would come back to Poland," over 66% responded that they would NOT!

This is Poland! One of our most staunch allies whose government has supported our policies! But even Poland isn't perfect and why would they want to stay in Poland after visiting the US?

Could it be that they still don't have what we have and don't have the patience to work it out?

Hm. I wonder.

But then again, I could be totally off base here, but I want for Iraq and Poland what we have here.

Posted by: Cricket at July 24, 2005 03:36 PM

I tend to agree with you Jimmie.

But either way, if part of Iraq doesn't want to play along with the democracy game at some point the rest of the nation is going to have to decide how much crap they want to put up with. Whether it's "the Sunnis", "the rebels", some loose-knit confederacy of malcontents, whatever, the answer is likely to be that they will need to be put down violently.

I have a feeling at some point we're going to have to turn the Iraqis loose to clean house. And all the hand-wringing on the part of the press aside, I'm not entirely sure that's a bad thing.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 24, 2005 05:57 PM

And put another way, if push comes to shove, I have a feeling the number of people on the "rebel' side will be far fewer than anticipated when it comes to actual fighting. I think people are getting sick of the bloodshed.

Posted by: Cassandra at July 24, 2005 05:59 PM

If large numbers of "INSURGENTS" are not Iraqis, but are of other nationalities, it occurs to me that, perhaps, "rebellion" and "insurgency" are words that are used to replace the term terrorist so that the op-ed piece in the 'Knee Jerk Times' can favor a political ideal or make a political statement.

Of course, I could be wrong. Insurgents, it seems to me, were involved in attacking government targets, to effect a change of policy, Terrorists, on the other hand, were defined by the targetting of the civilian population and the infrastructure that effectively supports the civilian population to effect a change in governmental policy.

But hey, what does a rummy old vet like me know. Most of what I wrote in my master's thesis in political science probably got confused while I was killing women and children in the Nam.

Maybe I should see if the Va sawbones will give me some really good scrips to help overcome my confusion.


Posted by: Kermit at July 24, 2005 07:30 PM

Iraq is already in a civil war. It's just that one side, the majority, has not degenerated into indescriminate attacks on the other side.

Posted by: Kevin Murphy at July 26, 2005 11:52 AM

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