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A Civil War By Any Other Name

Iraqis are reflected in a bloody puddle at the site where a car bomb exploded in the outskirts of Baghdad's Sadr City 03 April 2006. One man was killed and five were wounded in the blast. Photo credit: Wissam Ak-Okaili, courtesy of AFP.
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington (UPI) Apr 04, 2006
Despite President Bush's repeated denials, the figures are clear: 900 sectarian killings in a single month in Iraq means a civil war is well under way. Iraq is a nation of 25 million people. In the United States, that level of killing would proportionately equal almost 11,000 people killed in riots, reprisal killings and sectarian clashes in a single month.

By comparison, the 30 years of sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland from 1968 to 1998 saw 3,600 people killed in a small population of 1.5 million. Proportionately, that would equate to 60,000 dead over 30 years in Iraq, or 2,000 killed per year. Instead, if the current Iraqi violence simply stays at the current level and does not escalate any further, it will take 10,800 Iraqi civilian lives this year. That rate would be more than five times the average rate of the Northern Irish conflict.

The rate of killings in Iraq is already as bad as during the horrendous 1975-1991 Lebanese Civil War, in which 150,000 to 200,000 people were killed over 16 years -- an average of between 9,375 and 12,500 people were killed there per year.

These comparisons, of course, can be misleading because in those conflicts, as in almost all civil wars, the rate of killing is not uniform but explodes in peaks and then settles down at lower levels for long periods of time.

But the comparisons are unfortunately revealing in another way -- once the kind of polarizing aimless cycle of sectarian retaliatory killings between paramilitary forces in the two communities that have lived together for many centuries begins, it is often impossible to end it for decades, or before hundreds of thousands of people have been killed or, as was the case in Lebanon, both disasters have happened.

The trigger for the current eruption of violence was the bombing of the historic Golden Mosque in Samara on Feb. 22, apparently by Sunni insurgents. But the real underlying cause of the massive Shiite retaliation was the outcome and consequences of the Dec. 15 parliamentary elections that the Bush administration and its media supporters had for so long predicted would take the fight out of the Sunni insurgency.

Instead it did precisely the opposite: It propelled the most militant, Iranian-backed Shiite political groups and their powerful militia forces into the cockpit of power in Baghdad.

For Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari following the elections has had to lean upon Moqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army militia, as his main political ally in the Shiite community. And far from evolving into a strong and dependable ally of U.S. forces and policies in Iraq, the current Iraqi government is splitting from it at an accelerating and alarming rate.

At the same time, the United States appears to be increasingly losing operational control of the new Iraqi army and police it has invested so much effort to train. Angered, alienated and traumatized by the continuing Sunni insurgent onslaught on their forces, the army and police, especially the latter, appear to be harboring significant and growing numbers of killing squads and groups whose primary allegiance is to the Shiite militias in their midst.

The result of this, of course, has been to further empower the Sunni insurgents; the number of people in the five million-strong Sunni community who previously made no effort to support them and are now turning to them in revulsion or desperation in the face of the growing wave of retaliation from the militias of the 15 million-strong majority Shiite community is growing.

This growing empowerment of the Sunni insurgents has been tracked by the U.S. Department of Defense and the Iraq Index Project of the Brookings Institution, a major centrist Washington political think tank.

The IIP noted that the Pentagon's official figures for insurgent attacks through December, January and February remained not only high but suspiciously uniform, or rounded out. The figures are given as 75 such attacks per day through that entire three month period. And most of that was before the violence instigated by the Feb. 22 Golden Mosque attack erupted.

This suggests that the Pentagon analysts and the U.S. forces knew they were recording a very high level of attacks throughout that three month period but were unable to keep track of all of them, or suspected there were many more than they were being officially informed of, and therefore felt forced to round off their figures to compensate for their lack of specific intelligence.

The radically increased hostility of Prime Minister al-Jaafari towards the United States, the unprecedented political power and influence welded by al-Sadr since the Dec. 15 elections and the wave of anti-Sunni sectarian killings -- and the Sunni reprisals for them -- that have erupted mark a major strategic triumph for the Sunni insurgents.

For their primary aim was to break the alliance, and bonds of cooperation and trust, between U.S. forces in Iraq and the emerging Shiite political leadership by trying to convince the Shiites that neither U.S. military forces nor U.S. political policies could protect them.

They have not yet fully achieved that goal, but the emerging conflict between Jaafari and other Shiite political leaders backed by the United States and Britain who are now seeking to oust him shows that they have certainly come far further towards achieving that goal than anyone dreamed was possible six weeks ago.

Source: United Press International

related report

Outside View: Condoleezza's Folly
by Ken Joseph
UPI Outside View Commentator Baghdad (UPI) Apr 04 - "I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them I'm sure," Condoleezza Rice told the audience at London's esteemed foreign policy institute, Chatham House.

I do not know to whom she is referring by the "we," but as one who has been on the ground in Iraq since before the war I think it is high time to begin to first put the blame for Iraq where it clearly belongs. And second, to begin to put together a clear path for success.

Using the word "tactical" implies reference to the military, but I beg to differ. As I write, tears swell up in my eyes at the sight of young men and women giving their lives for the people of Iraq.

As an Assyrian Christian, the indigenous people of Iraq, I have nothing but deep appreciation and love for those very special people. Try as I might, I can never get them out of my mind.

Take the sweet, blonde girl who couldn't have been much over 20, leading a room full of Iraqis as they began to put together the beginnings of a non-profit sector.

Refusing to cover her hair and giving the women in the room equal treatment and standing up to a room full of "thugs," she was brilliant

Shouting them down when they tried to interrupt the meeting or when they demanded that the women sit down. She was brilliant!

I sat in the back of the room with tears rolling down my face as this nameless, young American woman turned the pages of history in newly liberated Iraq and stood up for what was right.

I also recall the exhausted eyes of a dust-covered young man after a long day slumped down in the bus next to me. "Why are you here," I asked.

His face lit up as he said: "Uh, sir, I am here so the Iraqis can have what we have. Just doing my job, sir."

The amazing part of it is that he meant it!

Another man, sitting on a white lawn chair under a tent on what must have been a 100 degree, was one of those special people who had come in on a classified mission before the war. He couldn't talk about the mission, but here he was manning a checkpoint in the center of Baghdad.

These are the true heroes of our day; tens of thousands of our brightest and best, who look at the world with uncomplicated valor. Without minds clouded by ideology, desire for fame and over-educated bias they sympathize and share the burden with the common people and have a faith that believes that all men are equal and that part of the responsibility of freedom is to expand its borders.

Then I turn to another group of people. Once again I cannot forget their eyes. The shifty eyes of the diplomat who when pressed as to why he refused to stand up to the thugs and on the side of take the people said, "Well the Iraqis, you know this is how they live. We have our system, they have theirs. We cannot impose ours on theirs."

Dr. Rice, how dare you even hint that Iraq is in this position because of some "tactical" mistakes of those precious young men and women? Iraq is in the present circumstances because these "simple" uneducated ones who understand more of the human condition, the yearning for freedom and the simplicity of right and wrong were shoved out of the way by the "experts" who systematically dismantled all the good those brave men and women had done.

I was there in the courtroom as an article 32 hearing was held for those who did terrible things at Abu Ghraib Prison. I was also there when my relative lifted up his shirt to show me the cigarette burns and slashes across his body from the same Abu Ghraib prison... under Saddam.

What he and others didn't understand was why the Americans were on trial for what they did at Abu Ghraib, while the Iraqis who tortured for Saddam got away ascot free.

No, Dr. Rice, Iraq is in the state it is today because of the so-called "experts," beginning with your State Department holding a completely different worldview than the rest of us. Is success in Iraq still possible? Yes it is.

What is happening in Iraq is a clash of two worldviews. The first is full of hope that believes in right and wrong and the equality of all men and women to whom God gave freedom; and the tired, old liberal view of relativity that cannot see anything of universal values or the triumph of good over evil.

Iraq can still be saved and can be the success it was meant to be if the United States and the other members of the free world will stop allowing the experts to dip their hands into the long suffering of the Iraqi people.

There is still time. First, replace the "experts" with professionals who will lay down the law and stand up for something instead of giving away the country to thugs.

Second, immediately remove, under threat of withdrawing all aid, all promulgated laws that are undemocratic, starting with the Iraqi Constitution.

This constitution, written much like the Afghanistan Constitution, which includes the chilling words "Islam is the official religion of the people," is the first step.

The original drafters of the Iraqi Constitution voted "There shall be no references to religion or ideology in the Constitution."

They were overruled by the "experts" who handed the Constitution to the thugs. I know, I was there!

Next, seal Iraq's borders, jam all Iranian TV and Radio into the country, launch a democratic TV Station and provide regional autonomy so the Assyrian Christians and other minorities can have a province of their own as provided in the Iraqi Constitution.

Can Iraq be saved? Yes it can!

Condoleezza, you owe us an apology! Clean up your house first. It is not too late!

Ken Joseph Jr. is a columnist and is currently completing a book on Iraq and is asking for individual stories from those who served in Iraq for inclusion in the book. He can be reached at United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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Drifting Towards Civil War In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Apr 03, 2006
Over the past week in Iraq, the same pattern that we noted in our last Benchmarks column has held: Not many U.S. troops have been killed there but an awful lot keep getting wounded. This pattern has now held for a considerable period of time -- at least seven weeks.

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