guest post by Mash

The killing in Iraq continues.

We are told we are there to avoid further killing. We were led into war by a President who ignored warnings that he would create a mess in Iraq. Last week the same President, the “commander guy”, dismissed those warnings by saying “we were warned about a lot of things, some of which happened, some of which didn't happen.”

Now we are being warned that leaving Iraq would be, in the President's own words, “catastrophic”. Now we are told our children are in danger – that they will follow us here if we leave Iraq, presumably to attack our children.

The New York Times this morning joins CNN from a few weeks ago in laying out the frightening fear of withdrawal:

Would the pullback of American forces unleash an even bloodier round of civil conflict that would lead to the implosion of the Iraqi government? Or would it put pressure on Iraqi politicians to finally reconcile their differences? More bluntly: how bad would things get?

If the American forces were reduced too soon, military officials say, the fledgling Iraqi Army and police forces could not hold the line against a rising tide of suicide bomb attacks by insurgent groups like Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Shiite militias that had decided to lie low would resume large-scale attacks on Sunni residents. Mixed Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, already growing scarce, would disappear, and Iraqi forces would fracture along sectarian lines. [Emphasis added by me.]

In other words, if the United States leaves Iraq an all out civil war will break out. That apparently is the justification for sacrificing more American and Iraqi lives.

However, continued American presence in Iraq is making the very end game that experts warn against more likely. The United States is not a stabilizing force in Iraq. The United States is creating the conditions for instability in Iraq and the region. The longer we stay the more difficult it will be for us to extricate ourselves from Iraq. The longer we stay the bloodier it will be in Iraq once we inevitably leave.

It is time to examine what our presence has wrought.

Already nearly 15% of Iraq's population, 4 million citizens, have fled their homes. Amongst the killing the battle lines are being drawn on the map. The American presence provides just the minimal level of protection needed for the warring sides to arm and fortify themselves without fear of a full scale attack by an opposing side. Furthermore, for years now, the United States has been training and equipping one of the warring sides in this civil war. A report from December 2005 (months before the Samarra mosque bombing) offers some chilling perspective:

OF ALL THE bloodshed in Iraq, none may be more disturbing than the campaign of torture and murder being conducted by U.S.-trained government police forces. Reports last week in the Los Angeles Times and New York Times chronicled how Iraqi Interior Ministry commando and police units have been infiltrated by two Shiite militias, which have been conducting ethnic cleansing and rounding up Sunnis suspected of supporting the insurgency. Hundreds of bodies have been appearing along roadsides and in garbage dumps, some with acid burns or with holes drilled in them.

Even before the Samarra bombings of 2006, Iraq's minister of civil war, Bayan Jabr, with American money and support had turned the business of killing into an efficient enterprise. Today the killing continues in spite of the “surge”.

Baghdad, the target of the “surge”, is being systematically ethnically cleansed. In just over a year, Baghdad has disintegrated into Shia and Sunni camps. A comparison of the sectarian map of Baghdad from before 2006 and now illustrates the point dramatically [Source: BBC]:

Baghdad sectarian map - pre 2006
Baghdad Sectarian Map – pre 2006

Baghdad Sectarian Map - 2007
Baghdad Sectarian Map – 2007

The Bush Administration has created the very conditions in Iraq that it warns against. There is no indication that further American occupation of Iraq will reverse the worsening conditions. It certainly will not reverse under the policies of Mr. Bush, who still fails to understand the sectarian nature of the chaos in Iraq and his own role in bringing it about.

If there is any hope for Iraq it lies in an orderly withdrawal of American forces. The United States should begin the diplomatic and political groundwork necessary to bring about an American military pullback. This will require working with Iraq's neighbors, including especially Iran, Turkey and Syria, to try to contain the instability that may follow. This will also require the United States to cut the Iraqi government loose. Working without the protection of the Green Zone may clarify the minds of the incumbent Iraqi leaders.

Bloodshed in Iraq in the wake of an American pullout may be unavoidable. But without an American withdrawal, bloodshed in Iraq is guaranteed.