Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Iraq War: Insurgents and parliamentarians

It was hard not to be a bit distracted the last few days.  Confederate "Heritage" Month.  The Pope's death.  Britney Spears announces a new reality show.  It's enough to make your head spin!

Sadly, the war goes on in Iraq.  Insurgents have attacked the Abu Ghuraib prison twice in the last few days.

See: Fighters Target Abu Ghraib in Major Assault by Ellen Knickmeyer Washington Post 04/03/05.

Abu Ghraib Blast Injures 4 Los Angeles Times 04/05/05

Steve Gilliard had this to say about the significance of the first and larger attack (Guerrillas not dead yet, or close to it 04/03/05):

A large guerrilla force just walked up to one of the most heavily defended places in the middle east and started shooting and wounded 18 Americans. So what was this about the guerrillas wanting to surrender and end the rebellion? Seems they're ramping up operations and doing a good job of it. ...

Let me explain something: 60 men is a lot of men for a guerrilla force to show up with. It indicates prior military training as well, since someone has to lead all those men and plan the attack. The hand of the competent side of the former Iraqi Army shows its hand again. They had to meet, get together and then launch an attack. While hiding from US aerial observation.

Juan Cole also has some sobering observations about recent moves toward forming a government in Iraq, specifically the selection of a Sunni Arab speaker of parliament (Speaker of Parliament Elected amid Rancor 04/04/05):

The whole sorry episode is a matter for some alarm, in my view.

Choosing a speaker of the house should not have taken so long or been so acrimonious.

The punitive attitude of the Shiites toward Sunni Arabs who had had anything at all to do with the Baath Party is scary, since most Sunni Arabs who amount to anything inside the country, did. The rule ought not to be guilt by association but actual guilt of some crime. ...

The demonstration in Tikrit for al-Juburi shows that Sunni Arabs feel that fanatical Shiite sectarianism is blocking their respected leaders. Since the whole point of giving the Sunnis symbolic posts like speaker of the house was to mollify them and draw them into the new government, I'd say it was counter-productive to drive the Sunnis to popular protest about the process.

He also has a useful observation about Iraq news in general at the end of that same post: "Not everything in Iraq can be reduced to the issue of whether it is good or bad for the Bush administration or the Blair government."


purcellneil said...

I'm not sure what to make of Iraq.  The violence continues, and we seem to be incapable of even measuring progress in the Iraqification of the war.

On the other hand, since the election it seems we are in a new situation in which things could begin to improve -- I am not sure that we aren't in transition right now to a period in which real stability and autonomy might be secured for the Iraqi people.  Perhaps rather quickly.

It doesn't change my baseline view that the war was wrong from the start, but I have not expected it to end well either -- now I am not sure what to expect.

Of course, if you read the right wing loonies, they are all crowing about how Bush was right -- they credit him for things that haven't happened yet, and for things that are clearly happening for reasons he had nothing to do with (unless he killed Arafat and Hariri).  That kind of empty-headed boasting makes no sense at all.

But there may come a point where things start to look up for Arabs across the Middle East, and real progress on human rights, democracy and political freedom -- and then it is possible that we will all be celebrating Bush's success.  

I don't think it very likely, but it is possible.


bmiller224 said...

At this point, I think it's important to keep two things in mind about the Iraq War.

One is that we getting relatively little independent reporting on the war.  The security situation is so bad most reporters don't get far from their hotel, and very few get outside of Baghdad.

The other is that the overall situation can be getting better *and* worse at the same time.  The ideal case at this point would be that the Sunni insurgents would call a truce and cooperate in forming a government.  The government would rapidly staff up its army, paramilitary forces and police to an adequate level and then the US could leave.

On the other hand, while progress is being made toward forming a government, the Sunni rebels are still fighting, as is Zarqawi's Al Qaeda subsidiary (or whatever its called). The Kurds seem to be pretty intransigent over oil revenues.  And the Shia seem insistent on a clear establishing of Islamic law.  Any of those could "go south" on the whole operation at any moment.

And, as I believe you have pointed out before, Neil, there have been a lot of idications that Bush administration sees Iraq as a *permanent* base for US troops, which makes any kind of "the best peace we can get" scenario almost unthinkable. - Bruce

purcellneil said...

I agree with all of that, Bruce (especially the first point -- we get nothing but questionable and obviously limited information).  However, for a long time there was nothing but bad news, and now there is some good news in the region (or at a minimum, some developments that hold the potential for good news).  

I know that sounds like grasping for straws, but what I am really trying to say is that my eyes and mind are open to that possibility.  In view of opportunities for progress in the region, I think we must tailor our strategy and actions in Iraq to fit the overal strategy for promoting regional stability and progress towards democratization.

I would not have fought this war -- I still think it was immoral to invade Iraq, and much of what we have done there was stupid and even criminal.

But now -- after arguing for our withdrawal from that country for almost 2 years -- I find myself re-examining the options and thinking in terms of making sure whatever we do from here on does not snuff out the small but important possibility of change for the better across the whole region.

If our war was evil, perhaps we can atone for our sin by helping Arabs to achieve some of the progress they have so long hoped for.

I am cautiously hopeful, and prepared for disillusionment -- but hopeful nonetheless.