The situation in Iraq melts down

So based, on Juan Cole’s updates, and poking around Google news:

We’ve lost control of a half-dozen cities.
We’ve evacuated southern Baghdad.
The shiites and sunnies are uniting against us.
They’ve started taking hostages.
Sistani isn’t helping us.

We’ve lost, haven’t we? Even if we get control back, we have no hope whatsoever of obtaining our goals there.

This is without me buying Cole’s speculation about the “US troops defying orders by letting civilians with food supplies into Fallujah rather than fire on them.”

I’m also thinking that the situation is becoming more and more hopeless.

On a related note, check out this blog from Iraq.

Amazing stuff. Read the Alamo post.

Oh, and Novak says the military leadership at the Pentagon has the knives out for the civilian leadership, thanks to the civlians screwing up the troop estimates for Iraq. And that we’re completely out of troops.

I don’t think anyone would confuse me with a supporter of the misbegotten adventure but I’m not convinced we’ve completely lost yet. I’ll say it again: Sistani is the man. He matters more than Sadr, Bremmer and Bush combined. We don’t know what he’s thinking or what his situation even is. Sadr’s forces are all around him at the moment. But so are his own.

Politics in this region are stormy at the best of times. That’s simply how folks are socialized. I have to wonder whether machismo is an innate Spanish trait or if it’s something they picked up from the Muslims during The Reconquista. As fast as this brushfire might spread today it could be snuffed out tomorrow if native Iraqi leaders organize to shut it down. That means primarily Sistani and the moderate/secular Shiia as well as moderates of other factions. If they aren’t it’s because they see the people are generally unhappy with and mistrustful of the U.S. occupation. At the same time I can’t imagine they believe a civil war or any kind of major guerilla operation is in their own best interests. The only possible outcome is balkanization of the country with outside regional powers backing different factions and turning the whole country into a giant Beruit. Or a new Afghanistan and not the imaginary one with the imaginary happy ending of the neocons and Bush backers.

The only answer to ending this, unless there’s something we’re missing - which is as likely as not at this point, is giving the UN real power in Iraq. Sistani’s made it clear he may not particularly trust it but he seems more willing to deal with its representatives than those of the US occupation. And where goes Sistani goes the majority of Iraq’s majority group.

At least I hope so. The balance of power may be shifting towards Sadr. That would be the end if it became the new situation on the ground.

Geezus christ. How can those folks over there take it?

Come on guys, this is only a small region. As bush has pointed out again and again, the unpopulated desert region has yet to rise up against us. With the desert sand on our side, we can overcome.


I saw the Novak column on Friday and all I could think was “they’re losing Novak, it must be bad”.

Seriously, this is a tremendous impersonation of Emperor Nero–whom a previous version of Dennis Miller once compared Bush Sr to. Hope the fishin’ in Texas is that good right now!

I agree we’d have some hope if Sistani comes in on our side. It doesn’t look likely, though; he’s been unwilling to risk political capital so far.

We do not belong there. The Middle East is nothing but a cesspool that we are trying to clean up with a pitchfork. Most of the shit goes right between the tines…

Before you know it, it’ll be like Dawn of the Iraqi’s and the US Forces will be holed up in a mall listening to Jonny Cash music about the armageddon! What a fine mess…


Great Casey will not save Mudville. Sistani understands quite clearly that 9/10 of his power is reliant on inaction and ambivalence. I really don’t think he would be all that effective in putting a damper on those funloving jihadists in their midst. I suspect our only option is to kill as many of the enemy as soon as possible. If we continue the gradual escalation of force, the political costs will be too great.

Do that and you depopulate Iraq. We’re talking about networks of human beings bound by tribal, religious and nationalistic identities. That crazy cousin of yours who runs with that nutcase Sadr is an embarrasement until he becomes a casualty. Now it’s his killers who become a threat. And when you and yours die trying to avenge him all your friends and relatives jump in after along with those of anyone else who was killed. Meanwhile all over the region the ‘nutcases’ become brave martyrs taking on the Crusaders and capitalists on TV. More aid flows in, more militants flow in, and Iraqis who may have been hostile to Saddam and only ambivalent about the U.S. now come to see themselves as oppressed victims or potential vigilantes and heroes.

We walked our sorry asses into a region where we don’t have natural support from anybody - much less any of the factions involved in Iraq. We let the Kurds go to hell several times. We goaded the Shiites into an uprising after the Gulf War only to sit back while Saddam massacred them. And, of course, the Sunni’s supported Saddam by and large but even those who didn’t fear Shiite domination and revenge. Nobody in Iraq is ignorant of the historical U.S. role in the region which could be the one thing the normally hostile groups have in common. We support Israel, we’re largely Christian (just like the Crusaders some would point out), we’ve a history of supporting tyrants including Saddam and overthrowing regimes we don’t like - the Shah did live just next door after we kicked out a democratically elected leader in Iran, and we enforced the sanctions which caused, according to all accounts, far more suffering for the Iraqi people than the leadership (and the details about whether Saddam was more responsible than us for this are likely lost on those who lost family to disease or starvation).

What the fuck were we thinking going in all but alone here?

So whatever gratitude is genuinely felt by Iraqis towards us for disposing of Saddam is offset by our history in the region. And since the occupation has been so badly managed, bungled in fact, the ‘window of forebearance’ as it’s been called seems to be rapidly closing. In sheer human biomass and in terms of logisitics we’d simply be swamped if the Iraqis decided they finally had enough and either backed Sadr or the Sunni insurgents or rebel on their own in vague solidarity.

We’re not there yet but we start going on a testosterone fuelled killing spree and those family and regional connections between factions will start playing a much more important role than anything else. Fringe figures will be made into icons and martyrs. It’s like this: “I can beat my brother up but I’ll kick anyone else’s ass who tries.”

Starting to look like there is no way to control the situation short of overwhelming force… and if we kill a ton of people, we won’t look very good. :-(

Bush did not understand what he was getting us into. I hope he will pay the appropriate political price – not that it can ever make up for the soldiers he’s gotten killed.

Of course he didn’t. He had to be brief prior to the invasion on the tripartite ethnicity of the country. He probably still mispeaks on who supported Saddam (Shiites instead of Sunnis) in small meetings.

Yeah, I don’t see any political cost in killin’ ‘em all and lettin’ god sort 'em out. Good call. Are you trying out for a position on the DoD?

Blowing up mosques and firing on civilians trying to bury their dead doesn’t play well on TV throughout the region. We’re now in a much worse situation vis a vis the Middle East than we were a year ago.

At least our Commander in Chief is on the case, watching vigilantly the events playing out over there and brainstorming possible solutions with his advisors. Oh wait, no he isn’t. He’s filming a fishing show on his ranch with ESPN.

It was true then and it’s true now. We’ve been trying to do it backwards, and it’s killing us.
As always, I am open to realistic alternatives on how to deal with Iraq. Less interesting are the continuing tangents bemoaning being there at all, our ever-amusing commander in chief, etc, but I suppose that’s all you’ve got. We’re there, now.

The amazing thing about this thread is that nobody here really knows what’s really going on. Sure, there are media reports - which IS always after The Story, in this case Vietnam - some accounts from the troops on the ground - which of course are going to be all about bloody combat, that’s what they DO. Has anybody asked CENTCOM what they honestly think of the situation, or know what CENTCOM is doing about it?

It reminds me of … of a year ago, actually. There was this sandstorm, and a bunch of stalled US vehicles, and an ambush in Nassariyah, and everyone was proclaiming the new quagmire.

Wait a couple weeks. Expect to see Fallujah back under US control by then, all the cities we’ve “lost” repacified, and most of this “rebellion” burnt out. If this really was a general uprising, trust me, you’d know it. Instead it’s about ten thousand hotheads making noise while the general population keeps its head down.

It’s Iraq, for crying out loud. They’ve been dealing with oligarchies and dictators and occupation and state brutality and corruption since the Mongols. What else do you expect but a little barbarism seeping out from time to time?

The only unusual thing about the current revolt is the degree to which media attention has magnified its apparent importance. We’ve become unaccustomed to violence on a large scale in the West, and are overly sensitive to it.

“Violence on a large scale?” We’ve lost control of a bunch of cities!

So? We lost control of central LA during the Rodney King riots, and nobody suggested pulling out.

So we’ve lost control of some cities. What are they going to do with them? The local population wants to know if we have the guts to stick around and deal with crap like this before they stick their own necks out - remember, anybody with initiative has been getting shot out of hand for as long as anybody there has been alive. But they’re certainly not giong to join up in an American-killing army, otherwise they’d have done so by now. The rebels don’t have that much in the way of ammo or weaponry or organization (except for the Syrian/Iranian agents, but they’re a distinct minority). No immediate brutal US response means no massive upswelling of popular opinion; instead, the measured block-by-block counteroffensive such as what is going on in Fallujah right now is enough to get the job done and convince the silent majority that, yes, just sit tight and this will be over soon enough.

And once those cities are taken back - they can’t be held, the rebels don’t have the manpower or organization or firepower to do it - then what? They’ve suffered a propaganda and morale defeat, because the US didn’t respond brutally, and didn’t respond by pulling out. They’ve suffered a military defeat; they made their move, and the US troops weren’t swamped by angry young Arabs. They’ve suffered a political defeat, because al-Sadr has played his hand and has nothing left - either he goes underground like Osama, in which case he’s out of the picture, or he gets nabbed and sent to Guantanamo.

Regardless, CENTCOM is doing exactly the right thing here. They’re being patient, and measured, and ignoring media hyperbole. US casualty figures are not actually that high for the scale of the operations going on. The bad guys have moved out from behind the shield of free speech and demonstrations and made themselves legitimate targets, and the US military is being careful to take out those targets and only those targets.

Steady pressure is exactly what is needed here. This thing must grow, and rapidly, or die back to the previous banditry and roadside bombs, equally rapidly. It has been stopped from growing. Everything else is just a matter of logistics and political will.

I’m thinking of this in political terms, not military ones. Even if we manage to get everything back under control, it’s been demonstrated that Iraq isn’t going to be able to handle security following the handover; the post-handover government isn’t going to be seen to have any legitimacy; and the Iraqis want us the hell out.

I don’t see we can meet any of our goals there.