Feb 27, 2006
The civil war that many people had been predicting for Iraq broke out in the open last week. The bombing of the Shiite al-Askari Shrine in Samarra provoked attacks by Shiite militias on Sunni mosques. And these attacks in turn provoked Sunni attacks on Shiite mosques. Caught in the middle of all this violence was the population, which suffered attacks coming from all sides.
Attempting to stop the violence, the Iraqi government issued a total 24-hour curfew for three days over the weekend. This may have dampened the violence a little – but only a little. At best, it may return things to how they were before the bombing, when a civil war was simmering just below the surface. Even before the bombing, civilians were being killed, militia members were being taken aside and executed by members of rival militias – with the rivalry sometimes between Sunni and Shiite, or Sunni and Kurd, but sometimes between two Shiite militias, which are the military arms supporting rival Shiite factions. Morning after morning, the bodies of a dozen or so people were found on the streets, with bullets through their heads, shot from behind the ear, execution style.
The situation exploded so rapidly last week because the civil war had started months before. Over the last several months, official estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths had put the figure at about 800 a month. (To understand what that means – if the U.S. were to suffer a similar rate of civilian casualties, we would be seeing almost 9,000 civilian deaths a month.)
Last week, when the civil war broke out into the open, none of the military forces that have been built up in Iraq could or would stop it. They only made it worse.
When faced with sectarian bloodshed, the parts of the Iraqi army staffed by Shiites stood aside while Shiite militias attacked Sunnis – or even joined in the attacks. Similarly, with Sunni segments of the army, which helped in the attacks on Shiite areas.
And everyone knew this would happen since the Iraqi army had been built up along sectarian lines. After the first Gulf War, the U.S. helped the Shiites to arm, enabling them to form their militias. And it funded the establishment of Kurdish militias in the Kurdish areas. With the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s army, the U.S. created a new Iraqi army, based on these militias. When Shiites rose up in Karbala, the U.S. used Kurdish militias to put them down. When Sunnis rose up in Falluja, the U.S. trotted out Kurdish militias and their Shiite counterparts in the Iraqi army, to help destroy the Sunni city.
So is it any surprise that the army split last week along sectarian lines?
Bush used last week’s fighting to insist, once again, on the necessity of “staying the course.” To leave – so said Bush – would only bring about a civil war.
No, the civil war is here, right now, and it was brought into being by the presence of the invading armies, with the U.S. at the head of them.
The only thing the U.S. can do for Iraq is to get out. NOW. Would there be sectarian fighting when the U.S. left? Probably – because there’s sectarian fighting going on right now, and it’s getting worse from day to day.
To believe that the U.S., whose very policies have led to this bloody situation, is capable of overcoming it is to live in Never- Never-Land.
The U.S. should get out of Iraq! It should leave Iraq’s oil in the hands of the Iraqis, not of the U.S. corporations, for which the U.S. originally waged this war. It should abandon the 100 military bases it has built up in anticipation of using Iraq as its military fortress in the Middle East.
The only reasonable answer to the worsening situation in Iraq is to demand: U.S. hands off Iraq!