Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Civil War Watch

The Pentagon released a report describing the escalating violence endemic to Iraq. Here's what the NYTs reports:
A Pentagon assessment of security conditions in Iraq concluded Monday that attacks against American and Iraqi targets had surged this summer and autumn to their highest level, and called violence by Shiite militants the most significant threat in Baghdad.

The report, which covers the period from early August to early November, found an average of almost 960 attacks against Americans and Iraqis every week, the highest level recorded since the Pentagon began issuing the quarterly reports in 2005, with the biggest surge in attacks against American-led forces. That was an increase of 22 percent from the level for early May to early August, the report said.

While most attacks were directed at American forces, most deaths and injuries were suffered by the Iraqi military and civilians.

The report is the most comprehensive public assessment of the American-led operation to secure Baghdad, which began in early August. About 17,000 American combat troops are currently involved in the beefed-up security operation.

According to the Pentagon assessment, the operation initially had some success in reducing killings as militants concentrated on eluding capture and hiding their weapons. But sectarian death squads soon adapted, resuming their killings in regions of the capital that were not initially targets of the overstretched American and Iraqi troops.

Shiite militias, the Pentagon report said, also received help from allies among the Iraqi police. “Shia death squads leveraged support from some elements of the Iraqi Police Service and the National Police who facilitated freedom of movement and provided advance warning of upcoming operations,” the report said.
The report goes on to describe Shiite death squads as more dangerous and violent than either insurgents or terrorist foreign fighters. This trend is frightening and portends increased ethnic cleansing, if not genocide, if the United States suddenly pulls out of Iraq leaving a vacuum of security.

I have always been a person obsessed with democracy, but now, my idealism has been blunted and pragmatism reigns supreme in my mind. The only thing that matters now is how the United States, Iraqis themselves, and other international actors act to stop a slide toward ethnic cleansing. As Americans, we hold much responsibility for the state of Iraq. Sure, the simmering hatred between Sunni and Shiite is over a millennia old, but it was the U.S. that destroyed the Baathist state and unleashed these forces. This wouldn't have been a bad thing if the U.S. reconstructed Iraq quickly and had the requisite troop strength to provide security, but as we all know now, the Bush Administration's ignorance and unrealistic democratic positivism undermined these preparations. We are the ones to blame and while history will not be kind to the U.S. for illegally invading and occupying Iraq without U.N. support --thereby undermining broadbased multilateral responsibility -- it will be even harsher if the U.S. leaves and Iraq experiences genocide with an Islamist taint.