Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Consider this a glimpse of things to come:
Heavy fighting has been raging in Basra as thousands of Iraqi troops battle Shia militias in the southern city.

At least 12 people have died in the operation, which is being overseen in Basra by Iraqi PM Nouri Maliki, a day after he vowed to "re-impose law".

[...]Oil-rich Basra is in the grip of a bitter turf war between armed groups, including the Mehdi Army, say analysts.

The Mehdi Army - which supports radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr - called for a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience.
Yea. Some "civil disobedience", huh?

Sadr declareda ceasefire last summer, and apparently went into hiding for the past seven months, only to pop up again Tuesday, calling on Iraqis, and particularly Shi'ites, to engage in civil disruptions if American "attacks" did not cease.

These attacks consisted of wide-scale arrests of Iraqis (apparently non-discriminatory) across Iraq in an attempt to round up militia members.

The lone bright spot in this story is that the bulk of the fighting is being done by Iraqis themselves, against other Iraqis. Allied forces are providing support and reconnaissance functions.

The New York Times is reporting that Sadr has attempted to negotiate with American and Iraqi leaders, but that those talks have broken down.

We're in the middle of this mess, and sadly, it looks like McCain's prediction of 100 years (which he will shortly scale back to fifty) of American presence in the country is not too far off the mark. The Koreas have had us for nearly sixty years, and they are not that much closer to resolution of their grievances and disputes.

We will, I think, be forced to leave a military presence, even as a policing presence, in Iraq for some time to come, and it really doesn't matter who was right or who was wrong about the war.

The bus, to borrow a phrase, has been driven into the ditch. This kind of story will be the template for stories to come out of Iraq for the next few generations, I suspect: Iraqi fighting Iraqi, with Americans trying and failing to talk them both down from the ledge. Civil disobedience will take the form of more bullets and less bluster.

To rattle sabers will be taken far more literally. You almost get the sense that Sadr hoped the American troops would be long gone by now, and figured there's no real reason to wait to take over the country, which would be an unacceptable resolution for America, which have pinned its feeble hopes on Maliki's government.

While McCain was wrong about Iran training Al Qaeda fighters, Shi'a warriors are most definitely allied with Iran, much like the Northern Ireland Catholics were allied with American Irish Catholics. That means money, influence, and weapons are at their disposal, possibly ad infinitum.

It would, of course, be a feather in Iran's cap to rule the nation that they once waged a terrible and terrifying war against.

Pundits on the left have, among others, have tried to paint Iraq's relevance to this election cycle, but I think the realpolitik is that all three remaining candidates would probably have to suck it up and accept our presence in Iraq until 2012, at least (something both Clinton and Obama have admitted to in debates).

Iraq will not be an issue in the campaign this year, not even as a retrospective review and mandate of George Bush's failures. The parry to any serious questioning about our involvement in Iraq would be "Yes, but..."

No use crying over spilled milk, I suppose, but you have to sit and wonder what we've lost, how much we've lost, in this foolish aggression of a few unprincipled men.