Iraq and civil war

Saturday, July 22, 2006 at 05:35 PM

Apart from their obvious concern for their political lives, there's a real reason that so many Republicans, like Gil Gutknecht are getting real nervous about Iraq.

From a Reuters piece in the Gulf Times (Qatar):

Bombs killed two worshippers at mosques in Iraq during Friday prayers and the authorities extended a daytime curfew on Baghdad after one of the bloodiest weeks this year.

On the eve of a high-profile meeting intended to demonstrate reconciliation among sectarian and ethnic factions ahead of a White House visit by the prime minister, senior leaders admitted to despair about the chances of averting all-out civil war.

"Iraq as a political project is finished," a top government official said - anonymously because the coalition of Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki remains committed in public to a US-sponsored constitution preserving Iraq's unity.

"The parties have moved to Plan B," the official said, saying Sunni, ethnic Kurdish and majority Shia blocs were looking at ways to divide power and resources and to solve the conundrum of Baghdad's mixed population of 7mn.

"There is serious talk of Baghdad being divided into east and west," said the official, who has long been a proponent of the present government's objectives. "We are extremely worried."
US commanders see a looming fight to the finish in Baghdad between the two-month-old unity government and Sunni Arab rebels with links to Al Qaeda and ousted president Saddam Hussain.

The US ambassador has warned that a greater threat may be the mounting sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias.

That has brought a risk that millions of ordinary but almost universally armed Iraqis may be dragged into all-out civil war.

US, Iraqi and international leaders have sounded alarms this week as new data showed tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in fear of death squads and that some 6,000 civilians may have been killed in just two months.
Describing the capital as a "must-win" for both the rebels and the government, US military spokesman Major General William Caldwell conceded on Thursday that a month-old clampdown in Baghdad had achieved only a "slight downtick" in violence.

That's not an isolated view of how bad things have become in Iraq, especially in Baghdad.  Patrick Cockburn, writing in The Independent, says:

...While the eyes of the world are elsewhere, Baghdad is still dying and the daily toll is hitting record levels. While the plumes of fire and smoke over Lebanon have dominated headlines for 11 days, with Britain and the US opposing a UN call for an immediate ceasefire, another Bush-Blair foreign policy disaster is unfolding in Iraq.

Invoking the sanctity of human life, George Bush wielded the presidential veto for the first time in his presidency to halt US embryonic stem cell research in its tracks. He even paraded one-year-old Jack Jones, born from one of the frozen embryos that can now never be used for federally funded research, and talked of preventing the "taking of innocent human life". How hollow that sounds to Iraqis.

More people are dying here - probably more than 150 a day - in the escalating sectarian civil war between Shia and Sunni Muslims and the continuing war with US troops than in the bombardment of Lebanon.

In a desperate effort to stem the butchery, the government yesterday imposed an all-day curfew on Baghdad, but tens of thousands of its people have already run for their lives. In some parts of the city, dead bodies are left to rot in the baking summer heat because nobody dares to remove them. I drove through empty streets in the heart of the city yesterday, taking a zigzag course to avoid police checkpoints that we thought might be doubling as death squads. Few shops were open. Those still doing business are frantically trying to sell their stock. A sign above one shop read: "Italian furniture: 75 per cent reductions.''

Iraqis are terrified in a way that I have never seen before, since I first visited Baghdad in 1978. Sectarian massacres happen almost daily. The UN says 6,000 civilians were slaughtered in May and June, but this month has been far worse. In many districts it has become difficult to buy bread because Sunni assassins have killed all the bakers who are traditionally Shia.

Baghdad is now breaking up into a dozen different hostile cities, Sunni or Shia, heavily armed and living in terror of the other side.

From what I can ascertain from the safety of my little office, it sounds like things are worse than they have been at any time since the invasion.

I've worried for some time that the announced rationale for the continued American presence in Iraq--to forestall disintegration of the country until an Iraqi government really takes hold--was doomed to failure.  Once hostility between rival groups reaches the tipping point, the violence is going to occur; a preventive military force can only delay it a bit.

Does anyone know if Sean Hannity is still barking out his simplistic "Is the world better off without Saddam, yes or no?" at those guests foolish enough to appear on his program?