Monday, July 18, 2005

Uncivil War

Since I posted yesterday's piece, more carnage erupted in Iraq. On Sunday, after the murders of at least 71 people and wounding of 156, the killing just went on and on. Juan Cole kept track, and had this to say:

"Jalal al-Din Saghir, an Iraqi parliamentarian close to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, called the weekend's onslaught of suicide bombings a sign that Iraq is slipping into civil war. Shiite neighborhoods in and around Baghdad are seething with rage over the massacre at Musayyib, which used a fuel truck to kill dozens of families out buying ice cream for their children. Some members of parliament are calling for the formation of neighborhood militias. A good deal of anger is being directed toward the newly elected Iraqi government for not preventing these massive attacks, despite its well-publicized "Operation Lightning" of sweeps through Sunni neighborhoods."
Civil war. Where have we heard that before? And they don't know how to stop it, either. Further down in the Times story:

"The surge of suicide attacks torturing the capital has seemingly confounded Iraqi and American forces...
Additionally, no obvious pattern has appeared in the recent string of attacks except that, like the scores of others that have made suicide bombs a prominent feature of this war, they have often singled out Shiites in large numbers or Iraqi and international security forces."
And then there was this:

"Early leads in the investigation into the Musayyib attack suggest that insurgents had carefully planned it for maximum civilian casualties."
The Times story itself quotes a Baghdadi University observer who believes the insurgents' goal is to sow sectarian unrest. Robert Pape said that the goal of suicide bombers is "not to die. It is the kill, to inflict the maximum number of casualties on the target society in order to compel that target society to put pressure on its government to change policy." What's the policy here? It's the maintenance of foreign, non-Muslim troops, and their occupation of Iraq. But the more outrageously they punish their own, the more divided become the very people they want to rally.

For those of us safe and sound thousands of miles away, the whole thing has the feel of a spiralling nightmare in which one is powerless to intervene. For the people who actually have to try to survive that nightmare...can we ever make amends for bringing this hell down on their heads?

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