In short, things have gone from horrible to miserable over the past couple of days (even since I wrote about the rapidly devolving situation a few short weeks ago).
Of course, to Bush, the decreased violence (despite average daily troop casualties being nearly the same for over three years) was a sign that “the surge is working”. And now, Bush says that this increase in violence is a byproduct of the “success of the surge”. And John W. McSame, who is just as stubbornly ignoring the reality and facts as Bush is, had another “McCain moment” when he said that the surge is working and he doesn’t care what anyone says, except for the tiny fact that his latest speech was interrupted by reports of major violence in Iraq.
But that is the least of it - although it does show just how unqualified McCain is when it comes to being Commander in Chief. The other night, I asked what happens if the Iraqi forces can’t beat back the militia in Basra, and it looks like we may soon find out, as an oil pipeline was blown up in Basra, and there is a rapid devolvement in a number of areas in Iraq as Shiite on Shiite violence is continuing (not to mention the “other” civil war that has been raging for months between Sunnis and Shiites, or Sunni insurgents against Sunni “al Qaeda in Iraq”, and everyone against the US troops:
The violence in Basra -- which has spread to Shiite areas throughout the country, including Baghdad -- is a kind of fighting Americans are unaccustomed to seeing, said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Donald Sheppard, CNN's senior military analyst.
"This is intra-Shia. This is not Sunni vs. Shia, this is not civil war, this is not sectarian violence, it's intra-Shia politics for control of the government," he said.
On top of this, a spokesman for the Baghdad security plan was kidnapped from his Baghdad home, there are tens of thousands of protesters in the streets of Baghdad and the ultra super safe Green Zone is being pelted with mortars and rockets for pretty much every day over the past week.
Down in Basra, British military officials are indicating that the Iraqi police force is almost part and parcel with some of the militias they are supposed to be fighting, and offered a very ominous message:
"During a briefing in Baghdad on Wednesday, a British military official said that of the nearly 30,000 Iraqi security forces involved in the assault, almost 16,000 were Basra police forces, which have long been suspected of being infiltrated by the same militias the assault was intended to root out. . . .
"[I]f the Mahdi Army breaks completely with the cease-fire that has helped to tamp down attacks in Iraq during the past year, there is a risk of replaying 2004, when the militia fought intense battles with American forces that destabilized the entire country and ushered in years of escalating violence."
According to Juan Cole, the Mahdi Army still controls parts of Basra, the Iraqi Army has possibly committed mass executions in Basra and Kut (where the Mahdi Army has taken control of), and there is already a shortage of food and water for residents of Basra. And McClatchy is reporting many dozens dead, hundreds injured, tortured bodies showing up in hospitals and violence in at least a half dozen cities on Wednesday alone.
Here is one of many issues with this - this is not just “Shiite on Shiite violence”, and it is not just “Iraqi forces against al Sadr” - this is a new round in the struggle for power and a fight against what many view as the US puppet regime (in Maliki) trying to maintain control of a central government that many feel is illegitimate to begin with.
And it was very easy to see coming.
When the “surge is working - just look at Anbar” was exposed for the farce that it was, and that it was more because of giving up control to the local sheikhs, it was quite logical to see that while this is something that quelled some violence for a while, it was a very short term fix. When the decision was made to arm and pay Sunni insurgents to not kill US troops, it was pretty evident that this was not a good long term (or even medium term) strategic decision. And it was painfully obvious that once they were not paid anymore, they wouldn’t be too happy.
From the decision to invade and occupy Iraq, there has not been any real consideration given to a strategic vision. Decisions were made on the fly and with the sole purpose of passing this quickly and violently devolving disaster to the next administration. But the convergence of angry unpaid Sunni insurgents with weapons we gave them, a weak and ineffective central government that wasn’t held to any level of accountability, the backing of Shiites over Sunnis until Bush, Cheney and their partners in crime realized that Iran was also Shiite and we couldn’t support “people like them” (even though it was the Sunni al Qaeda and Taliban who we are supposed to be fighting) and the end of a ceasefire that was also foreseen by those who wondered why the same logic that applied to setting a withdrawal timeline and “waiting us out” didn’t also apply to al Sadr waiting out the “surge” is now coming home to roost.
Things have gotten a lot worse lately - and there is no other way to spin this. This is not the time to pretend that things are just peachy. It is time to act like adults. It is long past time to face reality. It is time to make tough decisions and realize the very precarious position our troops have been put in. To bury your head in the sand or to cover your ears and say that everything is just a-ok is unacceptable. And if John W. McCain wants to continue doing that, he is showing a lack of fitness for office that many will soon see.
We can only hope and pray that our troops and the Iraqi people don’t suffer as much as they are likely to suffer from bad decision after worse decision. If the Iraqi troops were supposed to be as ready as we were told last year, then this is their time to stand up. It is their civil war. It is their country. It is their future.
It is their primary responsibility. Our troops can’t do anything at this point on any meaningful level. Not unless there are another 400,000 of them in Iraq. Therefore, it is time for the international community to take over. It is time to get our troops out of harm’s way - from a situation that they have no place being part of.
Iraq is imploding, and as Petraeus said, there is no military solution here. If they don’t want to make any political progress, then we can’t do it for them. If they want a central government, then so be it. If they don’t, then so be it.
But ignoring reality and using empty rhetoric that means absolutely nothing and shows the world that we don’t know or we don’t care about the very complex and rapidly declining situation in Iraq.
The surge didn’t work. It isn’t working now. And it won’t work. To quote McCain, I say that, and I really don’t care what anyone thinks.