Patrick Graham | Sep 20, 2007 |
"I first met the tribal militias that make up the Anbar Awakening during the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when a family I knew smuggled me out to a small village between Ramadi and Falluja. Saddam’s army had virtually disappeared from the countryside, and these militias, trusted by Saddam’s regime and at the time still loyal to it, controlled the roads and villages of Anbar just as they do today. I spent a lot of 2003 and 2004 around Falluja and Ramadi, getting to know a group of insurgents fighting the U.S. occupation. I’m fairly certain that if the tribal militias had been intelligently treated—i.e. paid US$10 each per day the way they are now—and the U.S. Army hadn’t driven around Ramadi and Falluja shooting wildly in the spring of 2003, many would have been American allies from the beginning. Instead, a lot of them became insurgents, hooked up with their cousins from Saddam’s former security services, and eventually allied themselves with the Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda. That relationship was symbiotic at first, but al-Qaeda soon became destructive parasites, jihadi body snatchers who killed anybody opposed to their control and strict Islamic codes.
When Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, appeared before Congress with Ambassador Crocker to testify about the results of President Bush’s “surge” strategy, he talked a lot about these tribal militias and the success of Anbar. It is the only progress the U.S. has made in Iraq for years. It’s unclear whether the additional 30,000 troops that make up the surge have had much effect on the Anbar Awakening. But watching Gen. Petraeus, I was struck by how familiar his words sounded. The general talked like every Sunni I’ve ever met in Iraq—hell, he sounded a bit like Saddam. The old tyrant would have had one of his characteristic chest-heaving guffaws watching Petraeus as he intoned the old Baathist mantra about the dangers to Iraq: Iran, Iran, Iran. Bush took up Gen. Petraeus’s views a few days later in a nationally televised speech about Iraq, in which he talked about the threat Tehran posed. It seems that Petraeus and Bush have come to the same conclusion as Saddam: the main enemy is Iran, and you can’t govern Iraq without the Sunni Arab tribes, even as you encourage anti-Iranian nationalism among the Shia. This is what Saddam did during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and what Washington is trying to do now. One of the main problems with this strategy is that both the Sunni tribes and Shia nationalists are profoundly anti-American and don’t trust each other—a potential recipe for further disaster."
THE BLOOD ON BUSH'S HANDS!
A British polling organization now pegs Iraqi civilian deaths at 1.2 million people. The ORB poll surveyed Iraqi adults and determined nearly one in two households in Baghdad had lost at least one family member to war-related violence, and nationwide 22 percent of the households had suffered at least one death.