Friday, September 29, 2006

Tomgram: Iraq at the Gates of Hell

George Bush's Iraq in 21 Questions

By Tom Engelhardt

Recently, in one of many speeches melding his Global War on Terror and his war in Iraq, George W. Bush said, "Victory in Iraq will be difficult and it will require more sacrifice. The fighting there can be as fierce as it was at Omaha Beach or Guadalcanal. And victory is as important as it was in those earlier battles. Victory in Iraq will result in a democracy that is a friend of America and an ally in the war on terror. Victory in Iraq will be a crushing defeat for our enemies, who have staked so much on the battle there. Victory in Iraq will honor the sacrifice of the brave Americans who have given their lives. And victory in Iraq would be a powerful triumph in the ideological struggle of the 21st century."

Over three years after the 2003 invasion, it's not unreasonable to speak of George Bush's Iraq. The President himself likes to refer to that country as the "central front [or theater] in our fight against terrorism" and a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), part of which was recently leaked to the press and part then released by the President, confirms that Iraq is now indeed just that -- a literal motor for the creation of terrorism. As the document puts it, "The Iraq conflict has become the ‘cause célèbre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world, and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement." A study by a British Ministry of Defense think tank seconds this point, describing Iraq as "a recruiting sergeant for extremists across the Muslim world"

So what exactly does "victory" in George Bush's Iraq look like 1,288 days after the invasion of that country began with a "shock-and-awe" attack on downtown Baghdad? A surprising amount of information related to this has appeared in the press in recent weeks, but in purely scattershot form. Here, it's all brought together in 21 questions (and answers) that add up to a grim but realistic snapshot of Bush's Iraq. The attempt to reclaim the capital, dipped in a sea of blood in recent months -- or the "battle of Baghdad," as the administration likes to term it -- is now the center of administration military strategy and operations. So let's start with this question:

How many freelance militias are there in Baghdad?

The answer is "23" according to a "senior [U.S.] military official" in Baghdad -- so write Richard A. Oppel, Jr. and Hosham Hussein in the New York Times; but, according to National Public Radio, the answer is "at least 23." Antonio Castaneda of the Associated Press says that there are 23 "known" militias. However you figure it, that's a staggering number of militias, mainly Shiite but some Sunni, for one large city.

How many civilians are dying in the Iraqi capital, due to those militias, numerous (often government-linked death squads), the Sunni insurgency, and al-Qaeda-in-Mesopotamia-style terrorism?

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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