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So NOW What the Hell are We Doing Here?

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Top Iraqis Pull Back From Key U.S. Goal
Reconciliation Seen Unattainable Amid Struggle for Power

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, October 8, 2007; A01

BAGHDAD -- For much of this year, the U.S. military strategy in Iraq has sought to reduce violence so that politicians could bring about national reconciliation, but several top Iraqi leaders say they have lost faith in that broad goal.

--full article--


It was about Saddam until it wasn't. Then it was about al-Qaeda until it wasn't. When it wasn't about 9-11 and wasn't about nation-building, it became about holding the gangsters away from each other until they could form a government. Maybe even a democratic government, although we'd have settled for any government that could hold our coat for us as we beat a speedy exit.

Now it isn't about that either, which will mean yet another wasn't.

Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.

I remember writing about entrenched animosity back in 2002, but these neocons who now say they 'had no idea' it wouldn't be a cake-walk weren't listening. Even so, does streamlining bureaucracy, advancing technocrats and getting the electric grid up and running sound like goals worth getting American kids killed for?

"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."
Whoa! Has anyone told George? Does David Addington know this? Where on earth does Salih's estimate of 'affairs on the ground' put General David Petraeus's congressional testimony that we were and are making headway toward a stable enough Iraq for national reconciliation?

David, have you got the latest play-book?

Humam Hamoudi, a prominent Shiite cleric and parliament member, said any future reconciliation would emerge naturally from an efficient, fair government, not through short-term political engineering among Sunnis and Shiites.

"Reconciliation should be a result and not a goal by itself," he said. "You should create the atmosphere for correct relationships, and not wave slogans that 'I want to reconcile with you.' "

If you find overpowering irony in the Hamoudi statement, who can blame you? Our government would benefit from the same instruction, merely substituting Democrats and Republicans for Sunnis and Shiites.

Are you listening, Nancy and Harry? Hear the message, Hillary and Barack, Rudy and Mitt? "The atmosphere for correct relationships." Someone could almost build a presidential campaign on that.

The acrimony among politicians has strained the Shiite-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki close to the breaking point. Nearly half of the cabinet ministers have left their posts. The Shiite alliance in parliament, which once controlled 130 of the 275 seats, is disintegrating with the defection of two important parties.
Please! Irony heaped upon satire. Hide your eyes, George. Will those Iraqis never stop drawing comparisons to our government? Enough, already.
. . . The U.S. military's latest hope for grass-roots reconciliation, the recruitment of Sunni tribesmen into the Iraqi police force, was denounced last week in stark terms by Iraq's leading coalition of Shiite lawmakers.

"There has been no significant progress for months," said Tariq al-Hashimi, one of Iraq's two vice presidents and the most influential Sunni politician in the country. "There is a shortage of goodwill from those parties who are now in the driver's seat of the country."

Goodbye Sunni tribesmen. The cornerstone of Petraeus's strategy just bit the dust while the General was surveying his new headquarters in the American Embassy. (Side note on that; perhaps if the State Department and Military are actually in the same building, we can fire Blackwater and let American troops actually protect us)

Shortages of goodwill seem to be a worldwide pandemic in these early years of the changeover from ugly American to pre-emptive American.

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Jim Freeman's op-ed pieces and commentaries have appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, International Herald-Tribune, CNN, The New York Review, The Jon Stewart Daily Show and a number of magazines. His thirteen published books are (more...)

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