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Letting Go the Tiger's Tail

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President Bush, and his would-be successor, John McCain, contend that the 4000 US GI's killed in Iraq so far are a reason to stay the course.

But then what of the next 4000 US soldiers to die in that troubled land? 

If we stay then, four or five years from now, we'll be talking about the 8000 US GI's killed in Iraq, and with little more than now to show for it. Isn't that then an argument in favor of leaving?

Right-wingers, of course, describe that kind of talk as surrender, defeatism, even cowardice. Then again, these would be the same folks who assured us that invading Iraq would be a quick and easy way to teach all troublesome Muslim nations in the region a lesson they would not soon forget.

Well, they got the, "they will not soon forget" part right. They won't.

But the lesson we taught them turned out to be quite the opposite one intended. Like the Soviets before us the lesson they taught was that super-powers have about as much chance of "winning" a Middle East occupation as they would have trying to herd 25 million skunks -- at gunpoint.

"Nonsense!" Neo-cons shout. "All we had to do was get the formula right. Sure we got it wrong at the start. But look now , the surge is working."

Oh, really? Isn't the right question to be asking right now is not if the surge is working, but for whom?

It's certainly "working" for former Sunni insurgents. Before the surge they were killing US soldiers -- and getting killed by US soliders --  for nothing.  Since the surge began they are now getting paid for not killing US soldiers and are no longer at risk of getting killed by US soldiers.

Even better, these former Sunni insurgents have been resupplied, armed, fed and protected by US taxpayers. For fun they also get to kill anyone their leaders decide is, may be or may not be, an al Qaida terrorist of sympathizer. Consequently no one in a Sunni-controlled area dares piss anyone else off. Everyone is on their best behavior and verrrrrrry polite.

But did the surge eliminate the Sunni insurgency, or institutionalize it?  The Sunni's arch enemies, the Shiites, are still in control in Baghdad, and determined to keep it that way. And Shiites are apoplectic that we are arming their sworn enemies, the Sunnis. They know the day will come when they will have to face those weapons.

Meanwhile things have gotten even more complicated when it comes to the Shiites in Bush's surge-land. I've lost count of how many Shiite sects there are. And each one of them believes they, and only they, have the right to control the resources and people living in their portion of the Iraqi hood. (The Bloods and the Crips can't hold a candle to these Shiite sects and their militias. Remember, these are guys who like to use electric drills on the heads of people they don't like-- and that's before they cut those heads off.)

But, when it comes to Shiite militias one in particular remains of particular concern.

Rival Shiite factions clash in Baghdad
BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- March 25  - Fighting erupted between followers of Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and supporters of a rival Shi'ite faction in several Baghdad neighborhoods on Tuesday, police said...The fighting was taking place in several neighborhoods of Sadr City, the sprawling slum of about two million people that is Sadr's main stronghold, they said...Police said Mehdi Army fighters loyal to Sadr were battling gunmen from the Badr Organization, the armed wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC). The Sadrists and SIIC represent the two biggest Shi'ite political blocs in parliament. (Full Story)

Moqtada al-Sadr is the Freddie Kruger of Iraqi politics -- and he's baaaaack.

Like Sunni insurgents, al-Sadr turned the US surge -- a potential lemon for his volunteer militia -- into lemonade. Rather than waste lives and ammo fighting US surge troops, he declared a "cease fire." With the US happy to leave the now quiet Sadr-controlled areas alone, al-Sadr used the lull to "professionalize" his militia. Fresh arms and training from neighboring Iran has turned Sadr's once rag-tag militia into a well-oiled, well-disciplined and well-armed versions of Hezbollah and Hamas.

Al-Sadr threatens civil revolt

March 25, 2008 -- Iraq's radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has threatened a countrywide campaign of civil revolt as security forces battled his militiamen in the southern city of Basra....Basra province was handed over to Iraqi control by British forces in mid-December...It has since become the theatre of a bitter turf war between the Mahdi Army, the Badr organisation allied to the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council (SIIC) of powerful politician Abdel Aziz al-Hakim, and the smaller Shiite party, Fadhila, ahead of provincial elections in October. (Full Story)

That's what happens when coalition troops leave and the Iraqis take over. They get right back to settling thousand-year old scores, only with better weapons.

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Stephen Pizzo has been published everywhere from The New York Times to Mother Jones magazine. His book, Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans, was nominated for a Pulitzer.

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