By Dave Lindorff
Bush may not be the greatest of wordsmiths, but he certainly nailed it when he said that the battle in Basra, in which the puppet governent of Nuri al-Maliki and the Iraqi military were attacking the entrenched Mahdi Brigades of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr for control of Iraq’s crucial port city, was a “defining moment” in the five-years-and-running Iraq conflict.
That battle, which saw al-Maliki fly down to the presidential palace in the country’s second largest city to direct the army’s fight, only to be spirited away by an American air rescue team when he was in danger of being captured or killed, is indeed a defining moment.
It defines the utter failure of the Bush/Cheney administration’s year-long “surge” scam, which was supposed to “give the Iraqi government time” to get on its feet, pass a law on sharing the country’s oil wealth among the various regions and tribes, and resolve the issues of power sharing between Sunnis, Shias and Kurds.
The country is still a basket case.
The battle of Basra ended—at least for now--with Moqtada al-Sadr stronger than ever, his fighters still armed and in control of the city, and of their stronghold in the slums of Sadr City, Baghdad. It concluded with a cease-fire agreement—negotiated by Iraqi governmet offials who, embarrassingly, had to go hat in hand to meet al-Sadr in his headquarters in Iran--under which the Iraqi army and police must stop attacking al-Sadr’s forces, as they have been doing for months, and must release members of his forces currently being held captive.
As in 2004, the last time al-Sadr frontally attacked US forces, his Mahdi Brigades showed that they are committed, fearless, and able, despite being outgunned, to outfight even the world’s mightiest army on their home turf.
If anyone wanted a sign that it was time for the US to pack it up and go home, this was it.
Had the US not plucked al-Maliki from his embattled fortress in Basra, he would have ended up being paraded through the streets of Basra with a plaque on his chest saying “American puppet” (that’s if he were lucky). Instead, he has survived to serve his American masters another day.
John McCain has to be privately ruing the day he decided to hitch his star to the “surge” and to General David Petraeus, it’s author and defender.
As defining moments go, the battles in Basra and Sadr City should also serve as fair warning to those advocating a war against Iran that things might not go so well for American forces. The Mahdi forces, after all, have gotten their inspiration and some training from Iranian forces, and are showing themselves to be skilled urban fighters. US forces, even stretched as thinly as they are in Iraq, might be able to handle a conventional attack by Iranian forces on open desert terrain in Iraq, but they would be up against something entirely different were they to enter Iranian terroritory, and try to conquer Iranian cities.
Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton are both still playing it cautious, afraid to say what really needs to be said—that the US needs to get its troops out not over the course of a year or nine months, but yesterday.
They should pack up and go, blow up what military equipment they can’t bring with them, and leave the porta-potties and dining halls for the locals to enjoy.