Progress is progressing in Iraq and the "competent, capable Iraqi government [are] using their capable Iraqi security force to calm the storm that was inflamed by a horrendous, horrific terrorist attack yesterday," this according to U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch last Thursday. Lynch, doing his best Naji Sabr impression, went on to say, "We're not seeing civil war igniting in Iraq...We're not seeing death in the streets." The day he said this, safely behind the blast walls of the Green Zone, 129 Iraqis were killed.
The spin coming from the government and the corporate media then was that religious leaders were calming the situation and urging their followers to show restraint. Of course, now it turns out that while Muktada al-Sadr was preaching peace he was sending his Medhi army out to seize or burn down Sunni mosques and generally create bloody mayhem. The Badr brigade did their part along with the Iraqi Interior Ministry forces, which are pretty much indistinguishable nowadays, the evidence of this appearing in the form of dozens of bodies with their hands tied behind their backs and bullets in the back of their heads popping up everywhere. In fact, the religious leaders are doing such a great job keeping the peace that the government has very hastily imposed another car less curfew in Baghdad to prevent even more violence after today's Friday payers.
Even before the mosque bombing last week, insurgent attacks and Shiite counter-attacks around the country were topping over 500 every week. Things are decidedly worse now. The nature of the fighting is switching from the mundane car bombings and fire fights with U.S. forces of the past into organized, large scale ethnic cleansings. Last Saturday a group of gunmen stormed a Shiite house in northeast Baghdad and killed 11 men of the family. On the same day, 14 members of an Interior Ministry Shiite commando unit was killed in southwest Baghdad. Tom Lasseter of the Inquirer writes that, "An Interior Ministry official, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of his life, said that American troops had to collect the bodies: 'We couldn't enter the area today, it's too dangerous."
In another incident last night, a few dozen heavily armed militants set fire to a power plant in Narawhan, just outside of Baghdad, and then moved on to destroy a brick factory where they also killed several Shiite workers. Within the last hour I've heard reports that Iraqi security forces were asking for U.S. military help to go into the area because they felt the situation was too dangerous for them to go in alone.
Despite all the happy talk about Iraqi army brigades almost being capable of operating without U.S. help, the fact is we're stuck with not only dodging IEDs and fighting insurgents, but now our troops are having to protect Iraqi police and soldiers from sectarian attacks. We're being sucked into an Iraqi dirty war here. We stood very little chance of ever winning an indigenous insurgency in the first place and now we're asking our military to try and separate two religious factions bent on wiping each other out. Staying the course is no longer an option; it's just a matter of how many more troops we have to lose before this dawns on Rummy & Co. Or until someone has the courage to stand up and tell W., who has no patience for people who tell him the truth.