As Shia Death Squads Roam, Lieberman And Bush Hear No Evil, See No Evil
Every time I try and look at Iraq as a glass half-full instead of half-empty, another story comes through that sours my mood. Yesterday, I pointed to a piece that Newsweek was running that indicated the military commanders on the ground and our ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad had come around to the potentially winning strategy of turning newly-freed urban areas over to the Iraqi security forces and police as we withdraw to safe camps, while beginning discussions with both the Iranians as well as those insurgents that are politically interested in participating in Iraq’s future.
Today, I read several stories that indicate it may be too late for this strategy to work, because right under our noses and possibly with our help, Shiite death squads have infiltrated the Iraqi security services in order to carry out retaliatory killings against Sunnis under the color of law. Both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have carried stories in the last two days that attest to this shameful development, something that has our fingerprints all over it. As usual, Knight-Ridder was all over this story more than six weeks ago, as Kevin Drum and others have noted.
The overall tone of these stories is that the Shiites are ready to turn the Iraqi security services into a large Shia militia bent on payback against the Sunnis through a civil war, after the December 15th elections cement Shia dominance into place everywhere except the Kurdish north. And with Khalilzad bravely wanting to talk with Iran now about how to dial down the tensions, one doesn’t have to wonder why it is the moderate Sunnis who are the most desperate for Americans to stay the course in the country. Add to this the Bush plan for drawing down combat troops to be replaced by our on-demand Air Force for the Shia to use against the Sunnis, and you can see the makings of a real regional disaster for a number of reasons as Juan Cole notes here.
Yet, without surprise I am sure, all of this escapes Joe Lieberman, who just returned from Iraq to report how great everything is going there, and how the media is missing the story. But there is nary a word from Lieberman about any death squads, or the emerging story that private security contractors are firing upon Iraqi civilians for dubious reasons, almost as sport. To Joe, everything is swell. Even Time magazine (as Atrios notes) thinks that Lieberman isn’t in the real world when it comes to Iraq.
But Joe’s Kool-aid routine comes as his dance partner W gets ready to release his strategy for Iraqi victory tomorrow, three years late. Bush responded to critics this morning by saying once again that quitting is not an option, and that our forces will stay in Iraq until the commanders on the ground say that the Iraqis can take over.
Take over in doing what? Turning Iraq into Payback Central, with US air support, while watching Iraq's Sunni neighbors send in troops to fight it out with the Shia in the Super Bowl of regional catastrophies?