Sunnis Laying Low in Iraq and Waiting for the Pullout

A changing of the guard, in the form of General
Petraeus handing over the keys to General Odiermo, presages by a couple months
the changing of the guard in American politics. No one can really know, in
either case, what the outcome will be and/or whether it will be good for the

Take your pick, the political weather is cloudy and tending toward
storms in both Iraq and America.

BAGHDAD: General Raymond Odierno took command of U.S.-led forces in Iraq on
Tuesday, faced with the challenge of ensuring that security gains do not
unravel at a time when American troop levels are being reduced.

replaced General David Petraeus at a ceremony presided over by Secretary of
Defense Robert Gates, who said the two generals had formed an “incredible
team” during the deployment of 30,000 extra U.S. troops to Iraq last year
in the so-called “surge.”

served as the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq for 15 months until

knows that we are at a pivotal moment, where progress remains fragile and
caution should be the order of the day,” Gates said of Odierno. The
ceremony took place in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, now part of a
sprawling U.S. military base.

Handovers are a time of reflection and I aim to
reflect on a war I’ve never supported and criticized for nearly a year prior to
the Bush plunge from the high-board.

My gut tells me we have been on the wrong side of
strategic decisions from the get-go, because our president and vice-president
saw this as an awarding of democracy,
rather than a Yugoslav style imbroglio. Strong-men (as heads of state) leave
bitter rivalries and we need not look to dictatorships for example. Our own
near-shattered civic condition is the result of a near-dictatorship on the
national political scene.

Near enough. Nearer than we need ever be again, if
we are to prevent the unraveling of our national fiber. Much lip-service is
given to coming together, to being the nation’s uniter rather than divider. But
the fact is that ‘deciders’ are not all that likely to unite.

So, we came with a flawed strategy to Iraq and that
complicates our decisions over what is best for that nation, as well as our
own. I reflect, I opine. I am an opiner. Everyone seems to be these days . . .
no license required.

and Petraeus came together last year to implement a new counter-insurgency
strategy that helped drive violence down, allowing Iraq to begin seeking
foreign investment to rebuild after decades of war and UN sanctions.

leaves behind a very different Iraq from the one he faced when he took over in
February 2007, when Iraq was on the brink of civil war.

Or not. We tend to see things as we would see them
instead of as they are, especially from the outside of cultures, the inside of
which we know very little. My personal
view, standing bravely in opposition to my president and his four-star general,
is that violence has gone down in Iraq because it suits the purposes of the
Sunni population to get us the hell out so they can climb back in the saddle.

The Sunni minority ran Iraq until we overthrew
Saddam Hussein and ushered in the majority Shiites. Remember our American Civil
War? You can free the slaves, but you damned well better not walk off the stage
after having done so. Exactly what we did in Lincoln’s time and it spawned a
hundred years of lynchings, carpetbaggers, Jim Crow and segregation.

We somehow feel Iraqis are different in their ethnic
ambitions because we don’t speak their language, move them like pawns on a
chessboard and fail to understand their culture (which outdates ours by 4,000
years). Winston Churchill famously (and accurately) said, “America always makes the right decision…. after they have exhausted all
other possibilities.

The coming confrontation between Sunni and Shiite is
inevitable, but it will be bloodier and more destructive of the national fabric
because of decisions we made in desperation.

We were desperate to show progress—any kind of progress to slow the troop
deaths and injuries. Those were described as ‘insurgent attacks,’ because it was politically untenable to call
them what they were. What they were was the Sunni army (which we had sent home and
pauperized) showing their anger at being sent home and pauperized. Additional
anger accrued to street hatreds against the new guys in power—those Islamists
who followed a different rightly-guided
caliph fourteen centuries ago.

How do you understand that, when you sent everyone
home over at the State Department who knew what the hell was at risk?

That’s a hatred of some proportion, an aging cheese
of a hatred or, as Saddam himself might have said (before the trap was sprung
at his hanging) the mother of all hatreds.
Those who harbor that hatred have very little interest in George Bush or his
war, but every interest in his weaponry. And therein, the plot thickens.

In order to satisfy our desperation for progress, we
didn’t actually make progress, but redefined the enemy instead. A paper-victory
worthy of a paper-tiger. We took the guys from the streets that were bombing
us, renamed them Awakening Councils,
armed them to the teeth and suddenly they were no longer counted as insurgents,
but became partners against al Qaeda.
No wonder deaths went down, we partnered
with the insurgency
. That’s an easy thing to do when you don’t actually
have a definition of al Qaeda forces and can move them around at will on the
chessboard that the Middle East has become.

Now, of course, we’re using that lessening of
violence to draw down our troops. We got into this war on false pretenses and
are planning to get out by sleight of hand as well. Petraeus is leaving for a
promotion. Odiermo is going to oversee our orderly withdrawal, everyone
stateside will breathe a sigh of relief, the troops are going to Afghanistan
and the fragile Iraqi coalition government is going to get its ass handed to

Shiite-led government will also soon take control of Sunni Arab tribal units
that joined forces with the U.S. military to fight Al Qaeda. Some analysts fear
the tribal units, which include many former Sunni Arab insurgents, could turn
their guns on the government if their demands are not met.

Which will be ever afterward known in Baghdad as National Getting Our Ass Handed to Us Day.

But America will be out, China will have the first shot at the oil, nearly
5,000 kids will have been killed under false pretenses, Cheney will be either
on the rubber-chicken circuit or under indictment, Bush no longer able to
chain-saw the Constitution and what’s left of the fabric of America searching for what went
so terribly wrong.

But not very hard. There’s a failing economy to deal with.
Iraq will quickly become last week’s story—except for Iraqis. They will likely
remember for the next fourteen centuries. Islam has a long memory.

My guess is blanket presidential pardons will be
served like after-dinner mints on the way out the door.

Can a president do that? Probably. This is a
president who gets away with stuff.


Media comment:

1 thought on “Sunnis Laying Low in Iraq and Waiting for the Pullout

  1. John McCain has made it clear that if he is elected he will attack Iran for Israel. See the future consequences of this in the fascinating new historical novel “Clash of the Gods” which is now on and Sarah Palin, of course, is an Evangelical who thinks we have to destroy all the ‘infidels’ in the Middle East to make way for the Second Coming.

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