Monday, September 19, 2005

Iraq: Facts on the Ground

Militias Wresting Control Across Iraq's North and South
Residents Tell of Growing Climate of Fear
Anthony Shadid and Steve Fainaru Washington Post Foreign ServiceSaturday, August 20, 2005; 7:00 PM
BASRA, Iraq -- Shiite and Kurdish militias, often operating as part of Iraqi government security forces, have carried out a wave of abductions, assassinations and other acts of intimidation, consolidating their control over territory across northern and southern Iraq and deepening the country's divide along ethnic and sectarian lines, according to political leaders, families of the victims, human rights activists and Iraqi officials. ...

This story, which led The Washington Post on a summer Saturday and seems to have gotten lost after Hurricane Katrina swept through the gulf coast and the media a few days later, is one of the most important reports that has come out of Iraq in months. After reading it, one realizes that the Iraqi constitution, so important to what passes for U.S. political strategy in this war, is essentially just a piece of paper. Facts on the ground are what count in Iraq as the militias carve up the country in the interests of their co-religionaries and warlords. The U.S. thus finds itself in an unenviable and extremely dangerous contradiction: the one segment of Iraqi society that feels very strongly about keeping the country united is to be found among the Sunnis, yet the insurgency the U.S. is trying to defeat is also Sunni. And the foreign-led element of the Sunni offensive, the Jordanian Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi's murderous clique, is doing its best to push the country into all-out sectarian war. In essence, we are fighting to hold together nations that are not a state in a country that wants to come apart.

For more background see the Shadowland column "Make or Break" from last November.

Also worth a look, certainly, is Anthony Shadid's new book, "Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War."
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