Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Latest Surge News

For those who have been captivated by the Hillary, Obama, and Reverend Wright debacle unfolding before our very eyes you may have missed the latest surge news. It appears that the ill-advised strategy of Prime Minister al Maliki to disarm the militias in Southern Iraq is having unintended consequences in Baghdad. What many considered a heavy handed attempt by the Iraqi Prime Minister to weaken his political opponents has awakened the sleeping dogs of Sadr City where al-Sadr’s militia has held sway. What the offensive has demonstrated is how fragile any gains from the surge have been and how at any moment they can be reversed, it has also demonstrated how unprepared the Iraqi army and security forces are at being able to secure their nation.

BAGHDAD, April 29 -- A four-hour battle Tuesday between U.S. soldiers and Shiite militiamen left at least 28 Iraqis dead in the capital's Sadr City neighborhood, making it one of the bloodiest days in a month of sustained street fighting.

The clashes underscored how deeply U.S. forces have been drawn into heavy combat in the huge Shiite district since Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki unexpectedly launched an offensive in southern Iraq last month against Shiite militias, primarily the Mahdi Army of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.[1]

April will now be the deadliest month for US casualties since September of 07 and is harbinger of many more deaths to come. The fighting in Sadr City has led to 50 US deaths for the month of April, as the US has been drawn into a larger role in taking on the militias. The US military has become the big brother who has been drawn into a fight by a younger sibling (al-Maliki) knowing that his actions will be defended no matter how foolish. The original strategy was for the offensive to highlight the improvement of the Iraqi military and its ability to fight independently of US forces, needless to say that has not been the case. Once again the Iraqi forces are on the outside as the American forces carry the fight to the militias.

As we here in America revisit the infamous “Mission Accomplished” moment of George Bush aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Abraham Lincoln, the current increase in violence has underscored how foolish that declaration was then and how foolish any “surge is working” declaration is today. While much has changed since that “Top-Gun” incident, much has stayed the same. What has changed? There have been more deaths of innocent Iraqis and US service personnel, there have been more people injured, and there have been worsening economic consequences for America. What has stayed the same? We are no closer to liberating Iraq than we were then, the Iraqis are no closer to taking responsibility for their nation, and of course we are no closer to defeating the so-called reason for the war al-Qaeda.

I find it very interesting that as the level of violence increases and the US forces are poised to begin house to house missions in Sadr City that the military leaders who were suppose to bring victory are being promoted even though we are no closer to victory. I find it hard to believe that now is the time to make a change in military leadership in Iraq when there have been no concrete gains and the level of violence is increasing. I wonder what General Petraeus has done worthy of a promotion on the ground? Maybe it isn’t what he has done on the ground in Iraq, but on the ground in Washington. Since May 1st 2003, the Iraqi War has changed from a fighting war to a political war. The war is driven not so much by the results in Iraq, but how they play in the US. The thing about a fight against an insurgency or an occupation is that the enemy does not have to score a convincing military victory, all they have to do is give the impression that they are invincible to the folks at home.

If the offensive against the militias, especially the ones in Sadr City continues to be pushed by US forces the number of casualties will continue to increase. What is taking place in Baghdad today is precisely what the independent military leaders have feared; urban warfare against an entrenched enemy that enjoys popular support. Even if we are able to dislodge the militias, the cost could be the loss of the populace from heavy casualties or heavy-handed tactics. The other problem that the US troops will face is that the militias had been filling in for the government by providing badly needed services and if they are removed and there is no replacement of services by the Iraqi government then we will have to worry about more than the militias.


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