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Endgame: The Lights Are Going Out All Over Baghdad

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by Chris Floyd


While the American election campaign thrashes toward the finish line with the usual spasms of witless diversion and hyper-mendacity – an echo chamber of utter bullshit roaring in a media bubble murderously detached from reality – in the actual world of flesh and blood, the destruction of Iraq engineered by George W. Bush is entering a new phase that could make the previous three years of all-devouring hell look like a sojourn in paradise.

Baghdad is under siege, as Patrick Cockburn reports in the Independent; the city has been encircled by Sunni militias who have cut almost all the roads leading into the capital. Inside the city, "the scale of killing is already as bad as Bosnia at the height of the Balkans conflict," says Cockburn. And it will inevitably, inexorably grow worse, as Shiite militias consolidate their hold within Baghdad while trying to break the blockade from outside. Already, "food shortages are becoming severe" in some parts of the city, he reports, while almost a thousand Iraqis are being slaughtered each week, mostly in Baghdad. Meanwhile, at least 1.5 million internal refugees have fled the ethnic cleansing by both Sunni and Shiite militias, joining the hundreds of thousands who have fled the country altogether. Again, these numbers dwarf those in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars – while the total dead from Bush's war, a very credible estimate of at least 650,000, is approaching the level of the Rwandan genocide.

And as Cockburn notes, the American presence in the city provides the people no security, no stability – only confusion. First, the U.S. pours in fresh troops for a month-long campaign to "reclaim" the city for the Iraqi government – but this only intensifies the killing and sectarian control of Baghdad, and is called off, an openly acknowledged failure. Then the Americans launch a fierce hunt for a kidnapped U.S. soldier in the very heart of the Shiite section, only to abruptly abandon this too after a carefully orchestrated display of pique by Nouri al-Maliki, the powerless prime minister of the supposedly "sovereign" state. The captured American was left behind, at the order of the Pentagon and the White House, while the radical extremists led by cleric Motqada Sadr – the "essential prop" of al-Maliki's Bush-backed government, as Cockburn notes – took to the streets to celebrate this victory over the Americans.

None of this has penetrated the American media bubble: the genocidal killing, the abandonment of a U.S. captive, the sealing off of Baghdad, the imminent loss of even the semblance of "Coalition" control in the country. Although some Democrats have started to make hay with a general critique of the war – criticisms often couched in terms of Bush "not doing it right," as if there was a right way to carry out an unprovoked war of aggression – the full reality of what's happening in Iraq now is universally unacknowledged by the American establishment. Some look to the "Baker Commission" – the usual gaggle of the "great and good," led here by Bush Family fixer James Baker with a remit to produce "new ideas" on the war – for ways to remedy the deteriorating situation.  But the Baker panel's conclusion – which it has thoughtfully withheld until after the election, thereby letting hundreds of Iraqis and dozens of American soldiers die for the sake of the Bush Faction's political fortunes – will have already been outstripped by reality before they are even uttered. They will amount to no more than a new shade of lipstick for Bush's pig of a war – a bloodsoaked sow eating her own farrow.

The endgame has begun. And whether the Americans withdraw to a few "superbases" in the desert, or "redeploy" over the border in Kuwait, or have to fight their way out of the Green Zone in a mad dash for the last transports leaving the airport, nothing will stop the bloodbath that Bush and his henchmen have set in motion. They have destroyed the Iraqi state and Iraqi society – along with vast swathes of the Iraqi population – and the consequences of this moral insanity, this willful, deliberate evil, will be terrible to behold.

But of course, none of this is as important as John Kerry's bad joke, is it?

Excerpts from The Independent:

As American and British political leaders argue over responsibility for the crisis in Iraq, the country has taken another lurch towards disintegration. Well-armed Sunni tribes now largely surround Baghdad and are fighting Shia militias to complete the encirclement.

The Sunni insurgents seem to be following a plan to control all the approaches to Baghdad. They have long held the highway leading west to the Jordanian border and east into Diyala province. Now they seem to be systematically taking over routes leading north and south. Dusty truck-stop and market towns such as Mahmoudiyah, Balad and Baquba all lie on important roads out of Baghdad. In each case Sunni fighters are driving out the Shia and tightening their grip on the capital. Shias may be in a strong position within Baghdad but they risk their lives when they take to the roads. Some 30 Shias were dragged off a bus yesterday after being stopped at a fake checkpoint south of Balad…

In reality the militias are growing stronger by the day because the Shia and Sunni communities feel threatened and do not trust the army and police to defend them. US forces have been moving against the Mehdi Army, which follows the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, but he is an essential prop to Mr Maliki's government. Almost all the main players in Iraqi politics maintain their own militias. The impotence of US forces to prevent civil war is underlined by the fact that the intense fighting between Sunni and Shia around Balad, north of Baghdad, has raged for a month, although the town is beside one of Iraq's largest American bases. The US forces have done little and when they do act they are seen by the Shia as pursuing a feud against the Mehdi Army…

Another ominous development is that Iraqi tribes that often used to have both Sunni and Shia members are now splitting along sectarian lines.

In Baghdad it has become lethally dangerous for a Sunni to wander into a Shia neighbourhood and vice versa. In one middle-class district called al-Khudat, in west Baghdad, once favoured by lawyers and judges, the remaining Shia families recently found a cross in red paint on their doors. Sometimes there is also a note saying "leave without furniture and without renting your house". Few disobey.


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