John McCain said Monday that to win the White House he must convince a war-weary country that U.S. policy in Iraq is succeeding. If he can't, "then I lose. I lose," the Republican said.Now St. John and everyone else who thinks the "surge" has worked or is working needs to read this piece by Nir Rosen in Rolling Stone:
The Myth of the Surge
So what is life like after the surge?
It's a cold, gray day in December, and I'm walking down Sixtieth Street in the Dora district of Baghdad, one of the most violent and fearsome of the city's no-go zones. Devastated by five years of clashes between American forces, Shiite militias, Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda, much of Dora is now a ghost town. This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.But even more disturbing is what the "surge" is likely to spawn a few days, weeks and months down the line:
Now, in the midst of the surge, the Bush administration has done an about-face. Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government. The Americans call the units by a variety of euphemisms: Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISVs), neighborhood watch groups, Concerned Local Citizens, Critical Infrastructure Security. The militias prefer a simpler and more dramatic name: They call themselves Sahwa, or "the Awakening."The Americans have not taken sides in the civil war they are arming both sides. The impact is already being felt as Juan Cole reports:
At least 80,000 men across Iraq are now employed by the Americans as ISVs. Nearly all are Sunnis, with the exception of a few thousand Shiites. Operating as a contractor, Osama runs 300 of these new militiamen, former resistance fighters whom the U.S. now counts as allies because they are cashing our checks. The Americans pay Osama once a month; he in turn provides his men with uniforms and pays them ten dollars a day to man checkpoints in the Dora district — a paltry sum even by Iraqi standards. A former contractor for KBR, Osama is now running an armed network on behalf of the United States government. "We use our own guns," he tells me, expressing regret that his units have not been able to obtain the heavy-caliber machine guns brandished by other Sunni militias.
The American forces responsible for overseeing "volunteer" militias like Osama's have no illusions about their loyalty. "The only reason anything works or anybody deals with us is because we give them money," says a young Army intelligence officer. The 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which patrols Osama's territory, is handing out $32 million to Iraqis in the district, including $6 million to build the towering walls that, in the words of one U.S. officer, serve only to "make Iraqis more divided than they already are." In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. "Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems," as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it "balancing competing armed interest groups."
Alexandra Zavis of the LAT Times reports that the Iskandariya bombing was preceded by clashes between Sunnis and Shiites in the southwestern Dora district of Baghdad. On Saturday, Shiite crowds had taunted the Sunnis left in Dora that the highway through the neighborhood now belonged to them. Since many Sunnis have been ethnically cleansed from that area during the past year, the taunts stung.My only question is why would anyone want to be the President who has to clean up the complete cluster fuck created by George W. Bush?
Members of the Sunni Awakening Council (on the American payroll) went to the Iraqi army units in the neighborhood to complain about the Shiite pilgrims' taunting, and the army--mostly Shiite--attacked the Sunnis! A Sunni charged that on Saturday, "Army forces started shooting randomly at locals."
So then on Sunday morning more Shiite pilgrims come through on their way to Karbala, with Mahdi Army militiamen escorting them. First, Sunni guerrillas set off a roadside bomb. Then others threw grenades from a bridge on the pilgrims below. About 3 pilgrims were killed, and 43 were injured.
That is, the violence in Dora began as a conflict between the supposedly quiescent Mahdi Army and the US-backed Sunni Awakening Council! I suspect it is a microcosm of what will happen when the Sunnis come back to Baghdad from Damascus.