I remember wondering during the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, what are we going to accomplish there? I knew something about Sunni Muslim strongman Saddam Hussein’s brutality from reading a bit of the news and listening to talk radio. Combat operations in Afghanistan had wound down and the Taliban had been pretty well routed – or so we thought. George Bush had stopped worrying about Usama bin Laden.
Then came the Iraq Invasion and the quick toppling of Hussein with very few American casualties. There soon followed a completely unanticipated horrific resurgence of sectarian Sunni v. Shiite violence that claimed most of the more than four-thousand American lives lost after the apparent easy victory. My nephew came home with a Purple Heart from his first of three U.S. Army tours of duty there, courtesy of an improvised explosive device (IED) blast that destroyed his “SAW” gun and blew shrapnel through his mouth.
A subsequent “surge” of thousands of brave, brilliantly trained American troops into Iraq temporarily suppressed the sectarian fighting, but the Iraqis just could not get their political act together.
The Iraq surge did not work, folks, not because our armed forces failed in their part of the mission, but because the Iraqis did not, could not, do politically what they were supposed to do. The rift between Sunni and Shiite goes back in Islamic history for about twelve centuries. The rift is eternal and it is irreparable. Historian and author Hugh Fitzgerald of www.Jihadwatch.org wrote a marvelous essay on this surge failure, and author Diana West just completed a three part series here.
Tonight I found even more evidence that what we have sacrificed blood and treasure to build in Iraq is not what we were led to believe would result from those sacrifices – a functioning free democracy and an ally in the War on Terror:
From today’s Los Angeles Times’ reporter Liz Sly comes this:
“Reporting from Baghdad – In a development that bodes ill for the prospects of national reconciliation in Iraq, a prominent Sunni party has been barred from participating in March elections because of its leader’s alleged ties to the outlawed Baath Party that ruled the country under Saddam Hussein, officials said Thursday.
The decision could have significant ramifications for a general election that U.S. officials hope will stabilize Iraq enough for American troops to withdraw in large numbers and leave behind a peaceful country.
The Justice and Accountability Committee charged with checking that candidates don’t have ties to Baathists has named Saleh Mutlak, a prominent lawmaker, among those disqualified from the elections, according to the panel’s executive director, Ali Lami.
That means that Mutlak’s Iraqi Dialogue Front also will be barred, said Lami, who was detained by the U.S. military for a year on suspicion of ties to Iranian-backed militias.
Mutlak had been cleared for participation in the last election in December 2005, but Lami said that new information had come to light that showed Mutlak “is a Baathist and nominated himself as a Baathist.” He declined to provide further details.
Mutlak, who is regarded as a leading spokesman for disgruntled Sunnis and secularists who wish to participate in the political process, dismissed the allegation as “absolute rubbish.”
“How could I nominate myself as a Baathist when I know that it is illegal? I am wiser than that,” he said.
Mutlak acknowledged that he had sympathies for those who served under the former regime and feel they have been discriminated against since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.
“Sympathy is different,” he said. “I sympathize with all the oppressed people in Iraq and the Baathists have been oppressed in a big way.”
Sunni politicians allied with Mutlak planned to meet today to discuss their response. Some of them did not rule out boycotting the election, which could plunge the country back into civil conflict, echoing the boycott by the Sunni minority during the first democratic election in January 2005…”
The Sunni-Shiite fissure existed in the World of Islam a thousand years ago, it was a reality when we invaded Iraq in 2003, it continues today, and it will exist long after our troops have pulled out and come home. It is forever. Moreover, as Fitzgerald has pointed out in many of his writings, we should exploit that schism and encourage it in every way imaginable to our best advantage.
Unfortunately neither the Bush administration then, nor the Obama administration now, has shown any indication that someone in the halls of power grasps what Islam is really about.