Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Insight into the surge

This story from last Friday unfortunately offers some insight into how the "surge" is going in Baghdad. Suaada Saadoun, a Sunni Muslim living in a predominantly Shia neighborhood, decided to call in reinforcements when a couple of Shia thugs showed up at her house Tuesday claiming the had an eviction notice from the government. She called American and Kurdish soldiers with whom she had established a relationship after other threats, who were on a base about a mile away. They showed up in some force. They took the two men into custody (it turned out the eviction papers were for a different neighborhood). The neighbors cheered.

A sign the surge is working? It would seem so. But the next morning Suaada Saadoun was shot dead.

For the first month after U.S. and Iraqi soldiers moved into this Shia neighborhood, which had been dominated by Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi army, things were reasonably quiet as the Shia militia people moved out or laid low. But a few weeks ago the eight Sunni families in the neighborhood started to receive threats. A few moved out. A few more moved out after Suaada Saadoun's shooting. The Shia are driving Sunni families out of Baghdad house by house, regardless of the presence of U.S. troops. The U.N. estimates that at least 727,000 people have been displaced within Iraq since the bombing of the Shia Golden Mosque last February. Some two million Iraqis have fled the country. For the most part those who have been able to leave have been people of some means and accomplishment who could afford to get out -- the kind of middle-class people that form the backbone of a successful society.

The Bush administration, having invaded the country and continued on to occupation with no serious planning, bears a serious moral responsibility for the chaos the invasion has precipitated in Iraq. But the chances of fixing it are virtually nil. It's time for U.S. troops to leave Iraq to the Iraqis, as likely as fiercer conflict, at least for a while, may be.

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