March 04, 2004

"This is War"

"Adil Abdul Mehdi, a senior leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, one of the largest Shiite political parties, called for the deployment of its militia, the Badr Organization. Ahmad Chalabi, a leader of Iraqi National Congress, called on the United States to speed up the integration into Iraqi security forces of the "thousands" of armed Iraqis at his group's disposal.

Echoing the anger expressed by many Iraqis, Mr. Mehdi said he had lost confidence in the ability of American forces to protect the Shiites. His own forces, he said, could step into what he described as the security vacuum that the assaults had exposed.

"The Americans cannot protect us," said Mr. Mehdi, whose militiamen are thought to number in the thousands. "We cannot live our lives like this. The policy has to change. This is a war." [my emphasis]

It's frustrating, of course, to have the U.S. held responsible for the mass carnage at Shi'a shrines a couple days back. But one thing for sure, I can emphatize with Adil Abdul Mehdi's statement that "this is war."

I'm not, at all, suggesting we are necessarily on the brink of a civil war in Iraq. But I am saying that, just like I felt the "this is war" emotion in downtown Manhattan on 9/11--and particularly keeping this Josh Marshall post in mind--you understand the deep anger and frustration of the Shi'a leader quoted in the NYT piece.

Which will make our job in Iraq all the harder in the coming days. That said, I'm heartened to hear U.S. commander John P. Abizaid (on various newscasts) state that, despite a scaled down U.S. troop presence in major population centers of Iraq, the U.S. is aware that overly hastily conscripted/"trained" Iraqi forces won't be up to the job.

Too great a focus on force protection with barely trained Iraqi forces running about would be a disaster. Here's hoping that's not what we've got in store.

Posted by Gregory at March 4, 2004 02:00 PM
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