What a week it has been.
Last Wednesday, we saw the carnage begin with the brutal slaying of four security contractors. The violence has since spread, in nearly exponential fashion, across much of Iraq.
But the spread isn’t just geographic in nature; it’s demographic, since elements of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) decided to move forcefully against fifth-rate thug and wannabe Shi’a political leader Moqtada al-Sadr, first by shutting down his newspaper (which, though incendiary, had nevertheless been conscious of not offending the CPA), then by arresting one of his deputies, and finally by announcing the existence of an arrest warrant for him (he’s been charged with being an accessory to the murder of Ayatollah al-Khoei back in May of last year).
Today, we’ve seen the deaths of at least 12 U.S. Marines (it’s possible, even probable that there are more dead, though the SkyNews report of 130 dead is a bit wild for my taste–we’ll see), and the spread of the Sadrist insurgency to seven other cities, including An Najaf, one of the holiest cities in Shi’a Islam. al-Sadr is holed up in the Imam Ali Mosque, which, to my understanding, is the Muslim equivalent of, say, Notre Dame in Paris. So getting him out of there is going to be, shall we say, dicey.
This is as good a time as any to ask my friends on the right where the flowers we were supposed to be greeted with are.
Are they here?
Are they here?
Or maybe the flowers are here?
That picture should really concern us–that’s one of the Iraqi cops we, as in the U.S. Army, trained. And he’s gone over to the other side.
But let’s keep looking for the flowers, shall we?
How about here?
Look, I can pull hundreds of pictures like this, all to illustrate this basic point:
Far from rising to freedom, Iraq is sliding into anarchy. And it seems we can’t do much about it.
All isn’t lost. At this late stage, I think that Iraq can become a bulwark of freedom and liberty in the Middle East. I really do; I still think that the transformation of this country is the first great liberal foreign policy project of the 21st century, and far from abjuring it, liberals should–must–embrace it.
My year-long sojourn in Iraq (courtesy of Uncle Sam) convinced me that if we are going to annihilate the terrorist dragon, we need to strike at what’s really afflicting the Muslim world: the lack of hope for a better life now, and the lack of freedom in all of those lands.
But we’re running out of time. We’re already being regarded as an irrelevant element in Iraqi society (it doesn’t help that the CPA is counting down the days until its dissolution), so the fate of Iraq is increasingly in the hands of Iraqis, and not ours, as days go by.
But we can still affect the course of events, through our presence on the ground, for better or worse.
The problem is that we aren’t, for the most part, and when we are, a lot of times it’s in the most ham-fisted way possible.
One thing is clear to me, though: the current team, having yet to admit or acknowledge its utter and total failure in planning for the occupation, cannot possibly fix things in Iraq–or elsewhere.
It’s time for a change. We can do better.
UPDATE: Ron, among others, wants me to comment on Phil Carter’s take on the Blackwater operators. I will, as soon as I can become more familiar with the details. I don’t want to talk out of mein tochis, so to speak. You guys, as well as Lady Veritas, deserve better.