Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Slow-burn civil war

Make no mistake: the news out of Iraq is awful, with 86 execution style killings of Sunnis:
The day's high toll -- of execution-style killings involving large numbers of victims, rather than the bombing deaths that have characterized insurgent attacks and dominated violence in Iraq for more than two years -- appeared linked to escalating cycles of sectarian slaughter since the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in the city of Samarra. The toll since the bombing is nearing 1,000, according to government figures; four Iraqi and international officials tracking the toll say it topped that figure in the first week after the Samarra bombing.
But this is not chaos, this is not full-blown civil war. This sounds like the killing fields of Central America, not like a country about to split into unequal, squabbling thirds. Most importantly, no one is in charge in Iraq:
Although young Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for peace and lack of reprisals, clearly a lot of furious Shiites are paying no attention to him. When people are really angry, the clerics lose a lot of their influence. If people in Lebanon had listened to their clerics, there never would have been a civil war there. At some point, political resentments go so far that the sermons themselves become helpless.
No one being in charge is good, relatively speaking. No overt intervention from Iran, despite Bush's recent lies to this effect. No large numbers of deaths. No unforgivable massacres (whole cities). Vietnam recovered from worse than this. So did Nicaragua.

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