Iraq Slips Away
By Larry Johnson
Talking Points Memo Cafe

Friday 21 October 2005

Tired of the drum beat of bad news surrounding TreasonGate and the outing of CIA officer Valerie Wilson. How about some good news from Iraq? Sorry, nothing to report. Before you remind me about the apparent success of the recent election, keep reading.

The delusional happiness reflected in Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's remarks this week to Congress about the so-called progress in Iraq ignores hard facts that point to a debacle. The international media appears to be finally catching on that the Washington spin about the purple thumb as a sign of democratic progress is pure nonsense. It is true that more people in Iraq voted in this election than last January. What Rice and other folks out of touch with reality ignore is that the increased number of Sunnis who voted came out to defeat the constitution. Unfortunately, the fix was in. Vote fraud was rampant. US TV crews caught one Shia on tape casting seven yes votes. That's sort of an old style American politics a la Chicago's Daley machine - you know, vote early, vote often. And, results are now, once again, being withheld to "investigate" the irregularities.

Here is a bold prediction: The Constitution will pass and Shia politicians will have a lock on the new Government of Iraq. Consequently, the civil war currently underway will escalate. As the Iraqi Army grows, comprised mostly of Shia and Kurds, attacks against Sunnis will also increase. And that will put the United States in an impossible situation. If we allow the Shia Army and militias to attack Sunni targets we will continue to be the target of Sunni insurgents. If we intervene to try to aid the Sunnis, the Shia's will turn on us. If you doubt that I would ask you to recall what happened in the Shia enclave, Sadr City, in April of 2004. That battle killed Casey Sheehan and left my cousin's son with a shattered leg.

Oh, speaking of the war. The road from downtown Baghdad to the International Airport still has not been secured and remains the most dangerous road in the world. Meanwhile, as of 21 October, Americans are dying in Iraq at a rate of almost three per day. This is the highest loss of life since January 2005. So much for Rosy Scenario and the dawn of peace and understanding.

Finally, there is the ham handed attempt to pass off as legitimate a letter allegedly written by Bin Laden's number two guy, Ayman Zwahiri, to the Jordanian terrorist, Abu Musab Zarqawi. This appears to be a rather crude "Information Operation" designed to sow confusion in the ranks of the jihadists battling US forces in Iraq. While well intentioned (i.e., trying to create confusion among the insurgents) the execution of this op was pitiful. Having the newly christened National Director of Intelligence release this travesty ends up calling into question the professionalism and competence of the organization that was supposed to fix the mess in the intelligence community. Rather repairing damage, Negroponte and his crew seem to be causing more mayhem.

Taken as a whole, a lousy week in Iraq as that country slips to a new level of hell and the competence of US authorities to mange this debacle is called increasingly into question.