Friday, October 20, 2006

Iraq Crisis May Not Wait For The Election

It is growing all too obvious that the crisis in Iraq, with the Maliki "government" faltering, violence against American troops increasing, and Baghdad's violence beyond control, that a new strategy for the war cannot easily be put off until the Mid Term election.

Today, both the L.A. Times and the New York Times headline stories about statements made yesterday by U.S. Major Gen. William Caldwell IV, an official spokesman for the military command, that the situation in Baghdad is "disheartening" and that efforts to control the city perhaps must be "refocused."

In a second front page story, the L.A. Times reports that even many Republican Congressional candidates are turning against the Bush Administration on the war and asking for changes in U.S. policy, with some contending the Administration's defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, should be forced out.

When New York Times columnist Tom Friedman said this past week that the situation was comparable to the Tet offensive in the Vietnam war, with attacks against U.S. forces escalating before the election, even President Bush himself said that Friedman "could be right."

The election is now a little more than two weeks off, and it's become obvious that after the election, a new strategy may have to be implemented. The report of the Baker Commission, an official U.S. exploratory commission under the direction of former Secretary of State and White House Chief of Staff James Baker, will release its report on Iraq only after the election.

But can all this wait? This morning, the Sadr militias, a Shiite free lancer for sectarian violence believed close to Iran, are reported to have seized the southern Iraqi city of Amarah, recently vacated by the British and turned over to the Iraqis. Some U.S. military now regard these militias as a more important foe than the Sunni insurgents. Yet the Maliki government got one of the key Sadr militia aides released this week after he had been arrested by U.S. troops. As thousands die in internecine strife, Maliki does little or nothing to even try to stop the killing.

One question now is, and it is a burning one, whether after more than three years of war, the U.S. grip even over friendly Iraqis has been lost. There appears to be nothing even remotely resembling a friendly, efficient government under Prime Minister Nuri Maliki. Should he be deposed, and should we start over in an attempt to pacify Iraq? If even this attempt is made, it could be nothing could prevent the country unraveling into Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite enclaves.

As U.S. casualties have mounted this grim month, the Bush Administration seems dead in the water. Faced possibly with the loss of control of Congress in the Mid Term elections, it seems as if Mr. Bush has run out of ideas. Either he has, or he is struggling to get to the elections without admitting failure.

This is a very bad moment in the Iraqi intervention of the United States, no doubt about it.

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