The casual savagery of life in Iraq never fails to shock me.
For example, Reuters reports that Iraq's government plans to kill all of the country's bores. They claim it’s part of an effort to fend off an outbreak of H1N1, the so-called swine flu.
I'm not sure if the mass murder of wallflowers, dullards and people who talk about work at dinner parties is going to stop the spread of flu. Even if it does work, it's still barbaric.
OK, scratch that. I just reread my notes. They're killing boars.
But still, violence in Iraq is shocking.
Last week, terrorists detonated three car bombs within minutes of each other on a commercial strip in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. Forty-one people were killed and at least 60 were injured. The bombs went off around 5 p.m., the area's peak shopping time.
The bombing wasn’t an isolated incident. Violence against civilians in Iraq is once again surging.
McClatchy's Baghdad bureau reports that more than 200 civilians were killed in Baghdad in April — more than twice the number who were killed in March and more than four times as many as were killed in February.
When President Obama was asked about Iraq at his "100 days" prime-time press conference, he noted the rise in violence in Iraq, but said violence there remains lower than it was during 2008.
He was wrong.
According to McClatchy, Baghdad is more violent today than it has been in more than a year. A quick shout-out to McClatchy: Since 2003, their Baghdad reporters have been a consistent source of unvarnished truth about what's happening in Iraq. They never accepted Bush's lies and spin and, it appears, they're not going to accept Obama's, either.
Regardless of what McClatchy may report, the sad fact is the American public is largely unconcerned with Iraqi suffering.
When 200 Iraqi civilians are killed by bombers and gunmen, the president brushes it off as business as usual, a tolerable level of violence. Never mind that feckless U.S. foreign policy adventurism caused the violence. Next question, please.
When 200 Americans get a treatable swine flu, however, it’s an all-hands-on-deck-Level-5-are-our-children-safe-dear-god-is-it-safe-to-eat-pork-tacos national emergency!
Knock on wood, it doesn't yet appear Iraq is headed for new violence on the scale of the 2005-2007 civil war that left thousands dead each month. But violence in 2009 and 2010 is likely to be substantially higher than it was in 2008.
That's because the fragile truce between Iraq's Shiite Muslim-dominated government and U.S. troops on one side, and Iraq's Sunni Muslim "Awakening Councils" on the other, is steadily unraveling.
The decline in violence in late 2007 and 2008, credited by many to the so-called U.S. troop surge in Iraq, was largely the result of an uneasy truce with these Awakening Councils (also known in the press as "Sons of Iraq").
As you might not recall, Sunni Arabs dominated Iraqi society during Saddam Hussein's rule. When majority Shiite Arabs ascended to power after the U.S. invasion, disgruntled Sunnis became the backbone of Iraq's insurgency.
Beginning in late 2006, the U.S. began a program of buying-off these Sunnis. In exchange for cash and promises of greater power within Iraq's Shiite-led government, they stopped fighting.
Unfortunately, Iraq's Shiite government was never really keen on the idea of fully reconciling with Sunni groups. The Iraqi government hasn't kept its promise to integrate Sunnis into Iraq's security forces, either. The government also has begun arresting some of the Awakening's chief leaders. And to top it all off, the cash payments to the Awakening Council rank-and-file has started to dry up.
The whole point of the so-called troop surge was to impose enough order so that Iraq's warring factions could sit down and hash out their differences. The surge came and went. A semblance of peace and order did, in fact, materialize. But the reconciliation never happened.
Iraqi society is still divided into three unreconciled factions: Shiite Muslim Arabs, Sunni Muslim Arabs, and Kurds. After six years of U.S. occupation, the opposing factions still haven't decided how they're going to share power, land or Iraq's massive oil wealth.
Iraq is damned if we stay and damned if we leave.
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