Politics & Policy

Iraq Seen Plain

The more things change, the more they stay the same in D.C.

Back in February, Reuters was publishing a daily roundup of “security developments” in Iraq. On a random day, February 8 — it looked like this:

RAFIYAAT — Gunmen shot dead 14 men from the same Sunni Arab family in a massacre near the town of Balad, north of Baghdad, after storming two neighbouring homes and separating the men from the women and children, police said. A 15th man, shot six times, was in critical condition in hospital.

ISKANDARIYA — Mortar bombs killed seven people and wounded 10 in the town of Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

BAGHDAD — Four U.S. Marines were killed in combat on Wednesday in two separate attacks in western Anbar province, the U.S. military said on Thursday.

FALLUJA — U.S. forces said they killed 13 insurgents in an air strike on two suspected foreign fighter safe houses near the town of Ameriya, near the western city of Falluja. Ahmed al-Ami, a doctor in Falluja hospital, said more than 30 bodies, including those of seven children, were brought in.

‐ AZIZIYA — A car bomb in a vegetable market killed 17 people and wounded 27 in the town of Aziziya, about 100 km (60 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

‐ MOSUL — Police found 16 bodies in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, during the past 24 hours. Among the dead were five policemen, police said.

‐ BAGHDAD — Police found 20 bodies in Baghdad, all apparent victims of sectarian killings.

‐ HADITHA — A suicide bomber attacked an Iraqi police checkpoint north of Haditha in Anbar province, killing seven policemen and wounding three, police said.

‐ BAGHDAD — Gunmen attacked a joint Iraqi army-police checkpoint in central Baghdad, killing an army officer and a soldier and wounding three policemen and one soldier.

There’s more, but you get the idea. I stopped the mayhem at Garma because I came across a recent story from that town, from the Marine Corps News. I haven’t seen it on al-Reuters, and don’t expect to, but it seems to me an important story nonetheless. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Ron Paul and the editorial board over at the New York Times should look at it too:

Dec. 12, 2007

GARMA, Iraq (Dec. 12, 2007) — Residents here celebrated a success for their livelihoods, with the grand reopening of a marketplace central to the city’s economy, Dec. 1.

Marines with 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 6, and other Coalition Forces joined Garma citizens and local dignitaries in the celebration of the market reopening, marking progress toward economic growth for the community.

“It’s a sign of progress and hope for a new tomorrow,” said Capt. Quintin D. Jones, commanding officer with Company L. “The mayor and I wanted to make an immediate impact in the area by making goods readily available, helping improve commerce. Now, the market can work as a crossroad for Garma to tie back into other cities.”

One will get you five that there are many Garmas with similar stories. They are not hard to find, nor is it particularly dangerous for Western reporters to go there and have a look for themselves. There aren’t many terrorist attacks in Anbar Province any more, because al-Qaeda has been defeated there, and the Marines are devoting a lot of their time — indeed most of their time, if some Marines I hear from are to be believed — to projects like the Garma market, developing wells, repairing broken electrical grids, and working on scores of microinvestment projects.

It isn’t just Garma, or just Anbar Province, it’s going on all over the country. Meanwhile, the critics of the war — I heard Biden carrying on about this just a couple of hours ago — intone that, yes, we may be making military progress, but there is still no political reconciliation. But they are wrong, too. Take, for example, this recent story from Taji, a locale best known for the several weapons programs conducted there during Saddam’s time:

Sunni and Shia tribal sheiks, local government leaders, senior Iraqi Army officials and local Iraqi police officials from throughout the Taji area recently met at the Prayer Town Hall to continue reconciliation efforts and celebrate the “awakening” — a term used to describe a turning away from sectarianism and violence.

More than 200 attendees from the villages of Hor Al Bosh, Sheik Ahmer, Shat Al Taji, Falahat and other areas dined as they discussed issues affecting their villages and ways in which they can improve the quality of life for the people living there.

“They decided to have a Sawa (lunch) to bring both Sunni and Shia tribal leaders together for solidarity,” said Anchorage, Alaska native Capt. Martin Wohlgemuth, commander for Troop D, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, which is attached to the 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment. “This is a continued extension of the Sunni and Shia partnership which has truly spread to every corner of North Taji.”

“As the security situation continues to improve, Sunnis are able to travel to mainly Shia areas and the Shia can go to Sunni areas. In many cases, these are places they have never been before or never dared to go before,” added Wohlgemuth, whose troops patrol in Assiriyah. “They are only able to do this because of reconciliation and forgiveness. This is a continued sign of progress.”

Indeed it is.

Stories like these are enormously important for several different audiences. They are important for us, because we will shortly cast votes in an election that will probably define the course of the war in the next few years. They are important for our elected representatives, who insist on distorting the events in Iraq and elsewhere, and are pretending to “solve” problems that often do not exist. They are important for the peoples of the Middle East, who are lied to daily by their leaders, by their media, and by some of our media as well. They need to understand the defeat of al-Qaeda, and the emergence of an Iraq in which the old red lines between Sunni and Shiite are daily eroding, in favor of joint efforts, political debate, and hard work on behalf of their common country.

Meanwhile, the country’s leading religious leaders seem on the verge of issuing an historic document: a fatwa condemning violence. The signatories would be two towering figures, one Sunni, one Shiite. The Sunni leader is Sheikh Ahmed al Kubaisi, whose Friday sermons from Dubai reach 20 million of the faithful. The Shiite will be Ayatollah Sayyid Ammar Abu Ragheef, chief of staff for Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, whose influence extends from Iraq deep into Iran.

The fatwa will represent the culmination of years of dialogue with religious leaders behind the scenes in Iraq and throughout the region by Anglican Canon Andrew White, who works in Baghdad. Once the fatwa has been formalized, further meetings will be held among a wider circle of Iraqi clerics.

It may even be reported.

Michael LedeenMichael Ledeen is an American historian, philosopher, foreign-policy analyst, and writer. He is a former consultant to the National Security Council, the Department of State, and the Department of Defense. ...


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