Magazine article The Christian Century

Fog of War

Magazine article The Christian Century

Fog of War

Article excerpt

CONTRARY TO what most Americans believe, the United States is in deep trouble in Iraq, and its policies are adrift. Especially ominous are problems surrounding the plan for June 30 elections. If direct elections are held, the Shi'ites, with 60 percent of the population, will prevail. If their representation is watered down by resort to closed caucuses, as the U.S. wants, the Shi'ites will turn to violence. Either way, tensions among all religious and ethnic factions are mounting. Iraq is edging closer to a civil war, and chaos could engulf the entire region.

Whether the UN can help to stabilize the situation remains unclear. Much depends on how much real independence and power it is granted.

To keep a lid on the violence, the CIA is planning a new secret police force. It will draw upon feared Mukhabarat (intelligence) operatives, the very ones who bolstered Saddam Hussein's thuggish regime. The purpose of this force seems to be to continue the occupation by other means, hardly compatible with official promises of democracy.

"The presence of a powerful secret police, loyal to the Americans, will mean that the new Iraqi political regime will not stray outside the parameters that the U.S. wants to set," said John Pike, director of Global Security, a Washington-based institute. Thus, "the new Iraqi government will reign but not rule" (UK Telegraph, January 4).

Meanwhile, over 500 American troops have lost their lives in Iraq, along with tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens. Less widely reported are the "thousands of U.S. soldiers ... coming home with their faces blown off, or missing limbs, facing a lifetime in a wheelchair," writes Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan. The downing of U.S. helicopters, the brazen attacks on Coalition Authority headquarters, and the continuing failure to restore basic services like water and electricity point to a deteriorating situation. "I'd say there is increasing evidence that the U.S. is not in control in Iraq," states Cole, "and that the place may well be headed toward being a failed state for the near term" (Informed Comment, January 18).

So far Americans have been tolerant of administration policies. "If things are going well, people aren't bothered that we haven't found weapons in Iraq," says William Schneider of the American Enterprise Institute. But if a bombing claimed a large number of American troops, or if radical Islamic Shi'ites took control, "overnight people will say, "Wait a minute, what are we doing there?'" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, January 17).

Erosion of support would not be surprising, given the way that the ease for the invasion is crumbling. …

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