Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Surge in Ethnic Cleansing

A child and his bicycle cast a shadow over a puddle of blood
after a sectarian attack in Baghdad.

Photo by Ahmed al-Rubaye/AFP-Getty images

You know, there is nothing quite like a successful ethnic cleansing to put the brakes on sectarian violence.

It was not long after the invasion that the slide toward civil war started, but it really got ginned up and the hatred unleashed in earnest after the initial bombing of the al-Askiri Shrine in February 2006. That was the flashpoint, the now-all-bets-are-off event that set the entire country aflame.

In the time since, the ethnic cleansing has claimed countless victims, but the sectarian violence does seem to have abated recently. But don't greet that as good news just yet - the sectarian killings have abated somewhat because they have been effective - victims have either been killed or fled their neighborhoods. When the ethnic cleansing in a neighborhood is complete, there are no more victims to target.

When Gen. David Petraeus goes before Congress next week to report on the progress of the surge, he may cite a decline in insurgent attacks in Baghdad as one marker of success. In fact, part of the reason behind the decline is how far the Shiite militias' cleansing of Baghdad has progressed: they've essentially won. "If you look at pre-February 2006, there were only a couple of areas in the city that were unambiguously Shia," says a U.S. official in Baghdad who is familiar with the issue but is not authorized to speak on the record. "That's definitely not the case anymore." The official says that "the majority, more than half" of Baghdad's neighborhoods are now Shiite-dominated, a judgment echoed in the most recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq: "And very few are mixed." In places like Amel, pockets of Sunnis live in fear, surrounded by a sea of Shiites. In most of the remaining Sunni neighborhoods, residents are trapped behind great concrete barricades for their own protection.
The process was hastened under cover of the Surge™ - Rafiq Tschannen, chief of the Iraq mission for the International Organization for Migration, says that the fighting that accompanied the influx of U.S. troops actually “has increased the IDPs to some extent.”

One of the reasons for the Surge™ was to stem the tide of ethnic cleansing of Baghdad - but it has hardly worked out that way. In fact, it has had the opposite effect. The number of Iraqi civilians killed in July was up slightly from February, when the escalation started. The Iraqi Red Crescent estimates the number of internally displaced persons has more than doubled since the beginning of the year. Consider that for a moment - in the six-plus months since the troop buildup started - the troop buildup that was supposed to quell the sectarian violence - the number of internal refugees has doubled. In six months. The first half were displaced over four years. From Baghdad alone, nearly 200,000 refugees have been created in six months.

I half expect Resident Evil™ to come back from Oz and attempt to sell that decade-long commitment that Petraeus has been alluding to by pointing out that if we'll just hang in there for a dozen or so years, and sacrifice another ten thousand Soldiers and Marines on the altar of his ego, we'll win because everyone will be dead or gone!