Tomgram: Robert Dreyfuss, Fighting Whom in Iraq?

Think for a moment of what has happened in Iraq since the Bush administration’s shock-and-awe invasion in March 2003. There are, by now, perhaps a million dead Iraqis, give or take a few hundred thousand. If a typical wounded-to-dead ratio of 3:1 holds, then you’re talking about up to 4 million war, occupation, and civil-war casualties. Now, add in the estimated 2-2.5 million who went into exile, fleeing the country, and another estimated 2.3 million who have had to leave their homes and go into internal exile as Iraqi communities and neighborhoods were “cleansed.” Despite a growing number of recent returnees, these internal refugee figures increased significantly in 2007, quadrupling between the beginning of the “surge” in February and the end of September, according to the ! Red Crescent Society, with up to 83% of them being women and children (with, in turn, most of those children being 12). The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, in a recent report to Congress, estimated that 14% of the population, or one out of every seven Iraqis, has been “displaced by war.” So perhaps you have 6-8 million Iraqis put out of action in one way or another from of a pre-invasion population that was only an estimated 26 million to begin with. A striking percentage of those who remain are children and conditions remain grim. This is certainly one way to pacify a country — by setting off one of the true disasters of our time.

It’s within this context that new figures on what is clearly a real decrease in violence for the first time in years in Iraq — whether against Americans or Iraqis — are coming in. Various partial explanations have been offered for this (or sometimes none at all), but no one has put this changing moment together better, or more provocatively, than Robert Dreyfuss, author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam. Tom

Who’s the Enemy?

In Iraq, It’s Getting Harder to Find Any Bad Guys
By Robert Dreyfuss

Who is the enemy? Who, exactly, are we fighting in Iraq? Why are we there? And what’s our objective?

Nearly five years into the war, the answers to basic questions like these ought to be obvious. In the Alice in Wonderland-like wilderness of mirrors that is Iraq, though, they’re anything but.

We aren’t fighting the Sunnis. Not any more, anyway. Virtually the entire Sunni establishment, from the moderate Muslim Brotherhood-linked Iraqi Islamic Party (which has been part of every Iraqi government since 2003) to the Anbar tribal alliance (which has been begging for U.S. support since 2004 and only recently got it) is either actively cooperating with the American military or sullenly tolerating what it hopes will be a receding occupation. Across Sunni-dominated parts of Iraq, the United States is helping to build army and police units as well as neighborhood patrols — the Pentagon calls them “concerned citizens” — out of former resistance fighters, with the blessing of tribal leaders in Anbar, Diyala, and Salahuddin provinces, parts of Baghdad, and areas to the south of the capital. We have met the enemy, and — surprise! — they are friends or, if not that, at least not active enemies. Attacks on U.S. forces in Sunni-dominated areas, including the once-violent ! hot-bed city of Ramadi, Anbar’s capital, have fallen dramatically.

Among the hard-core Sunni resistance, there is also significant movement toward a political accord — if the United States were willing to accept it. Twenty-two Iraqi insurgent groups announced the creation of a united front, under the leadership of Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former top Baath party official of the Saddam era, and they have opened talks with Iyad Allawi, a secular Shia who was Iraq’s first post-Saddam prime minister.

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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