- WASHINGTON -- When the man
in the white van slowed, the group of labourers from Kut, southeast of
Baghdad, approached him in the hope they would be offered work.
- Instead he offered death.
- As the workers approached, the man blew up his van, killing
himself and the men who had tentatively moved to him in trust, sending
body parts hurtling through the sky and, according to witnesses, turning
the nearest hospital into a blood-stained shrine of futility, overwhelmed
by the number and severity of the casualties.
- The scene was played out many times over in Iraq this
week, where a spike in insurgent violence has placed the country on the
precipice of civil war.
- More than 450 Iraqis have been slaughtered in the past
two weeks in a direct challenge to a new Iraqi government, making those
heady days of the January election seem like something from the distant
past. The euphoria of the purple thumb, the symbol of the bravery of voters,
has given way to a river of blood-red in some of the worst violence in
the post-Saddam era.
- "We are on the edge of civil war," said Noah
Feldman, a New York University professor and chief U.S. adviser to Iraq
on the writing of the country's new constitution.
- Yet, somehow this sharp surge in deadly bombings, assassinations
and kidnappings in Iraq has occurred largely under the radar in the United
- No public figures have risen this week to decry this
most recent carnage, no one is breaking into regular programming on cable
- Perhaps Americans have simply become numb to the background
hum of Iraqi violence. Perhaps the lack of graphic images on television
mean that medium doesn't know how to cover the story. Perhaps, more cynically,
Iraqis killing Iraqis is not as compelling a story.
- The left-leaning American Progress Action Fund said in
a statement yesterdayAmerica's most important foreign policy venture is
teetering on the edge of civil war, but it is being ignored by television
- "Television media " still the primary source
of news for most Americans " is failing miserably," it said.
"America is being kept in the dark."
- While American TV viewers turn to runaway brides, fast-food
fingers and the daily Michael Jackson aberration, they are missing the
story of an increasingly massive foreign policy failure.
- The number of car bomb attacks in Iraq jumped from 64
in February to 135 in April, a record, according to U.S. military statistics.
Insurgents are reported to have stockpiled car bombs and the attacks are
becoming more brazen as Sunni insurgents and foreign fighters try to provoke
civil war with the Shiite majority.
- "There is an apparent free flow of suicide bombers
into Iraq," a Western diplomat told the London-based Guardian newspaper.
- The U.S. death toll is at 1,611 and U.S. legislators
this week approved funding which pushes the cost of the Iraq war beyond
$250 billion (U.S.)
- The chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen.
Richard Myers, called again this week for patience.
- "One thing we know about insurgencies is that they
last from, you know, three, four years to nine years," he said. "These
are tough fights. And in the end, it's going to have to be the Iraqis that
- "If there was a magic bullet, then Gen. (George)
Casey and Gen. (John) Abizaid or I, or somebody on the staff more likely,
would have found it."
- While U.S. authorities say they believe most of the jihadists
are foreign fighters " and have launched a major offensive near the
Syria border to try to choke off the influx " J. Patrick Lang, a former
chief of Middle East intelligence for the Defence Intelligence Agency,
told National Public Radio this week that he believed the insurgents are
90 per cent home-grown.
- He said they're a mix of former military, intelligence,
police personnel and Baath party functionaries taking directions from a
- David Phillips of the non-partisan Council on Foreign
Relations and author of Losing Iraq: Inside the Postwar Reconstruction
Fiasco, said the spike in the insurgency can be blamed on three factors.
- He said the delay of Iraqis in convening a new government
to validate the January elections, the preponderance of Shiites and Kurds
in the government plus the intensification of the de-Baathification process
simply backed the Sunni view that there is no role for them in the new
- But, Phillips also points to statements from the White
House that U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney and U.S. Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice had intervened to try to break the cabinet stalemate as
- "It reinforced the view in Iraq that (Prime Minister
Ibrahim) Jaafari was merely a proxy for those people in Washington,"
- The damage done by a decision to give Sunnis a small
representation in the cabinet unveiled last month seems to have been exacerbated
with the decision to appoint only two Sunnis to the 55-member committee
chosen to write Iraq's permanent constitution.
- It will only play to the sense of despair and disenfranchisement
among Sunnis, many analysts say.
- Feldman said the Shiite population in Iraq has shown
patience of historic proportion in not retaliating against the Sunni attacks.
- "The reason I say we are on the edge of civil war
is that you can't have one if only one side is attacking," he said.
"But the truth is, Shiites are only human and they will run out of
patience," he said. "The only thing that can stop civil war is
to bring this insurgency under control."
- But to do so, he said, Iraqi security forces have to
convince Sunnis that violence will not work and they should join the political
- Sunni fighters, however, are convinced they can hasten
the departure of some 139,000 American troops by starting a civil war,
- Conversely, he said, should U.S. troops depart, civil
war is guaranteed.
- Phillips is even more pessimistic. When asked about the
chances that the brakes could be put on the insurgency in the short term,
he answered: "None. This insurgency will go on for years and years,
regardless of what the U.S. does."
- The insurgency can never be defeated by military force,
he said. Instead, Iraqis have to believe that their institutions are worth
defending and that defence has to come from Iraqi troops.