Monday, May 26, 2008

Iraq Residents Tired of Militia Violence

As the U.S. military surge in Iraq has progressed over the last year, antiwar types continue to devise new metrics with which to "measure" an alleged "absence of progress": aggregate casualties for 2007 (not the dramatically reduced numbers for the end of year), the total costs of the war (including the toll at home to returning veterans, which panders to public sentiments on "unfairness"), as well as the "inevitable" sectarian violence that will never improve enough for the U.S. to claim victory - hence Iraq is an "endless" war.

Cernig at
Newshoggers is one of the biggest proponents of the sectarianism's-not-declining meme, but he's followed closely by alleged anti-Semitic Juan Cole, who also has a post up denouncing the continued U.S. presence in country.

But as I've shown recently, we're continuing to see real progress in the country (with
drastically reduced levels of violence), and as the Los Angeles Times reports, were seeing "Iraqis Losing Patience With Militiamen":

Four summers ago, when militiamen loyal to hard-line Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada Sadr were battling U.S. forces in the holy city of Najaf, Mohammed Lami was among them.

"I had faith. I believed in something," Lami said of his days hoisting a gun for Sadr's Mahdi Army militia. "Now, I will never fight with them.

"Lami is no fan of U.S. troops, but after fleeing Baghdad's Sadr City district with his family last month, when militiamen arrived on his street to plant a bomb, he is no fan of the Mahdi Army either. Nor are many others living in Sadr City, the 32-year-old said. Weeks of fighting between militiamen and Iraqi and U.S. forces, with residents caught in the middle, has chipped away at the Sadr movement's grass-roots popularity, Lami said....

"People are fed up with them because of their extremism and the problems they are causing," said Rafid Majid, a merchant in central Baghdad. Like many others interviewed across the capital, he said the good deeds the group performs no longer were enough to make up for the hardships endured by ordinary Iraqis who just want to go to work and keep their families safe.
The Sadrists claim the residents on Iraqi street are with them, but the Times's piece suggests otherwise:

Lawmakers from Sadr's movement blame the United States and Iraqi forces for the bloodshed that began after the government launched an offensive against Shiite militias in Basra. Sadr representatives insist that, if anything, support has soared as people come to sympathize with the Sadr loyalists.

"Even some Iraqi people who were not sympathizing with us before have now started to feel and identify with the oppression on the Sadr people. It has become clear to them that we are being targeted," said Liqa Yaseen, a parliament member representing the Sadr movement.

But interviews with dozens of Iraqis living in Sadr City and other Shiite militia strongholds in Baghdad suggest otherwise. So do anecdotes from U.S. troops who have met with Sadr City residents and local leaders and who say there has been a shift in the things they hear.

"After March 25 was the first time I had anyone tell us, 'Go in and wipe them out,' " said Sgt. Erik Olson, who spends most of his time visiting residents of Sadr City's Jamila neighborhood gathering "atmospherics," the military's word for figuring out what locals are thinking.

It isn't surprising that people on the front lines of the standoff would lose patience with the warring sides. Their homes and streets have become battlegrounds, making it impossible at times to go to the market, the hospital or work. Military and militia snipers fire from rooftops. Militiamen launch mortar shells and rockets from residential streets. U.S. aircraft respond with devastating airstrikes that often cause casualties and damage beyond their targets.

It's a public relations problem that even some Mahdi Army members acknowledge, and a fragile truce reached by Sadr and the Iraqi government this month, which allowed Iraqi troops to deploy into Sadr City, suggested that at least privately, Sadr's political wing recognized the need to back down from the fighting.
While some on the left will endlessly deny that the U.S. and Iraqis are genuinely making progress, some surrender hawks see the decline in violence as the key to implement their plans for a precipitous withdrawal:

It seemed to me back in late 2004 that the looming elections in January 2005 would be a good opportunity to declare victory and go home on a relatively upbeat note. Instead, the president decided that we needed to stay in order to forestall civil war and ethnic cleansing. Then came several years of civil war and ethnic cleansing. Now we're looking at another spate of good news. So why not take the opportunity to leave?
See that?

Leaving in 2005, when sectarian violence skyrocketed - soon leading to massive ethnic cleansing by Shiite death squads - would have been a good time to leave on an "upbeat note."

Yeah, that's real upbeat? Anything that permits the withdrawal of American forces is on the up side - good news, bad news, it doesn't matter ... the lefties will spin it any old way, as long as Americans high-tail it out of there ignominously.