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In Iraq if you Can't Beat Them Recruit Them

As the Washington Post reports, the US military has given up on the goal of defeating the Sunni insurgent groups in Iraq. Instead, we are giving them money, weapons and support in exchange for ratting out the foreign army of Saudi and Arab jihadists (whom George Bush refers to as "Al Qaeda") who have been drawn to Iraq by our occupation.

U.S. commanders are offering large sums to enlist, at breakneck pace, their former enemies, handing them broad security powers in a risky effort to tame this fractious area south of Baghdad in Babil province and, literally, buy time for national reconciliation.

American generals insist they are not creating militias. In contracts with the U.S. military, the sheiks are referred to as "security contractors." Each of their "guards" will receive 70 percent of an Iraqi policeman's salary. U.S. commanders call them "concerned citizens," evoking suburban neighborhood watch groups.

But interviews with ground commanders and tribal leaders offer a window into how the United States is financing a new constellation of mostly Sunni armed groups with murky allegiances and shady pasts.

This strategy of "paying them off there so we don't have to fight them over here" has provided some much needed breathing room for our forces allowing them to focus their efforts on the Saudi jihadists who are responsible for some of the deadliest terrorist attacks on Iraqi civilians (but who are not responsible for a large share of attacks on US troops).

This strategy does not come without risks however. First and foremost, is the danger that the Sunni tribes will be better armed and prepared for the coming showdown with a Shiite-dominated government that they universally despise. These Sunni tribes aren't simply going to melt away once they've reduced or eliminated the Saudi jihadists who've occupied their areas. And they aren't likely to roll over and passively accept domination by a Shiite-run government that is bent on pursuing its own narrow, sectarian interest.

This doesn't sound like the "complete and total victory" rhetoric that George Bush frequently mentions in speeches mean to drum up support for his dismal and unpopular war. That sort of rhetoric implies that we're going to crush the enemy rather than pay them off and hand them weapons. Once again, we have a complete disconnect between right-wing rhetoric on the war and the actions on the ground in Iraq that reflect US policy (e.g., giving weapons to "terrorists"). No wonder the American people distrust this administration and have turned increasingly against the war when the rhetoric is so far removed from the reality.

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Comments (3)

Lee Ward:

"paying them off there so we don't have to fight them over here"

Touche! This new strategy of strengthening the Iraq Demcracy by accelerating the civil war until one side wins... looks a bit like George's domestic policy as well.

Here at home, George wants to politicize the federal government, at the same time he strips away Constitiional protections, so the GOP can emerge on top and stay there.

Thank God Tom Selleck and Charleton Heston were do damned popular. I'll be ready when Jay Tea and his duck come a-hunting for me...

Good day, Larkin. You put your finger on many critical issues here. I have an upcoming post on more reasons why Iraq is like Vietnam, and why both were failures as well.

It hurts the U.S. image to get involved in the failed use of U.S. military power abroad, even if it is done for supposed well intentioned peacekeeping or "nationbuilding" duties.

The careful use of U.S. military power only in cases where a positive outcome that enhances U.S. interests must be used. Failed uses of that force hurt the U.S. politically around the world in image. Iraq seems to be well past the goalposts of defining failure. Sunni tribes are only holding their fire until the U.S. leaves, which could be soon, to renew their civil war with the Shiites. That's no definition of peace by any means.


We shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.

h/t WK


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Publisher: Kevin Aylward

Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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