Friday, April 13, 2007

Iraq Parliament Bombing

You're no doubt already familiar with the story of the suicide bomber who penetrated into the cafeteria of Iraq's parliament.

But for a real feel for the events I strongly recommend Washington Post Baghdad Bureau Chief Sudarsan Raghavan's harrowing first hand account, In an Instant, a Junkyard of Humanity. No excerpts here, sorry, you need to go read the story in full.

No, seriously, go read it, I'll wait.






Now I'd like to excerpt a quote from the transcript of Mr. Raghavan's live discussion (I strongly recommend you read that as well, but it's OK if you wait 'til after we're done here).

Arlington, Va.: Does this experience give you a better appreciation for what the citizens of Iraq have to put up with every day?

Sudarsan Raghavan: Hello Arlington,

Yes, it does. But only a sliver of their pain, their fears, and their loss. Take my experience and multiply it by a hundred times, and you'll know what Iraqis go through every day. They are truly among the world's most courageous and resilient people. I watched as dozens of Iraqis went back into the Parliament building after the bombing to save the wounded and bring out the dead.

Multiply it by a hundred times...every day.

Devastating, just devastating.

And as this illustration of the plight of the Iraqi people sinks in, it's only human to ask oneself, what can we do to help?

There is of course, as is plainly, painfully obvious, no easy answer.

Send in more troops?

I don't think so.

As we've just witnessed, no amount of security can be completely effective against this sort of attack, more soldiers can't help.

I suppose if we were willing commit sufficient troops to clear and hold every inch of Iraq, and disarm every Iraqi we might be able to root out every insurgent and terrorist. But how many US soldiers would that take, half a million? A full million? And how long do they stay in Iraq, forever?

Impossible without re-instating the draft, and therefore, impossible.

So what should we do? Juan Cole has a suggestion, announce we are leaving, then leave:

The key to preventing an intensified civil war is US withdrawal from the equation so as to force the parties to an accommodation. Therefore, the United States should announce its intention to withdraw its military forces from Iraq, which will bring Sunnis to the negotiating table and put pressure on Kurds and Shiites to seek a compromise with them. But a simple US departure would not be enough; the civil war must be negotiated to a settlement, on the model of the conflicts in Northern Ireland and Lebanon.

Talks require a negotiating partner. The first step in Iraq must therefore be holding provincial elections. In the first and only such elections, held in January 2005, the Sunni Arab parties declined to participate. Provincial governments in Sunni-majority provinces are thus uniformly unrepresentative, and sometimes in the hands of fundamentalist Shiites, as in Diyala. A newly elected provincial Sunni Arab political class could stand in for the guerrilla groups in talks, just as Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, did in Northern Ireland.

His article should, of course, be read in full to appreciate the nuances of his reasoning.

Others have their own ideas as well.

But regardless, the important point is that everyone, even to a degree, President Bush, recognizes that the eventual solution to Iraq will be political, not military.

The only question, then, is what course of action will best achieve that political solution?

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