February 28, 2006
Iraqi People Continue to Disappoint the Pessimists

By Jack Kelly

The Associated Press reported Monday that Sunni Arabs in Iraq are prepared to end their boycott of talks to form a national unity government, thus disappointing yet again those journalists who've been telling us for two years civil war is imminent.

It seemed last Wednesday as if the pessimists might finally be right after terrorists destroyed the Golden Mosque in Samarra, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam. Shia militias attacked more than a dozen Sunni mosques in retaliation. An unprecedented three day curfew was imposed in Baghdad in order to curb sectarian violence in which more than 100 people were killed.

The outbreak of violence convinced conservative icon William F. Buckley Jr. that the U.S. mission in Iraq has failed.

"Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans," Mr. Buckley wrote in National Review. "The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough."

Mr. Buckley is of the "realist" school of foreign policy, which believes, in essence, that "freedom and democracy are for me, but not for thee." The lesser breeds without the Law, like Iraq's Arabs, aren't ready for it now, and probably won't be ever. Buckley noted with apparent approval the view of an anonymous soldier quoted in the New York Times who said he can understand why Saddam Hussein was needed to keep the Sunnis and Shiites from each other's throats.

Mr. Buckley's pessimism may be premature. Both Sunni and Shia religious leaders have called for calm. The Moqtada al Sadr, whose militia was in the forefront of the retaliatory attacks on Sunni mosques, prayed publicly Saturday with the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars. Thousands of ordinary Sunnis and Shias joined together in half a dozen Iraqi cities to demonstrate for peace.

"We have much more evidence of a strong national unity movement in Iraq," said Iraqi Web logger Haider Ajina of the weekend demonstrations. "This attack was supposed to plunge Iraq into sectarian mayhem and senseless massive killing. This did not happen."

These peaceful demonstrations for peace drew little attention from a news media that is eager to report on a civil war, even if it isn't happening.

"Nearly every Iraq story is inaccurate," wrote Ben Connable, a Marine major stationed in Fallujah, in an email to a friend. "The numbers are inflated, the damage exaggerated, the estimates are misleading, and the predictions are based on pure conjecture, often by people far removed from the problem."

"The Iraqi military and police forces have held together and they are doing their jobs," Maj. Connable said. "In 2004, the Iraqi military and police all but collapsed. The fact that Shia soldiers who make up the vast majority of the troops have stayed at their posts, held back the Shia militiamen, and prevented an increase in violence is remarkable. This should be one of the feature stories on the nightly news, but it barely received mention."

Those danged Iraqis. They continue to disappoint by failing to be disappointing. Could it be that most of them value freedom, democracy and peace as much as white Christians do?

This is not to say there isn't plenty of sectarian tension. Things could go south fast if negotiations for a national unity government fail. But things could get better if those who attacked the Golden Mosque are caught.

Al Qaida, which is as eager to start a sectarian civil war as the New York Times is to report on it, is the principal suspect.

"The Golden Mosque bombing will turn out to be another major defeat for the terrorists, if for no other reason than it got the two major Shia factions, the Badr and Sadr groups, to stop fighting each other," predicted StrategyPage.

But some Sunnis are claiming the real culprit is Iran, acting through the Moqtada al Sadr's militia.

There is some evidence to support the Sunni claim. Col. Austin Bay's friend "Sapper," a former combat engineer, says it would take several hours to place the roughly 200 lbs of explosives needed to drop the dome, suggesting an inside job. Guards were handcuffed and put in a safe place rather than killed, solicitude al Qaida has not shown to Shias in the past.

A desperation move by al Qaida, or the Iraqi equivalent of the Reichstag fire? Stay tuned.

Jack Kelly

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