October 6, 2006 [LINK / comment]

Warner reports on Iraq situation

Sen. John Warner has just returned from a tour to Iraq, and issued a very sober report on the deteriorating security situation. He fears the U.S. forces may be losing control of Baghdad outside the Green Zone as the sectarian violence worsens. He wisely avoids getting into the debate about whether it is a "civil war" or not, since that is a vague term, and the violence has escalated gradually for the past two years. It's more like a clan feud, only on a massive scale. Indeed, U.S. forces were forced to reassume control over large parts of the city after Iraqi police and soldiers proved to be unable to carry out their duties in a fair and efficient manner. In the press conference shown on C-SPAN, Warner complained that the militia forces (mostly Shiite) are operating as death squads, taking people out to garbage dumps to be tortured and/or murdered. As quoted by the Washington Post, he observed:

You do not see them [Iraqi government leaders] taking the levers of sovereignty and pulling and pushing them and doing what is necessary to bring about a situation in Iraq whereby the people are able to live, have sufficient food and fresh water, and have a sense of confidence in their government that they're going forward.

Indeed, as I have often argued, we can't win this war on our own. "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink it." It's the Iraqis' own ball game now. Warner said he didn't think sending more U.S. troops at this point would do any good, and he hinted strongly that we would have to make a fundamental reevaluaton of our strategy in the next two or three months. In other words, either the Iraqis pick up the slack as our forces begin to depart, or the chaos will get worse. Our forces have done about all they can, and if the Iraqi government does not assert full control and disband militia forces very soon, it would be safe to say that our mission will be over -- and not successfully. Warner said he regrets not having scrutinized the preparations for war more thoroughly, another expression of reduced confidence in the Bush administration. Sen. Warner is renowned as one of the most experienced, knowledgeable, and sensible congressional leaders in matters of national security, and his opinion carries a lot of weight. The White House should be worried -- very worried.

Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice also made a visit to Iraq this week, but it was not announced in advance. She met with Prime Minister Maliki, trying to convey the urgency of achieving governmental unity and political order.