There’s a lot to chew over in this Washington Post feature on the experiences of 1st Battalion, 18th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division in Baghdad’s Sadiyah neighborhood. Perhaps the most important is what the story suggests about the declining violence in Baghdad (and perhaps elsewhere in the country), namely that the spike in violence was associated with competing sectarian efforts at ethnic cleansing and the decline in violence represents the success of those efforts:
American soldiers estimate that since violence intensified this year, half of the families in Sadiyah have fled, leaving approximately 100,000 people […] Shiite militias, particularly the Mahdi Army, went from house to house killing and intimidating Sunni families […] “It’s just a slow, somewhat government-supported sectarian cleansing,” said Maj. Eric Timmerman, the battalion’s operations officer.
This is the basically fraudulent nature of the American enterprise in Iraq. We’re told we can’t leave because of the civil war that would break out or intensify or whatever if we do. But our troops aren’t really capable of meaningfully impacting the result of the sectarian conflict anyway. Instead, they’re just being plopped into the middle of it and exposed to harm, so that when the conflict eventually ends (as conflicts tend to) we can call the results “victory” and stay in Iraq forever. If the violence waxes, that shows the war needs to continue. If it wanes, that shows that we’re winning and need to keep on keeping on. Meanwhile, in the real world the civil war and ethnic cleansing we’re supposed to be preventing are things that have already happened.