Tuesday, November 28, 2006
A special dispatch by Patrick Cockburn on his journey through a country being torn apart by civil war
"Iraq is rending itself apart. The signs of collapse are everywhere. In Baghdad, the police often pick up more than 100 tortured and mutilated bodies in a single day. Government ministries make war on each other.
A new and ominous stage in the disintegration of the Iraqi state came earlier this month when police commandos from the Shia-controlled Interior Ministry kidnapped 150 people from the Sunni-run Higher Education Ministry in the heart of Baghdad.
Iraq may be getting close to what Americans call "the Saigon moment", the time when it becomes evident to all that the government is expiring. "They say that the killings and kidnappings are being carried out by men in police uniforms and with police vehicles," the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said to me with a despairing laugh this summer. "But everybody in Baghdad knows that the killers and kidnappers are real policemen."
It is getting worse. The Iraqi army and police are not loyal to the state. If the US army decides to confront the Shia militias it could well find Shia military units from the Iraqi army cutting the main American supply route between Kuwait and Baghdad. One convoy was recently stopped at a supposedly fake police checkpoint near the Kuwait border and four American security men and an Austrian taken away.
The US and British position in Iraq is far more of a house built on sand than is realised in Washington or London, despite the disasters of the past three-and-a-half years. George Bush and Tony Blair show a unique inability to learn from their mistakes, largely because they do not want to admit having committed any errors in the first place.
How Ironic! The Syrian regime, having waited 25 years to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iraq, has just decided to recognize an expiring government! How about that statesmanship and a sense of timing?