The "resistance" has been bombing ISF and public places since 2003, but I doubt we will see a return to the kind of civil war that engulfed Iraq in 2006 and 2007. Alaa the Mesopotamian reminds us of the horrors at the height of the sectarian violence:
The country was divided into strictly segregated cantons where on both sides all those of the wrong sect were expelled from their homes and some murdered. People were murdered for no other crime than having the wrong name in the wrong place. Baghdad itself was divided into sectarian zones where anybody risked execution and torture if he ventured into the wrong neighbourhood. A childhood friend of my boys who lived few houses away from ours had been just married; he was a Sunni with a kind of neutral name. He was caught by a Sunni militia few hundred meters from my own house. The militia could not ascertain whether he was Shiite or Sunni, so they took his cell phone and phoned his wife asking her about it. The poor girl thought that he was caught by a Shiite Militia, and she told them that he was Shiite; he was promptly executed. To this day she cannot forgive herself and has become a psychiatric case. In January 2007, my own oldest cousin was shot by American soldiers mistaking him for a terrorist. He was buried ceremoniously by an Al-Qaeda crowd as a martyr. His son, a Sunni, however, was a police officer; he made the fatal mistake of showing his identity card in the cemetery. A month later he was pulled from his car in front of his wife and children, taken away and dumped two days later near his house with his body terribly mutilated by torture. He was murdered by the very same people who attended his fathers’ funeral. These were just couple of incidents that I personally witnessed amongst hundreds if not thousands of others. The years 2006, 2007 were the worst. Baghdad was a city of death and many parts of the city were like ghost towns where people feared to venture out of their front doors even for the most basic needs. Scores of corpses were found every morning littering the pavements and side streets and were collected and taken away by pickup trucks. These trucks laden with corpses piled on top of each other were a familiar sight in Baghdad. It was horror beyond imagination. The tragedies that took place are too painful to recall, some of which I witnessed personally. Baghdad had nearly fallen under the very nose of the American forces and the highly inefficient Iraqi security forces that they were trying to form.
Then came the counterattack. The credit must be shared between the troop surge decided by President Bush under the wise leadership of General Petraeus, the establishment of a unified Baghdad command by Al-Maliki’s government and the valiant efforts of the Anbar tribes and the Sahwa movement. The Iraqi security forces began to be developed in good earnest. The Maliki Government deserve to be credited for its determined and largely successful campaigns against Militias in the South primarily and the rather less successful ones in Mosul and Diyala. Towards the end of 2008 and in 2009 the insurgent tide had been more or less reversed. The war is not over and there is still much to be done, to be sure; but at least overt Militia control of entire provinces and neighbourhoods has ended and they were forced underground again. People can go about their business and shops are open; and even some neighbourhoods are becoming mixed again. In the shiaa areas calm has more or less been restored. Sectarian killings have almost stopped. However the scars of battle and the debris of destruction can still be seen all over the place, and underneath the surface animosities and sectarian hatred are still smouldering which is not surprising considering the atrocities inflicted by parties against each other. But the Iraqis are not a stupid people and everybody has realised that the violence did not serve anybody and that all sides stand to lose if it continues.
Iraq Pundit urges readers to not Miss the Real Story:
According to the NYT, the Sunnis are an endangered species. They are surrounded by hostile people coming from all directions. Watch out, Sunni Iraqis, your days are numbered. What utter nuttiness.
The paper says the decision, which is illegal, by the accountability and justice commsion has support among the people of Iraq for the banning of politicians from the ballot. The reporter implies civil war is but moments away:
"Thursday, hundreds of people in the predominantly Shiite cities of Basra and Najaf, in southern Iraq, demonstrated in support of the decision. They held banners denouncing the former Hussein government and burned pictures of some of the barred candidates."
Let's not forget the attitudes, according to the NYT, of the people who equate Sunnis with Baathists and therefore criminals: "The Baathists can't return to Iraq," Jabar Amen, the head of the Basra Provincial Council, said during the protest. "There is no place for them among us. There is no place for criminals."
The foolish reporter gives the impression that Iraq is uniquely horrid. That people here hate each other. It's an insult not only to Iraqis but also to readers who the journalists take for fools. The only way a reader can understand is when the story is simplified dramatically. But who's surprised? The NYT always overlooks the complexity of the Iraqis. Sure there were demonstrations in favour of the illegal decision. But there also were protests against the decision in Basra. Misrepresenting the situation here adds nothing but perhaps kudos from Iraq haters.
I agree with Talabani's move to ask Iraq's Supreme Court to investigate the legality of the bans. They should also investigate whether the candidates were actually involved in terrorist activities. Anybody, including members of Parliament, who can be proven beyond doubt to have been involved in terrorism must be tried in court. Otherwise this the ban is illegal.
Many Iraqi Shia and Kurds equate Baathists with Nazis, maybe worse than Nazis. Baathist leaders committed horrible crimes, no doubt. But the era of Saddam Hussein is over. Iraqi Shia must be reassured that it is impossible for Baathists to return to dominance, given the polls of Iraqi opinion of the neo-Baathists. I have predicted the neo-Baathists (and alliance led by Allawi and Mutlaq) may have up to 15% support in Iraq. With all this attention and the labeling of all Sunni Arabs as Baathists, neo-Baathist support may rise.
A return to civil war is unlikely because Al Qaeda in Iraq has largely been defeated and most Iraqi Sunni Arabs seemed to have joined the political process. The Baathists are embracing democracy like they should have done in 2004, and all Iraqis should support them. Not all Baathists are bad people. The resistance-loving Baathists, however, may continue to terrorize Iraqis, even if neo-Baathists are allowed to participate in the elections. Allowing the non-violent neo-Baathists to participate, however, will make the elections legitimate, and that should be the primary goal of all Iraqis.