Chicago Sun Times: The War is Lost
Chicago Sun Times
Deride & conquer
August 26, 2007

Even Americans who have grown increasingly cynical about the war in Iraq have managed to hang on to the possibility that our military might actually unite a fractured country we invaded. Many accepted this as our patriotic duty, as though we couldn't give up without exhausting every experimental course. Deep down we feared that Iraq would turn out like that other unpopular war.

But after a disheartening new intelligence report released Thursday, it will be difficult to cling to even a shred of hope. Political leaders in Iraq, the report concludes, are "unable to govern effectively." Perhaps even more disturbing is the report's prediction that a U.S. troop pullout will likely ignite further chaos.

Even influential Republican Sen. John Warner is calling for a slight reduction in forces in Iraq by Christmas. His public push is, in essence, an unofficial deadline for the Iraqis to assume control over their country. Somebody has to impress upon the Iraqis that there are consequences for their chronic inertia.

The National Intelligence Estimate -- produced by the CIA and 15 other intelligence agencies -- renders next month's high-stakes progress report from Gen. David Petraeus anti-climactic. At this point, how can we not assume the worst? What can the commander of the U.S. troops in Iraq possibly say to get war-weary Americans to heed President Bush's call for more time in Iraq, more money and more mortal risk?

According to the intelligence report, the so-called surge of 30,000 U.S. troops that began in January has resulted in improved security in some parts of Iraq. But sectarian violence continues to claim civilian lives at an alarming rate and American soldiers continue to die. The toll has surpassed 3,600 -- including more than 130 from Illinois.

Last Wednesday, this area lost two more of its own. Burbank native Phillip Brodnick, 25, was killed in the Black Hawk helicopter crash. And Omar Torres, 20, of the Southwest Side, was killed by an explosion in Baghdad.

Recent violence is driving Iraqis from their homes in Baghdad in greater numbers than before the surge, the New York Times reported. The possibility of unity is increasingly distant as Shiites and Sunnis flee to their established territories. There is "little hope of reaching accommodation among political factions," says the intelligence report.

Bush has laid a heap of blame on ineffectual Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite whose administration is geared to suppressing Sunnis. On Friday, al-Maliki's government suffered another hit as three cabinet members announced they were resigning. As bad as al-Maliki is, he can't be held accountable for the deep-seated divisions and deeper hatred that fuels this conflict.

With Iraq's own forces failing miserably to help establish order, the U.S. vision of a united Iraq without a dominating American presence is past the point of fading.

Having struck little but hollow notes -- after the fall of Saddam, Iraqi elections, Iraqi troop training, the initiation of the surge -- the president needs to face the music. Americans shouldn't be made to feel unpatriotic for recognizing the reality of what is happening in Iraq. The president could go a long way toward reuniting this country by admitting we've run out of options in and figuring a way out.

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