"During the period from the establishment of the new Iraqi government on May 20 until Aug. 11, the average number of weekly attacks jumped to almost 800. That was a substantial increase from earlier this year and almost double the number of the first part of 2004.
As a consequence, Iraqi casualties increased 51 percent over the last reporting period. The document notes that, based on initial reports, Iraqi casualties among civilians and security forces reached nearly 120 a day, up from about 80 a day in the previous reporting period from mid-February to mid-May. About two years ago they were running about 30 a day.
“Although the overall number of attacks increased in all categories, the proportion of those attacks directed against civilians increased substantially,” the Pentagon noted. “Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife, with Sunni and Shia extremists each portraying themselves as the defenders of their respective sectarian groups.” " Michael Gordon
"defenders of their respective sectarian groups"
"Sectarian groups?" What has been missing from the start of our Iraq venture has been a willingness to accept the idea that Iraq was and is a "state" but it has never been a "nation-state."
In fact, the country created by international agreement after World War One remains what it always was – an artificial construct built on the land that was always just "Mesopotamia" before.
If there can be said to be an Iraqi People, then that "people" are the result of the more or less forced union of several ethno-religious nations over the last eighty odd years. These people were subjected to "pressure cooker" efforts to develop "Iraqi Man." The schools were a major instrument in that effort. Police and media pressure were used as well as all the other instruments of successive governments. Progress toward "Iraqi Man" took place. In some segments of the population, a self-awareness of being Iraqi rather than Sunni Arab, Kurd, Chaldean, Shia Arab, etc. took root. This was most noticeable among army officers, the secular Shia and other more groups directly connected to the central government.
At the same time the masses of Iraqis retained their essential group identities in the categories now so familiar to us all. These groups are closely tied to similar categories throughout the Islamic and Arab worlds; Sunni, Shia, Kurdish, Turcoman, etc.
The Americans who launched the war in Iraq imagined that none of this was real. Believing deeply in a Utopian vision of human social progress and inclined to think that Israel would be benefited by a Middle East no longer obsessed with a view of the world which involved a moiety of Muslims against all others, the American revolutionaries whom we generally call "neocons" openly called and still call for transformative westernization throughout the region. I would include President Bush and Condoleeza Rice in this group. It is unfashionable to call for "westernization" these days, so the rubrics of "democratization" and "globalization" are applied with the result that great and revolutionary outcomes have been expected from constitution writing and elections. These mechanisms of democracy do not yield the results the "neocons" had hoped for because these mechanisms are not transformative. They are merely expressive of what lies within the collective minds of the people voting.
What lies within the psyches of the peoples of Iraq is a belief that their communities are not "Iraq" as President Bush imagines it. He believes that these peoples see themselves as individuals, acting as individuals within the polity of Iraq, but most of them see themselves in far older and more deeply rooted categories.
These categories are now engaged in combat on the dusty plains of Mesopotamia. They are like lions fighting over the "kill" that our intervention has left for them.