Ritter then details
some of the main fissures, including the illusory “unity” of the Kurds,
which Ritter sees breaking apart as old enmities re-emerge, Turkish
attacks continue and the struggle with the Baghdad government over oil
and territory intensifies. He also identifies “one of the gravest
strategic errors made in a field of grave errors”: the much-ballyhooed
“Awakening” movement, i.e., the American campaign to arm and fund Sunni
extremists. This has been trumpeted everywhere in the American media as
a masterstroke – but Ritter says it is based on an egregiously ignorant
misunderstanding of the true nature of Sunni insurgency which has now
proven to be a more lasting opponent of U.S. military power than the
forces of Nazi Germany or the Confederate Army.

The U.S. military in Iraq has never
fully understood the complex interplay between the Sunni resistance,
al-Qaida in Iraq, and the former government of Saddam Hussein. Saddam
may be dead, but not so his plans for resistance. The massive security
organizations which held sway over Iraq during his rule were never
defeated, and never formally disbanded. The organs of security which
once operated as formal ministries now operate as covert cells,
functioning along internal lines of communication which are virtually
impenetrable by outside forces. These security organs gave birth to
al-Qaida in Iraq, fostered its growth as a proxy, and used it as a
means of sowing chaos and fear among the Iraqi population.

The violence perpetrated by
al-Qaida in Iraq is largely responsible for the inability of the
central government in Baghdad to gain any traction in the form of
unified governance. The inability of the United States to defeat
al-Qaida has destroyed any hope of generating confidence among the
Iraqi population in the possibility of stability emerging from an
ongoing American occupation. But al-Qaida in Iraq is not a physical
entity which the United States can get its hands around, but rather a
giant con game being run by [new Baathist leader] Izzat al-Douri and
the Sunni resistance. Because al-Qaida in Iraq is derived from the
Sunni resistance, it can be defeated only when the Sunni resistance is
defeated. And the greatest con game of them all occurred when the Sunni
resistance manipulated the United States into arming it, training it
and turning it against the forces of al-Qaida, which it controls. Far
from subduing the Sunni resistance by Washington’s political and
military support of the “awakening,” the United States has further
empowered it. It is almost as if we were arming and training the Viet
Cong on the eve of the Tet offensive during the Vietnam War.

Keeping in mind the fact that the
Sunni resistance, led by al-Douri, operates from the shadows, and that
its influence is exerted more indirectly than directly, there are
actual al-Qaida elements in Iraq which operate independently of central
Sunni control, just as there are Sunni tribal elements which freely
joined the “awakening” in an effort to quash the forces of al-Qaida in
Iraq. The diabolical beauty of the Sunni resistance isn’t its ability
to exert direct control over all aspects of the anti-American activity
in Sunni Iraq, but rather to manipulate the overall direction of
activity through indirect means in a manner which achieves its overall
strategic aims….2008 will see the collapse of the Sunni “awakening”
movement, and a return to large-scale anti-American insurgency in
western Iraq….

Ritter also sees a decisive battle
on the Shiite side, between the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr and the
Bush Administration’s favorite Iran-backed violent extremists, the
Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). Here too, the
Sunni insurgency will play a key role, throwing in with Mahdi Army
(much as it did in the national uprising in spring 2004).

Whether one agrees with every
single point of Ritter’s analysis or not (and you should read the whole
thing and decide for yourself), his conclusion is indisputable: the
only sensible American policy is immediate withdrawal from Iraq – and
that is precisely what will not happen, no matter who is elected
president in November:

That the Sunni resistance will
continue to fight an American occupation is a guarantee. That it will
continue to persevere is highly probable. That the United States will
be able to stop it is unlikely. And so, the reality that the only
policy direction worthy of consideration here in the United States
concerning Iraq is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of
American forces continues to hold true. And the fact that this option
is given short shrift by all capable of making or influencing such a
decision guarantees that this bloody war will go on, inconclusively and
incomprehensibly, for many more years. That is the one image in my
crystal ball that emerges in full focus, and which will serve as the
basis of defining a national nightmare for generations to come.

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