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Maelstrom Building
Charley Bravo - 12/21/11

The dissolution of Iraq into chaos, perhaps alongside and in sync with Syria, threatens to plunge the Middle East into a humanitarian and political nightmare. If a fear of this fate conjured prudence for the first Bush Administration in its decision not to advance on Baghdad, serious labours for the sake of a viable government in Iraq seemed oddly absent in the minds of the invaders of 2003. This lapse, more than anything else, best underscores the contempt observers felt upon witnessing George W. Bush's "Mission Accomplished" theatre.

Rather than seriously confront the fears of 1991, the younger Bush went into Iraq stoked with a contempt for nation building. The State Department was marginalized as appointments and duties, ostensibly for the sake of rebuilding Iraq, were made on the basis of loyalty and graft. A government, as in Afghanistan, was allowed to come to be on the basis of religious and ethnic fault lines, motivated seemingly by the dreamy notion that stable democracy is a phenomenon that jumps fully fledged like a rabbit out of history's magic hat.

Once you've suspended everything else, bracketing principle and established international norms which should have prevented war in the first place, forgetting the one thing that might conceivably justify means on the merits of praxis or the shoulders of "can do" indicates an astonishing insobriety. Neocon imagination must reel facing up to the scale of oblivion and naiveté - so much so that the hopeless task of painting Bush as a tragic hero will morph into scapegoating and charges of "ownership".

Yesterday Martin Chulov reported for the Guardian that Sunni leaders warn of sectarian chaos in Iraq all amidst a growing anger at President Nouri al-Maliki and potential competing allegiances to Syrian factions next door.

Sunni disillusionment at the reorientation of power in post-Saddam Iraq was a significant driver of the insurgency that ravaged the [Anbar] province from 2004 to 2007. Since the fall of Saddam's regime, the country's majority Shias had taken a commanding voice in national affairs. With the Allawi alliance there was some chance, albeit a faint one, that Sunnis might reclaim some lost power. Not any more. "That's all finished," said a senior western diplomat in Baghdad.

Jim Muir writing for the BBC on the crisis surrounding Iraq's beleaguered Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi notes:

Barely had the last American soldier stepped across the border into Kuwait than the fragile Iraqi political structure the US military left behind began to fall dangerously apart, as long-standing tensions between Shia and Sunni political leaders came to a head.

The most dramatic symptom of the exploding crisis is the fact that Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician, Tariq al-Hashemi, is effectively a fugitive. While he hides out under Kurdish protection in the north, the entire al-Iraqiyya political bloc to which he belongs has pulled out of both parliament and the cabinet.

The unscripted shockwaves of 2011 with their bright flashes of heroism may soon be a fond memory compared to the maelstrom of 2012. Iraq flying apart into gory throes of defacto partition, Syria unglued, Kurds looking for history's nod - and all around the edges: Turkey flexing new found muscle, Iran scheming as a hedge against constant threat, Gulf States throwing money at the altar of the status quo - and Israel, who can begin to guess any more?  Between official deplorations from the State Department, the US may be relegated to crossing fingers that horrors don't extend to the Afpak region - while news consumers distract themselves with shows geared around the semantics of blame.

Can history surprise us... with something good?

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