From Fighting To Building, Says Petraeus

In an end-of-the-year letter to his troops, General Petraeus told them military factors had significantly improved which allows a new focus on nation building. He urged the troops to work on helping Iraqis obtain jobs, revitalize markets, build schools and provide needed services. At present the inhabitants of Baghdad are only obtaining enough electricity 11 hours out of the day which is not sufficient for develop a vibrant economy. Petraeus also believes the United States must urge political reform on the Iraqi government. However, the commander also recognized there are many military problems such as growing militancy in north Iraq as insurgents have left the city of Baghdad to fight elsewhere.

For some unusual reason, Petraeus did not focus on the deteriorating situation in south Iraq where Basra has now virtually become a city controlled by competing militia groups. There is something ironic in this letter. Years ago President Bush and his administration was urged by Middle Eastern experts to focus on political reform and exploring alternative solutions to the wide differences between Sunni and Shiites in Iraq, but these ideas were brushed aside in the euphoria of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. General Petraeus means well, but it doesn’t make sense to ask American troops to deal with political issues, such action depends upon an Iraqi Shiite government which intends to pursue policies that block Sunnis and to maintain control. Frankly, after four years, the reality is that Iraq is still a divided nation which would probably benefit more from a federal structure in which Sunnis govern Sunnis, Shiites govern themselves, and Kurds continue their independent process of governing.

At no place in his letter does General Petraeus deal with the growing loss of power faced by Iraqi women living in a fundamentalist Muslim nation that is the outgrowth of the destruction of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have fled and will probably never return. Secular Iraqis have been crushed by a government which allows fundamentalists to govern and impose their will upon the population. How can American troops deal with such conditions?