The Baghdad Wall
Perhaps Americans have become numbed to what's happening in Iraq. Certainly the media has been more focused this week on the massacre at Virginia Tech and Alberto Gonzales's testimony in Washington. But under our noses, big and bad things are happening in Iraq — and not just nearly 300 people slaughtered in a single day on Wednesday.
Consider, for instance, the Baghdad Wall:
A U.S. military brigade is constructing a 3-mile-long concrete wall to cut off one of the capital's most restive Sunni Arab districts from the Shiite Muslim neighborhoods that surround it, raising concern about the further Balkanization of Iraq's most populous and violent city.
U.S. commanders in northern Baghdad said the 12-foot-high barrier would make it more difficult for suicide bombers to strike and for death squads and militia fighters from sectarian factions to attack one another and then slip back to their home turf. Construction began April 10 and is expected to be completed by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, this news makes a mockery of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's declaration that Iraqi forces will be in charge of security in all 18 of Iraq's provinces by year's end:
Military planners have abandoned the idea that standing up Iraqi troops will enable American soldiers to start coming home soon and now believe that U.S. troops will have to defeat the insurgents and secure control of troubled provinces.
Training Iraqi troops, which had been the cornerstone of the Bush administration's Iraq policy since 2005, has dropped in priority, officials in Baghdad and Washington said.
No change has been announced, and a Pentagon spokesman, Col. Gary Keck, said training Iraqis remains important. "We are just adding another leg to our mission," Keck said, referring to the greater U.S. role in establishing security that new troops arriving in Iraq will undertake.
But evidence has been building for months that training Iraqi troops is no longer the focus of U.S. policy. Pentagon officials said they know of no new training resources that have been included in U.S. plans to dispatch 28,000 additional troops to Iraq. The officials spoke only on the condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to discuss the policy shift publicly. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made no public mention of training Iraqi troops on Thursday during a visit to Iraq.
For — what, two or three years now? — "Iraqification" has been the stated aim of U.S. policy in Iraq ("We'll stand down when they stand up"), to lull the American public into a sense that even if things were wrong at the moment, they'd turn out OK in the end. After it was plainly evident that "Vietnamization" was no longer working, the policy became one of blaming neighbor countries and bombing them to smithereens. Might history repeat itself? Only this time as farce?