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our man in Baghdad

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Tuesday ordered the lifting of joint U.S.-Iraqi military checkpoints around the Shiite militant stronghold of Sadr City and other parts of Baghdad — another apparent move to assert his authority with the Americans and appeal to his Shiite support base. - from this news item

This countermands the American directive and the cordon which was intended to help American soldiers find the Iraqi-born translator who may have been kidnapped.

Again and again Maliki has shown an indifference to American desires. He was preparing some months ago to offer amnesty to those “insurgents” who had killed "only" American soldiers, until an outcry in this country forced the Bush Administration to tell him he couldn’t do it. He expects the Americans to fight and die for his regime, a regime like the previous one is prepared to soak the Americans for all they are worth, all the billions they can provide (and how many former high Iraqi officials siphoned off how many billions, paid for by American taxpayers most of whom will never know the high life now to be enjoyed, for the rest of their lives, by those “Iraqi” patriots who made out like gangbusters on American aid, and are now living it up, outside Iraq, or in Europe, possibly attending the same defiles on the Avenue Montaigne as Suha Arafat).

He is not, and cannot be, a “friend of America.” He is willing to endure the American presence only so long as it strengthens him, and weakens the Sunni insurgents. And the Sunnis, in turn, or those not in the immediate “insurgency,” may now want the Americans to stay for the same reasons – in order to protect them from the full force of the Shi’a. That’s it. That the Administration refuses to understand this, and keeps making policy based on hope, and on all the Unrepresentative Men (Chalabi, Allawi, Makiya, and the tiny group of semi-decent mid-level former Iraqi officers who have unduly impressed American officers, and thus lead them to all kinds of rosy misconceptions and hopes, but are in fact the rare exceptions, not the rule) that were in exile, or have tried with this or that group of soldiers or policemento do the impossible in Iraq, which is to make them drop their sectarian and ethnic and even tribal allegiances. Simply cannot be done.

Why is this hard to understand? What is so complicated about it?

Why is Maliki, why are any Iraqis, allowed to interfere with American military decisions undertaken to protect or recover its soldiers? Why, for that matter, did Bush ever say that "we will leave" when "the Iraqis" tell us "they are ready to have us leave." When, in the history of the American government, did a President say that "we will leave when the locals are good and ready to have us leave." An incredible attitude, a complete abdication of responsibilty. And if it not the "Iraqis" then it is "the generals" who will tell me about what tactics to employ.

But what if it is not the "tactics" that concern the generals, but the strategy? What if "the genrals" wish to tell Bush the one thing he will not let them tell him -- that he has the wrong policy in Iraq, that we should be exploiting these ethnic and sectarian tensions, not trying to end them. Of course they won't. They haven't been permitted to think for themselves in this area, haven't allowed themselves to learn about Islam and to realize that the "war on terror" is a dangerous misnomer, or to think about the other instruments of war -- propaganda, counter-Da'wa, stopping the demograpohic conquest of the countries of the Western alliance, of NATO -- no, this one cannot expect of them. But one can expect that the way in which Bush has palmed off responsibilities on both the Iraqis and on the American generals, but not permitted any questioning by the latter of his policy, permitting only advice on the tactics by which his stated aims (that "victory" we hear so much about, that damned "victory" in the "war on terror"), ludicrous and self-defeating and wasteful and impossible of achievement as they are, are supposed to be attained.

A nightmare.