Whom Are We Fighting? To Whom Are We Losing?

The new lie being foisted by an increasingly desperate Bush administration is that our main enemy in Iraq is al Qaeda. They must know this isn't true. In so far as it is true, the source of the problem lies in Saudi Arabia, a country the Bush administration seems unable to confront. The truth is much more complicated. Today's WaPo piece on the Mahdi Army reveals more of it:

The brazen attacks on U.S. soldiers also appear to challenge the idea that the Mahdi Army has been lying low to avoid confrontations with Americans. Street fighting between the Mahdi Army and U.S. forces has also broken out in other parts of the capital recently, including clashes in the al-Amin neighborhood Thursday in which Apache attack helicopters were called in to quell the gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades targeting U.S. troops. The next day, U.S. soldiers killed six Iraqi policemen during a raid in which they captured a police lieutenant believed to be working with Iranian-backed Shiite militias.

American soldiers who oversee West Rashid -- a district of about 700,000 people that includes the al-Amil, Bayaa and al-Jihad neighborhoods -- described an organized, well-financed Shiite enemy that rules ruthlessly and distributes the spoils of war to the area's impoverished residents.

Meanwhile, the one success story in Anbar means that along with sudden calm, we have also made more serious enemies, and our allies are deeply untrustworthy. So we have the following situation, as detailed in the NYT this morning:

Abu Azzam says the 2,300 men in his movement include members of fierce Sunni groups like the 1920s Revolutionary Brigade and the Mujahedeen Army that have fought the American occupation. Now his men patrol alongside the Americans, who want to turn them into a security force that can bring peace to this stretch between Baghdad and Falluja.

A few miles away, in the town of Abu Ghraib, Brig. Gen. Nassir al-Hiti and his brigade of Iraqi Army soldiers also have the support of the American military. But they have a different ambition, some American commanders here say: doing everything they can to undermine Abu Azzam's men, even using a stolen membership list to single them out for wrongful detention.

The truth is: we are fighting, when we are fighting, for factions in a continuing civil war. Every act we take in defense of one faction will make an enemy of another. There is no neutral entity. The Iraqi government is a tool of the Shiite militias. So we are sending young Americans to die for Sunni tribalism, or Shiite triumphalism, or Bush's face. It is a mug's game. Either the president is too stupid to understand this, or he is lying and spinning at the expense of soldiers' lives to escape the consequences of his own misjudgments.