02/23/2006 06:15 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Civil War in Iraq: Murtha Told Us So

I was originally going to title this post "Jack Murtha's Crystal Ball." After all, he's been saying for weeks that "Iraq is not about terrorism; it's about civil war" -- and the bloody events of the last two days have proven his assessment all too true.

But Murtha isn't a soothsayer. He's a truthteller. He wasn't reading the political tea leaves, he was reading the facts on the ground (and listening to what his wide range of military sources were telling him).

He was willing to see the inevitable -- unlike far too many of his fellow Democrats who continue to be blinded by the fear of not appearing strong on defense, and unlike President Bush who continues to be blinded by his fanatical belief that we're bringing democracy to Iraq. True, it's Fanatical Belief 4.0, since the earlier versions didn't pan out, but it's a fanatical belief nonetheless.

Mark Twain said: "What gets us into trouble is not what we don't know, it's what we know for sure that just ain't so."

This describes Bush to a T. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he knows for sure that we're bringing democracy to Iraq.

After meeting with his Cabinet today, Bush was asked about "the danger of civil war in Iraq" but refused to even address the notion, insisting "the Iraqi people want to live in a democracy."

But try as the president might, there is no way of avoiding it: bombed out Shiite holy sites, over a hundred Sunnis killed in revenge, including prominent Sunni clerics, armed Shiite militias in the streets, prisoners dragged from jail cells and murdered, more than 90 Sunni mosques attacked. Civil war it is.

And our troops are right in the middle of it. Shiite firebrand Muqtada al-Sadr pointed a rhetorical AK-47 at them, placing some of the blame for the bombing of the Golden Dome shrine on "occupation forces." Shiite leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim also said the U.S. bore some responsibility for the attack. The Association of Muslim Scholars, a hardline Sunni group, blamed America for the worsening conditions in Iraq. And all across the country, tens of thousands of protesters chanted anti-American slogans ("No, no to the occupation!" yelled a group in Baghdad's Sadr City).

By continuing to put our country in a position where those who hate America can tag us as the cause of the sectarian death and destruction rolling across Iraq, the Bush administration has made us less safe here at home and less able to deal with crises around the world. Not only are our troops being placed in the crossfire of a brewing civil war, we're giving the terrorists the greatest recruiting tool they could have dreamed of. As Murtha says, "The war in Iraq is fueling terrorism, not eliminating it."

He also rightly points out that "the ethnic and religious strife in Iraq has been going on, not for decades or centuries, but for millennia." For a taste of this, check out today's New York Times article on the violence, which gives a historical perspective to the attack on the Golden Dome:

"The site has special meaning because 2 of the 12 imams revered by mainstream Shiites are buried there: Ali al-Hadi, who died in A.D. 868 and his son, the 11th imam, Hassan al-Askari. Also, according to legend, the 12th Imam, Muhammad al-Mahdi, known as the Hidden Imam,' was at the site of the shrine before he disappeared.

"These figures resonate with Iraqi Shiites, whose traditions have long been shaped by violence with the rival Sunni sect. At an earlier time of rising tensions, the 10th imam was forced from his home in Medina by the powerful Sunni caliph in Baghdad and was sent to live in Samarra, where he could be kept under closer supervision. Both he and his son were believed to have been poisoned by the caliphate.

"Fearing such persecution, Muhammad al-Mahdi, who was just a child when he became the 12th imam, was hidden away in a cave, where he held forth through intermediaries for about 70 years."

Do we really want American lives lost trying to sort out these ancient hatreds?

Many Democrats who are in favor of withdrawing our troops from Iraq but afraid of getting out in front on the issue had convinced themselves that after small gains were made in the formation of a new Iraqi government, Bush, with an eye on '06, would declare victory and bring the troops home. (I can't even count the number of Hillary supporters who have defended her Bush-like stance on Iraq by telling me, "Why get in the way, they're going to pull out anyway?")

So much for that plan. It's pretty hard to declare victory when you have clerics being kidnapped and murdered while defending their mosques.

The time has come for Democrats to can the excuses and realpolitik maneuvering, and take the lead on getting our troops out of Iraq.

As I've said before, all they need to do it follow Jack Murtha. Today's headlines prove him to be a reliable and trustworthy guide.