Who is the Iraqi Army? That seems like a strange question. What do I mean?
The Bush administration claims the Iraqi Army is a unified force of Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds who fight together for the centralized government of Iraq. That's complete nonsense.
In fact, the different divisions of the army are segregated by sect. The so-called Iraqi Army fighting in the south right now is mainly the Badr Corps. This is a rival Shiite militia to Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army.
The Badr Corps is connected to the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council. Don't get freaked out, they're theoretically the good guys. Well, at least they are the largest political party in Iraq and the ones we are supporting. Here's the problem -- they're not the good guys at all. They ran death squads and torture chambers out of the Interior Ministry throughout the period of ethnic cleansing in Iraq.
And get this, out of all the parties in Iraq, the one most closely linked to Iran is -- the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and their militia partners in the Badr Corps.
So, who is the Iraqi Army? The ones fighting Sadr's forces right now is the Badr Corps -- a Shiite militia with closer ties to Iran than Sadr.
Why are we backing the most pro-Iranian group inside Iraq? Two possible choices. 1) We don't know our ass from a hole in the ground in Iraq. 2) We don't really believe Iran is a threat to Iraq (or to us).
I understand that this is confusing to the average American. The only reason I understand it is because the preeminent expert on Iraq, Juan Cole, explained it to me in this interview (it's a little long, but in about twenty minutes Prof. Cole explains exactly who is who in Iraq and why our efforts are insanely counterproductive).
So, I'm not frustrated by the fact that the public isn't up on all this. I'm frustrated that our media hasn't even bothered to try to figure it out (by the way, one easy way would have been to do what we did -- ask Prof. Cole). The press has bought into this fiction that we are fighting against Iranian proxies.
Whenever Bush, Cheney or Petraeus says we are being bombed by Iranian backed militias, the press dutifully writes that down and never really questions it. Has anyone confirmed that Sadr is actually getting help from Iran? More importantly, has anyone looked into where the Badr Corps' sympathies lie? When is the last time you even heard of the Badr Corps in the mainstream press?
Has anyone done an investigation into who's in the Iraqi Army? How does it run? Do the Iraqi troops really fell like a unified force? (The best piece I've seen on it is by Nir Rosen in Rolling Stone and he shows clearly that they are nowhere near unified.) Are the divisions mixed or segregated? Where do the different sects patrol? In their own area or in other areas of Iraq? Who controls the Iraqi Army? And what is their purpose?
If you look into these questions, you'll find that the core of the Iraqi Army is simply another Shiite militia. In essence, we are supporting one Shiite militia over another. Worse yet, we're supporting the militia with more ties to Iran.
If you don't believe me, and for some bizarre reason you don't believe Prof. Cole, then by all means, please investigate and find out what's actually going on. In other words, I am encouraging the press to actually do their job.
Don't get me wrong, it's not like it's easy to do reporting out of Iraq. These folks are literally taking their lives into their hands by doing so. But it's one thing to say the situation is unclear. It's another to parrot government talking points because you don't know any better.
The press keeps talking about how they blew it in the lead up to the war, but then they act like they have learned nothing from their mistakes. One of the principal problems before the war was that the media unquestioningly accepted government suppositions as if they were true -- which is exactly what they're doing now.
These basic questions must be answered: Who are we really fighting? What is their goal? Who is on our side? What is their goal? And, oh yeah, what is our goal? Why are we backing one militia over another and how does that serve American interests? And how is any of this leading to "victory" in Iraq? And the one no one bothers to ask anymore - what the hell does victory in Iraq really mean?