BAIJI, Iraq -- An hour before dawn, the sky still clouded by a dust storm, the soldiers of the Iraqi army's Charlie Company began their mission with a ballad to ousted president Saddam Hussein. "We have lived in humiliation since you left," one sang in Arabic, out of earshot of his U.S. counterparts. "We had hoped to spend our life with you."...One hopes this is a worst case scenario. I wish we had a different president.
...The reconstruction of Iraq's security forces is the prerequisite for an American withdrawal from Iraq. But as the Bush administration extols the continuing progress of the new Iraqi army, the project in Baiji, a desolate oil town at a strategic crossroads in northern Iraq, demonstrates the immense challenges of building an army from scratch in the middle of a bloody insurgency.
Charlie Company disintegrated once after its commander was killed by a car bomb in December. And members of the unit were threatening to quit en masse this week over complaints that ranged from dismal living conditions to insurgent threats. Across a vast cultural divide, language is just one impediment. Young Iraqi soldiers, ill-equipped and drawn from a disenchanted Sunni Arab minority, say they are not even sure what they are fighting for. They complain bitterly that their American mentors don't respect them.
In fact, the Americans don't: Frustrated U.S. soldiers question the Iraqis' courage, discipline and dedication and wonder whether they will ever be able to fight on their own, much less reach the U.S. military's goal of operating independently by the fall.
Last week, U.S soldiers from 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, and Iraqis from 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, clambered into their vehicles to patrol the streets of Baiji. The Americans drove fully enclosed armored Humvees, the Iraqis open-backed Humvees with benches, the sides of which were protected by plating the equivalent of a flak jacket. The Americans were part of 1st Battalion, 103rd Armor Regiment of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
As an American reporter climbed in with the Iraqis, the U.S. soldiers watched in bemused horror.
"You might be riding home alone," one soldier said to the other reporter.
"Is he riding in the back of that?" asked another. "I'll be over here praying."
Is the least terrible option to configure the situation for the quickest possible civil war with the lowest number of casualties and the least objectionable tyrant victor for each partitioned nation, then abandon ship? Impeaching Bush would be nice, but unlikely.
Oh, and offer refugee status to any Iraqi that had anything to do with the US.