The U.S. Senate, along with millions of other Americans, was stunned to learn that the Pentagon is sending 3,700 more troops into Baghdad to beef up security there. Last week, two top U.S. generals explained why: With Shiites and Sunnis killing up to 100 Iraqi civilians each day, Iraq could soon be plunged into a civil war.
"I believe the sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it, in Baghdad in particular," Army Gen. John Abizaid told the senators. "And that if not stopped, it is possible Iraq could move towards civil war."
These were strong and grimly pessimistic words coming from the high commander of U.S. forces in Iraq. After all, the United States did not spill its blood, spend tens of billions of dollars to topple a bloody dictator and put Iraq on the road to democracy just to see the whole effort implode into a civil war.
The day after this dismaying testimony, tens of thousands of Iraqis, the vast majority of them Shiites, rallied in Baghdad's Sadr City slum in support of Hezbollah's terrorist war on Israel, chanting "Death to Israel, death to America," while burning American and Israeli flags.
The scene was obscene, and had many Americans wondering why even one U.S. life was sacrificed for these ingrates.
Well, the answer is Moqtada al-Sadr, the firebrand Shiite cleric who rules Sadr City like a potentate and seeks to expand his influence over the rest of Baghdad and, eventually, all of Iraq. He heads up Iraq's largest independent militia, and is allied with Iran's anti-democratic Shiite mullahs.
Al-Sadr has been the organizing force of Shiite attacks on Sunnis and anti-American demonstrations. He sees himself as Iraq's Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, the charismatic Hezbollah cleric whose private militia is stronger than the Lebanese military. He is the Arab streets' new hero.
The civil war Gen. Abizaid warns about is very likely if al-Sadr's cancerous clout continues to expand, as it almost certainly will unless it's stopped. It's clear what must be done. Those 3,700 extra troops the United States is sending to Baghdad will be wasted if used simply to provide a little more security.
They ought to be used as backup to the democratically elected Iraqi government's military forces, which should be ordered to crush al-Sadr's militia and deal out the same justice to him as is being dealt to Saddam Hussein.
With al-Sadr gone, the likelihood of a civil war is greatly reduced. If he is allowed to fester, the likelihood of civil war grows exponentially. Destroying al-Sadr is a big job to ask of Iraq's military, but if they don't undertake it with U.S. help, then it makes little sense to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. We've provided them the tools to build a peaceful, democratic government, but if they prefer to kill one another instead, then it's time to reconsider the U.S. presence there. We're not there to take sides in a civil war.