Iraq’s Curse: A Thirst for Final, Crushing Victory

Edward Wong, writing in the NY Times. Interesting, if depressing, reading.

Listen to Iraqis engaged in the fight, and you realize they are far from exhausted by the war. Many say this is only the beginning.

President Bush, on the other hand, has escalated the American military involvement here on the assumption that the Iraqi factions have tired of armed conflict and are ready to reach a grand accord. Certainly there are Iraqis who have grown weary. But they are not the ones at the country’s helm; many are among some two million who have fled, helping leave the way open for extremists to take control of their homeland.

“One day we’ll find that we’ve returned back to 1917,” said Sheik Muhammad Bakr Khamis al-Suhail, a respected Shiite neighborhood leader in Baghdad, referring to the installation here of a Sunni Arab monarchy by the British after World War I. “The pressure of the Arab countries on the American administration might push the Americans to choose the Sunni Arabs.”

Sitting in the cool recesses of his home, the white-robed sheik said he was a moderate, a supporter of democracy. It is for people like him that the Americans have fought this war. But the solution he proposes is not one the Americans would easily embrace.

“In the history of Iraq, more than 7,000 years, there have always been strong leaders,” he said. “We need strong rulers or dictators like Franco, Hitler, even Mubarak. We need a strong dictator, and a fair one at the same time, to kill all extremists, Sunni and Shiite.”

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