Four Years Later, 'Mission' in Iraq Is Troubled

An American soldier patrols Baghdad. Credit: ALI YUSSEF/AFP/Getty Images. i i

An American soldier patrols central Baghdad on April 29, 2007. Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty Images
An American soldier patrols Baghdad. Credit: ALI YUSSEF/AFP/Getty Images.

An American soldier patrols central Baghdad on April 29, 2007.

Ali Yussef/AFP/Getty Images

President Bush declared an end to major combat operations in Iraq exactly four years ago, but fighting continues to accelerate there and in Washington.

It's an anniversary that the White House might want to forget, but critics won't.

Chief among them is Congress, which Tuesday sent President Bush a $124.2-billion war-funding bill that calls for troops to begin pulling out in October. The president has said he will veto the bill.

The battle in Iraq during the past four years has been brutal.

Most of Baghdad's residents are still without electricity for much of the day. Drivers still must wait in endless lines for gasoline. Sewage seeps into the streets in many of the city's neighborhoods.

Dozens of bodies arrive in Baghdad's morgue every night – people who were shot in the head and tortured.

Over the years, the city has become a huge fortress, with a patchwork of smaller fortresses.

The so-called Green Zone that houses the Iraqi government and the operations of the U.S. military sports ever higher and thicker layers of protection: bulwarks of dirt-filled barricades, endless snaking coils of razor wire, thousands of 7-ton concrete blast walls.

Neighborhoods across the city are similarly blockaded.

When concrete walls are not available, residents cut down Baghdad's ubiquitous date palm trees, saw them into huge conical sections, and use them to block off streets — at least to block automobiles that all too often carry explosives and the killers intent upon using them.

Bombs go off every day. They are mainly detonated by suicide killers, the insurgency's precision guided weapon.

And the bombs get bigger and bigger. Trucks are loaded with explosives that can take down a bridge. Chlorine-gas trucks have become the insurgents' chemical weapon.

Despite this, residents of Baghdad try to keep up some semblance of everyday life, such as going to work or to school or to the market. Unfortunately, that's where many of the bombs go off, especially in markets or bus stations where people cannot avoid large crowds.

It seems as though nothing can contain the violence. Not military action, not government.

Politicians are not capable of addressing the fundamental issues at the heart of the war – the profound sectarian and ethnic conflicts in Iraq, and how power is to be shared and exercised.

Four years ago, the Sunni insurgency was estimated at 5,000 fighters. It has grown to 25,000.

Four years ago, the Shi-ite militias stood at 5,000. Now there may be as many as 50,000.

The U.S. military force approaches 170,000.

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