I was shocked to find out tonight that the United States was arming Sunni insurgents in Iraq so long as they promise to use them against the bad guys and not us. I was doubly shocked to find out that they've quietly been doing this for the last few months. Not only does the military admit that, they're sure that at least some of the insurgents have participated in attacks against American forces.
I'm going to move past the fact that arming Sunnis is how Republican administrations got us into this mess in the first place during the Reagan administration and come to the following question: Are we really arming insurgents?
I read this piece on Crooks and Liars and was so distraught by this idea that I had to make sure this was the truth. The New York Times, the UK Guardian, The Washington Post. All of these reasonably credible agencies were reporting the same thing.
It would seem that we really are arming insurgents.
U.S. military commanders seem to think that this might work better than training the Iraqi army. That might be true in the short term, but this is inviting both betrayal and more terrorism. Even those on the receiving end of the weapons admit that America isn't the enemy for the time being. It's both al Qaeda and the Shiites.
But what happens if a Civil War breaks out and these weapons, paid for with our tax-dollars, are used in to kill members of competing political and religious lines? What happens when America is the enemy again? What happens if this is all just a front to put more weapons into the hands of al Qaeda? Where does this put our neutrality in efforts to broker any sort of democracy between these varying sects?
And doesn't this appear hypocritical in a time where we're breathing down the necks of half-a-dozen other countries for arming insurgents to be arming insurgents ourselves? It just goes to show how misguided, short-sighted and downright hard-headed the Bush administration is willing to be in order to gain even a small amount of progress in Iraq. Even if it turns against them on a dozen other fronts, a few shallow victories that they might be able to point to because of this strategy will be a major victory for them.
My last question is this: Where is the news media?
When I heard about this, I Googled the keywords to the story and could only find stories about Iran arming the Taliban. Then, I put on MSNBC news for a couple of hours to see if there had been any coverage of it. I saw three different segments on Paris Hilton's stay in jail and a satirical internet music video of a Paris Hilton look-a-like, but nothing about America arming insurgents.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe this has been covered and I was just the last person to find out about it. Somehow I doubt that, though.
And maybe I'm wrong to think that this is as big of a deal as I think it is. Maybe I shouldn't be sick to my stomach with the thought that I live in a country that would arm militias in a civil war conflict. Maybe I should be doing something more pro-active than writing a blog about it. Maybe I should be doing a lot of things...
(Bryan blogs daily at the official blog for "This Divided State".)