Juan Cole thinks that the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most respected religious figure in Shi’a Iraq, may be about out of patience with the American occupation. Surely Cole is right that if al-Sistani (and presumably al-Maliki) say “Go,” we have to be gone. For those of us who think that being tied down in a no-win situation in Iraq is about the worst thing that ever happened to American military and diplomatic power, being invited to leave Iraq — and thereby escaping any moral onus for whatever carnage follows our departure — seems like an invitation to awaken from a nightmare.
I just hope the Pentagon has contingency plans for a quick exit: not a battalion a month, taking all our equipment with us, but a “get the troops out PDQ” that takes what’s essential, gives the Iraqis what we want them to have, and trashes the rest. If we have to exit quickly, and if we’re not ready to, we could easily lose as many lives getting out as we have to date.
Of course, if Cole is right, the decision to try to take out the Mahdi Army in Sadr City has to count as one of the dumbest moves ever. What else is new?