He describes the plight of his Iraqi driver, Bassim, with whom he shared what must have been a truly bonding experience as they awaited execution at the hands of the Shia Medhi army. Bassim's story of increasing fear and struggle and attempts to escape, echoes that of Riverbend (2). She managed to escape as far as Syria, at least, whereas Bassim gambled everything on a hopless attempt to reach Sweden, only to end up in Baghdad. As Cockburn points out, there are a staggerring 3.2 million refugees in Syria, Jordan and inside Iraq (3). That's the overwhelming majority of the population of New Zealand - and that figure doesn't include those refugees in other territories.
Looking at the bigger picture, Cockburn suggests that
The "surge" – the 30,000 extra US troops implementing a new security plan in Baghdad – has helped to make Baghdad safer. In effect, they have frozen into place the Shia victory of 2006. The city is broken up into enclaves sealed off by concrete walls with only one entrance and exit. (4)Does this sound familiar?
The surge - effectively garrisoning Baghdad with a sensible number of troops instead of the risible initial force - has stabalised an intolerable situation, but it isn't making things better. The Bushg administration hasn't any ideas to - and I suspect isn't interested in - resolving the underlying problems. They want a quick fix that they can call soem sort of a victory so they can cut and run. When they go, they'll leave the Sunni enclaves surrounded by hostile populations of Shias.
It isn't pessimistic to predict what will happen when troops are pulled out - the forces barely contained at the moment will erupt, and the result will be atrocities on an unimaginable scale.
For the record, Iraq Body Counts states the number of confirmed Iraqi deaths at between 81,268 – 88,719 as of today, the 16th of February, 2008 (5).
1 - 'Is the US really bringing stability to Baghdad?' by Patrick Cockburn, published in The Independent, 15th of February,
2 - Baghdad Burning, http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/, has been silent since 22nd of October, 2007.
3 - Cockburn, Op. Cit.
4 - Ibid.
5 - As per Iraq Body Count, viewed 16th of February, 2008. (http://www.iraqbodycount.org/database/)