Hard decisions due in ending Iraq War
The weekend killing of Shiites taking part in a religious procession in Baghdad could have been worse than the wholesale panic that actually took place.
The Iraqi government says sectarian violence killed 20 people while U.S. figures put the death toll at five.
Whether it was five or 20, the incident showed again how hapless the government there is in protecting its people.
If the streets of the city hadn't been in lockdown for two days and deserted, more pilgrims would have died. Also, if an extra force of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers had not moved into the city in recent weeks, the outcome may have been worse yet.
Debate in Washington centers on if Iraq is in civil war. With Iraqis killing an estimated 100 of their fellow civilians each day, an average person might think there is more going on there than the so-called war against insurgency.
The weekend pilgrims by the thousands were marching peacefully to the shrine of an 8th century saint, Imam Moussa Kadhim. To get there, they had to march through Sunni neighborhoods.
Whether Sunni snipers viewed the march as provocation or opportunity to pick off more of their rivals, what they did was just another routine day in Iraq.
Officially, civil war isn't taking place because officials think most Iraqis want unification. But that is not happening, which gives the U.S. few practical choices.
The Bush administration can pull U.S. troops out, or it can push for partition. Dividing the country between Sunni, Shiite and Kurds may be the best practical solution as the politicians ponder if Iraq is in civil war or just sliding in that direction.