It wasn't supposed to be this way. The U.S. and its coalition of the willing invaded Iraq with the justification that it had weapons of mass destruction and Saddam was conspiring with al-Qaeda to use them. The country had to be cleansed of both. But of course there were neither WMDs nor al-Qaeda to be cleansed. So how ironic, and profoundly tragic for the Iraqis, that the country has now become a hotbed of al-Qaeda activity.
Violence in Iraq is growing every year, with 8,868 victims of sectarian killings last year, ninety per cent of them civilians. The violence escalates as the Shia-led government cracks down on Sunnis and the Sunnis respond with revenge attacks against the Shia.
All this is grist to the al-Qaeda mill. According to Iraq Body Count, a British-based NGO, "Al-Qaeda in Iraq has found
fertile ground in all this discontent and has attacked the Iraqi
government … by killing members of its army, its police forces, its
politicians and journalists, as well as its Shia population. The
last six months have seen the massacres of entire families as they sleep
or travel to a holy place."
The Americans and their friends took the lid off the cauldron of sectarian hate and then left. And the prime beneficiary, in a textbook case of unintended consequences, is al-Qaeda.