It's a grim sign of the chaos engulfing Iraq today that trying to save your family can put them in even more danger. That's what happened to Ammar Jawad, a Shi'ite in Baghdad, who this month moved his wife and two children to Balad, an hour's drive north of the violence-racked capital. He figured his family would be safer in Balad, a Shi'ite-majority town--until the war went there too. A week after Jawad's family arrived in Balad, a couple of Sunnis were killed in a suburb. Sunnis in a neighboring town retaliated by killing a dozen Shi'ite laborers. The Shi'ites then called in militias from Baghdad, and they went on a rampage in and around Balad. By the time U.S. troops finally stanched the bloodbath last week, nearly 100 people had died. Now Iraqis like Jawad, whose real name has been changed to protect his identity, are wondering if there's anywhere to go. "Even if I can get them out of Balad, where can I hope to send them next?" he asks. "What is the use in making any plans?"
AUDIO: The Iraqi prime minister has shown once again that he is not willing to crack down seriously on the Shi'ite militias - which means U.S. and Iraqi soldiers are wasting their time and risking their lives
There are no good options left in Iraq. To those who have lived through the daily carnage wrought by organized criminals, sectarian militias and jihadist terrorists, the idea that the U.S. can prevent a full-scale civil war--let alone transform Iraq into a stable democracy--has been dead for months. The main question is, How long will it take for military officials in Iraq and policymakers in Washington to concede that the whole enterprise is closer to failure than success? Midway through what is already one of the deadliest months this year, the U.S. military's spokesman in Baghdad, Major General William B. Caldwell IV, last week called the persistence of sectarian violence in Baghdad "disheartening" and acknowledged that the three-month-old U.S. campaign to take back the city has gone nowhere. That verdict added to rising clamor for an overhaul of the U.S.'s strategy in Iraq. In recent weeks, senior Republicans, like Virginia Senator John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, have said the Bush Administration should insist that the Iraqi government demonstrate progress by the end of the year or face a change of course by the U.S. Foreign policy hands in both parties are hoping that the Iraq Study Group, co-chaired by former Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Lee H. Hamilton, a former Democratic Representative from Indiana, will provide the White House with the political cover to abandon its now quixotic goals of creating democracy in Iraq in favor of a more limited focus on establishing enough stability to allow U.S. troops to leave without catastrophic consequences. "You can't sugarcoat that. The Iraq situation's not winnable in any meaningful sense of the word. What the U.S. needs to do now is look for a way to limit the losses and the costs," Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former member of the Administration's foreign policy team, said last week. The question, Haass added, is "how poorly it's going to end up."