Lost in the coverage of the insanity about the budget and deficit ceiling is the ongoing sectarian slaughter and incredible suffering in Iraq. It appears we are trying to wipe our hands and minds clean of Iraq.

The thinking seems to be that, since our military forces withdrew, we have no responsibility for what happens there. This thinking ignores the impact U.S. war crimes had in creating this dire situation.

For example, before the 2003 U.S. attack on Iraq, Arabs living in Iraq considered themselves to be Iraqis, part of a secular society. Religious affiliation was important, but many Shias and Sunnis lived in the same neighborhood and intermarriage was frequent.

However, the U.S. invasion and occupation predictably changed this relationship. In an informative March 2006 article in Foreign Policy in Focus, Stephen Zunes wrote: "In a 1997 paper, prior to becoming major figures in the Bush foreign policy team, David Wurmser, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith predicted that a post-Saddam Iraq would likely be "ripped apart" by sectarianism and other cleavages but called on the United States to 'expedite' such a collapse anyway."


Zunes added: "Much of Iraq's current divisions can be traced to the decision of U.S. occupation authorities immediately following the conquest to abolish the Iraqi army and purge the government bureaucracy — both bastions of secularism — thereby creating a vacuum which was soon filled by sectarian parties and militias. In addition, the U.S. occupation authorities — in an apparent effort of divide-and-rule — encouraged sectarianism by dividing up authority based not on technical skills or ideological affiliation but ethnic and religious identity."

A February 2007 article by Gareth Porter detailed the Bush administration's delusions about how it could use the Shiite militias against the Sunnis. Porter concluded with: "Only in October 2005 ... did the U.S. Embassy began to oppose the Shiite effort to force Sunnis out of the capital. By then it was far too late. The genie of sectarian civil war could not be put back in the bottle."

This past May, a largely ignored Guardian and BBC documentary provided additional horrific details how the U.S. added fuel to the fire of sectarian violence.

Clearly the U.S. lack of concern about the effect of its sanctions and war against Iraq was unconscionable. In addition, U.S. policy played a major role in creating the sectarian violence that continues to devastate Iraq.

The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" column runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.