For the past several months, even during final exams and preparation for Bosnia, my thoughts have been increasingly pre-occupied with the ghastly humanitarian situation in Iraq. Here in Sarajevo, I’m surrounded by the unsettled ghosts of the past, and the demanding, ever-expanding specter of present atrocities in the country invaded by my country more than four years ago. Last night, I stayed up until 3AM with a Bosnian co-worker, discussing Iraq, intolerance, militarism, genocide, collective responsibility, and the long, hard, uncertain road home from war.

Today, the Iraq spending bill passed, so funding of US military involvement in the war will go on for the time being, but it won’t –and simply can’t– go on forever. Our presence there is the only thing keeping the current Iraqi Government from being overwhelmed by the insurgency. Unless a damn good political compromise is worked out –and perhaps even if it is– the Iraqi Government will face a swift end when American forces leave. However, our presence is exacerbating the sectarian civil war and making the security situation for the vast majority of ordinary Iraqis worse.

The bloodbath will continue with us or without us. Hundreds of thousands of people are already dead, and at least as many will suffer from debilitating physical injuries for the rest of their lives. There is evidence that Iraqi security forces and the insurgents are both using torture on a wide scale. The International Committee of the Red Cross is being denied access to Iraqi prisons, a grim indication of how much the Iraqi Government has to hide. Ethnic cleansing is happening, and the demographics of many parts of the country are already irreversibly altered. Entire minority groups are facing extinction or permanent exile from the lands they have inhabited for thousands of years. The Iraqi refugee crisis is one of the worst in the world, and is threatening to overwhelm neighboring countries.

So, what do we do now? Iraq needs a political solution, a security solution, immediate and massive amounts of humanitarian aid, a long-term reconstruction plan, a plan for bringing the perpetrators of international crimes to justice, and a strategy for achieving some measure of reconciliation, even if in the distant future. But who will foot the bill for the reconstruction? Who will provide security? Even if a political solution manages to lessen the violence taking place in the streets, a peacekeeping force will still be needed for some time after. When the dust settles, and the true extent of the crimes that took place during the war become visible, who will introduce the UNSC resolution to create the International Criminal Tribunal for Iraq –or permit the ICC to begin an investigation?

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