Archive for the ‘Iraq News’ Category

The Straight Sell Wouldn’t Have Gone Over Well

June 23rd, 2014 1 comment

So, in 2003, if Bush and Cheney had approached the American people and given a truthful summing up of what they wanted to do?

“Look, folks, we know that there is no link between Iraq and the terrorists who were behind 9/11—in fact, we’re fully aware that Iraq has been hostile to them and other terrorist groups—and we’re pretty sure that Hussein is not really a threat to anybody, and might even be preferable to the alternative, holding the unstable religious and ethnic groups in check. However, we really want to invade this country because we have this vision of American dominance, spreading our moral values in the Middle East, and, let’s face it, it would be really great to control the flow of oil in the region. Not to mention the Cold War ended and we need continued justification to finance our military spending.

”For the Iraq War alone, it will cost at the very least about $16,000 per U.S. household over the next decade—we’ll be billing you in advance—and about four and a half thousand U.S. soldiers will die over the same period of time. An additional 32,000 soldiers will be wounded, many of them permanently so. That cost, by the way, is only the direct cost; there will be a lot more to pay in many other ways, and a lot more soldiers will die indirectly as a result of the war. There will be a tremendous psychological burden on countless thousands of troops, and the cost and resources needed to treat them will pile up over the decades—if we feel like seeing to those obligations, that is.

“And let’s be frank here: this is a quagmire. We will either have to stay in Iraq indefinitely, or resign ourselves to the fact that, once we leave, the country will break down into fundamentalist-led chaos which will only create more problems than we have there now.

”So, how about it, folks? Each American household pays $1600 a year for ten years, for starters. About 4500 troops will be killed, 32,000 wounded, countless more disabled or traumatized, and, well, let’s face it, our good name and influence around the world more than a little battered. In return, we’ll kill Saddam Hussein and tens of thousands of Iraqis, we’ll try but ultimately fail to spread our moral and political values, and we’ll be able to control, for as long as we stay there, the flow of oil.

“What do you say?”

It’s not really a mystery as to why they lied to get us into Iraq, when you think about it.

Remember what they were selling? They said that Hussein was a ruthless dictator, which was true enough. But then they also said that Hussein was building a nuke and had vast stores of other WMD, had ties to terrorists and would shortly be giving the nukes and other WMD to al Qaeda which would lay waste to America. (Remember Bush’s “mushroom cloud over an American city” in his State of the Union speech?) They claimed that the estimates of $50 billion in costs were probably too high, that Iraq would pay for it in oil revenues. They said the whole enterprise would be a cakewalk, lasting only a few weeks, and we would be greeted as liberators. They said that the Sunni/Shi’a/Kurd factionalism would not be a problem. They said it would spread peace and Democracy throughout the region. I am not exaggerating; quotes to the exact effect are easily found on video. They then ordered tailor-made fake intel to support their claims, cherry-picked and distorted what was known, and presented it is solid fact.

The only true thing they said was that Hussein was a ruthless dictator (though they exaggerated the hell out of even that). They did not mention that a ruthless dictator was just about all that could keep the artificially-drawn country from falling apart.

And now they claim it’s all Obama’s fault that anything has gone wrong, that we should still be in Iraq. They shift blame by claiming that everyone believed that Hussein had massive stores of WMD, which was not true, and to the extent it was true, it was because they lied to everyone and made so many believe it.

What is happening now was inevitable the moment we toppled the Hussein regime. The only alternative would be paying endless billions to maintain our own ruthless dictatorship in the country with our own troops, our own blood spilled on a regular basis—something the American people would not choose to do.

Blame is easy. We want out, and we want to blame somebody. But the people who are almost wholly to blame are the same ones now granted a TV spotlight to spout their revisionism, when they should righty be in The Hague.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

The False Foil and the Subtle Blame

March 6th, 2013 1 comment

Andrew Sullivan is revisiting his mistaken support for the Iraq War a decade ago:

This month, the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War, I’ve decided to re-publish some of my posts from March 2003. Call it masochism or basic journalistic accountability or the Internet’s revenge. But I was wrong. I was wrong in good faith. But I was wrong.

He is among some right-leaners to outright right-wing war hawks who are looking back. What comes across is not just that they feel they were wrong for the right reasons, but that the anti-war side was hysterical and completely without reason. Ta-Nehisi Coates ruminates:

It seemed, back then, that every “sensible” and “serious” person you knew — left or right — was for the war. And they were all wrong. Never forget that they were all wrong. And never forget that the radicals with their drum circles and their wild hair were right.

But, Coates expresses, not sensibly enough. Rod Dreher concurs:

I covered a big antiwar march in Manhattan in the spring of 2002, and the radicals were a disgusting bunch. “Bush = Hitler” signs, and so forth. As foul as it was, the event was a pleasant thing to see, in a way, because it made me feel more secure in the rightness of the war the US was about to undertake. And it shouldn’t be forgotten in those days that some antiwar people were nasty and hysterical, and impossible to talk to.

For all that … they were right about the only question that counted — Should the US launch a war on Iraq? — and my side was wrong. I was wrong. I had allowed myself to be swayed by emotion, even as I spited the emotional hysteria of the antiwar crowd.

From the linked-to 2003 article:

I’ve tried to think through my pro-war position carefully, and if I’m wrong in my facts or analysis, I want to know. But in my (deeply unpleasant) experience, there’s simply no point in talking to most antiwar people, left and right, because they’re lost in a fever swamp of emotionalism.

If it’s not leftists obsessing about “blood for oil,” corporate plots and Iraqi children, it’s rightists going off about imperialism, Israel and Jewish conspiracies. Now, I don’t think it’s unfair to discuss the role, if any, corporate interests, Israeli government policy, the potential suffering of Iraqi civilians, or a number of other issues have in the development of U.S. policy towards Iraq. It’s just that so many people concerned with these things have given themselves over to the kind of hysteria that makes rational debate impossible.

So I have to wonder: did I sound hysterical back then? Because I wasn’t the only one citing arguments such as my own. The opinions I forwarded were actually fairly prominent in the anti-war crowd.

These apparently repentant former hawks remember things differently, almost using the radical hysteria they cite as an excuse for the wrong decisions they made. They give the clear impression that the anti-war side had no reasonable-sounding arguments.

I still have my original “blog” posts, back before I found Movable Type and WordPress, where I made the pages one by one with a web page editor. I was just so upset about the impending war that I had to express myself.

At the time, I had the motivations for war at least partly incorrect: I felt the major impetus for Bush was to hold on to the fantastic surge in popularity he enjoyed after 9/11, and the resulting political capital it gave him. Bush was unusual because for the most part of his presidency his popularity sank with almost machine-like regularity, buoyed only by major events (9/11, the beginning of the Iraq War, and the capture of Saddam). Driving up popular support and translating that into political capital was indeed one element of the drive for war, but certainly not the main one, which now appears to have been geopolitical, to assert control over a major oil-producing region, as well as dynastic, in the sense that the Cold War was over and the military industry needed new fuel and the pols a new foe.

My main screed against the war was in this post from August 2002, however. So let’s see how hysterical I was.

I was right and wrong on a central issue:

The arguments for getting Saddam out of power are easy: he’s a dangerous madman, and we could overwhelm the Iraqi military. But the question is not should Saddam go, or could we win in a limited conflict: the question is, how can we do this without bringing about catastrophe? Imagine that rats have infested your home. There is no question that they must go; but do you exterminate them by taking a flamethrower to the building? Method is crucial.

I was wrong in that I felt Saddam had to go. He was a tin-pot dictator, and those are a dime a dozen. After the first Gulf War, he was beaten down and contained. His utility in holding the different sects within Iraq relatively stable probably outweighed any risk he presented.

Otherwise, I was very much correct: from the beginning of my writing, I centered in on what would become the central issue of the war: method and management.

I stepped back and made these general points in the argument against going to war:

  • There was not enough international support
  • The cost would be prohibitive
  • We would take a body blow to our reputation
  • We would violate our long-held no-first-strike policy
  • The war could escalate and set fire to the region

I was right on the first one; the “Coalition of the Willing” was a joke. It was the U.S. and the U.K. with a few scattered allies. We denigrated the nations that refused to go along (remember how Congress idiotically banished french fries?), which didn’t help things much.

I was also right on the second one, but to an embarrassingly modest degree. I cited an $80 billion cost.

I was right that it damaged our reputation; though the costs are not outwardly apparent, it’s pretty obvious that while respecting our power, the world has far less respect today for our judgment.

I was right about violating our policies against instigating war… and no one still seems to give a damn. A new age.

I was wrong on the escalation; while the war did inflame Iraq and set off a civil war, it did not come close to the conflagration I warned was likely. Glad to be wrong on that, but was I hysterical on that point? I could probably appear that way, especially if you focused on that and ignored the rest.

The rest included my next series of points, on reasons not to believe the hype:

  • I stated that Cheney was lying about Iraq’s nuclear program and there was no evidence that Iraq was any nuclear threat at all; I noted similar false claims from the first Gulf War.
  • I noted that Bush needed Congressional approval. (They later gave it, making this point moot.)
  • I noted that the claims linking Hussein to terrorists were false.

While the second point became moot, I was perfectly accurate on the first and last. Cheney was lying, and there was no link to al Qaeda.

Finally, I made my closing argument:

And then we come to the end game: what is the exit strategy? How long will it take? How many of our troops will die? How many Iraqis (whom the Bush Jr. administration claims to be acting to benefit) will we end up killing? How long will our troops be there? How deeply will we become involved in rooting out everyone there who violently disagrees with our occupation? And how will the nation-building succeed? What guarantees do we have that the moment we extract ourselves, another Saddam Hussein won’t pop up again and bring us back to square one? As far as I can determine, not a single one of these questions has been answered.

If that’s not enough still, then ask yourself: in the Gulf War, why did we not follow through and get Saddam then? What stopped us? There are many answers to that question, but hardly a one of them is less valid today than it was a decade ago. What stopped us then will not stop us any less today.

Tell me how hysterical I was. How I was not “sensible” or “serious.” How I was incapable of “rational debate.” Go ahead.

I predicted the lack of an exit strategy and asked how long our troops would be there: spot on. The war lasted a decade.

I predicted the toll on the soldiery. 4488 died.

I predicted the cost in civilian lives. The documented number is 110,000 to 120,000, and the real number is likely far higher.

I predicted the futility of nation-building: does anyone feel that Iraq is now rock-solid? It took us a decade to feel confident enough to leave, but we leave hardly confident in the long-term stability of the government.

In short, these two paragraphs, my focus on method, planning, and outcomes, could hardly have been more prescient unless I had somehow magically predicted the specific blunders committed by the Bush administration.

Alas, I then conclude with my three errors: that Bush was only seeking a boost in the polls, that Saddam had to go, and that it could lead to even a nuclear conflict in the Middle East.

Did I, and the many people making similar arguments, sound hysterical? Only if you carefully choose which specific arguments to note, or which voices of protest to even listen to. If you only singled out the easiest points to disagree with, or if you only paid attention to the conspiracy theorists, then you could feel there was a case for how the other side was not reasonable. This, however, is dishonest; the greater part of the movement against the war made sound, salient points, and correctly tried to warn against the grave errors we were about to commit.

There was great doubt about the motives for going to war; that was correct and reasonable. There were many voices doubting the “facts” we were being presented; that was more correct than even we knew at the time. There was the argument that it would cost too much; again, we were more right than we could have guessed. There were concerns about quagmire and drawn-out conflicts; we could not have been more right.

To reduce the anti-war movement from that time to “drum circles with wild hair” who were “nasty and hysterical, and impossible to talk to” is revealing not of the anti-war movement but of the pro-war movement. Even today, when supposedly recalcitrant, they completely omit the presence of rational people, in great numbers, who made sensible arguments that proved true over time, and instead contrast their former positions with the extremists only.

…every “sensible” and “serious” person you knew — left or right — was for the war.

It’s easy to say that when you shallowly dismiss anyone opposed to your point of view as not being sensible or serious, instead lumping them all together with the extremists.

As foul as it was, the event was a pleasant thing to see, in a way, because it made me feel more secure in the rightness of the war the US was about to undertake.

This sums up the righteous smugness of the pro-war crowd: I can dismiss all who disagree with me instead of confronting and answering the grave and serious challenges forwarded by reasonable people.

Yes, there were lots of people shouting “No War for Oil.” You know what? Oil did have something to do with it. Obviously. Yes, there were conspiracy theorists. You know what? They were in the minority.

Sorry, but you can’t be repentant by half-blaming your bad decisions on straw men.

You know what would be a genuine expression of regret? Citing the people that warned correctly, noting how and why you chose to dismiss their arguments, explaining how and why you believed the falsehoods and validated the liars, and making a sincere statement about not dismissing such warnings or believing the hype in the future. Write that essay, and I will feel that you will be less likely to err again in the future.

Instead, these people gloss over the details of their errors and instead continue to focus on how unreasonable the other side was. They admit to gross errors, but remain blind to the mechanism that led to them.

The word “hysteria” is often used to describe the anti-war movement. There was hysteria enough to go around to be sure, but very little was coming from the rational crowd against the war. The real hysteria, one these now-penitent hawks seem still blind to, was the quiet hysteria of fear, pride, and patriotism that allowed them to abandon reason and believe the obvious lies that were being served to them. “Hysteria” is defined as “exaggerated or uncontrollable emotion or excitement” in a group of people. That perfectly describes what drove the pro-war movement.

It’s just that so many people concerned with these things have given themselves over to the kind of hysteria that makes rational debate impossible.

Funny. That was my impression of the pro-war crowd. We were talking about the lack of convincing evidence, while you guys were buying patently false evidence and demanding immediate action; we were talking about how Hussein was not seriously armed while you guys were claiming Hussein obviously had WMD because he threw out the inspectors (which he didn’t); we were asking about cost in dollars and lives while you guys were saying it would be a cakewalk and that Iraqi oil would pay for the negligible bill; we were asking about exit strategies while you guys were glibly insisting that Iraqis would throw flowers at our soldier’s feet.

And, after time has proven us right and you wrong, you have the utter gall to claim that we were emotionally hysterical, impossible to talk to, and incapable of rational debate?

Go frack yourself. You were the hysterical ones—and that was what truly drove us to war. The fear of terrorism after 9/11, and the atmosphere that dominated in which one had to be gung-ho or else you were “not with us” and therefore “against us.”

There were many, many voices of reason who were very much right about the reasons not to go to war. I don’t give a crap about what Clinton said at times. Pols will speak to what’s popular and easy; the politicians were not, for the most part, the heart of the anti-war movement. Nor was the anti-war movement marked by the crazies, rather the crazies were used to denigrate the reasoned and reasonable opposition. We were all treated as blind idiots or dangerous traitors, impossible to reason with.

And even after all that has happened, the people who were so clearly wrong in foresight and in hindsight still make the same false claims about those they disagreed with, still use them as a false foil to assuage their guilt and remorse.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Was It Worth It?

April 11th, 2012 1 comment

Iraq did not have any WMD. It was not really any threat to us, aside from possible oil price fluctuations (which the war has helped cause anyway). So the only real benefit was to take out Saddam Hussein, who was not really much of a threat, and actually had a role in stabilizing a powder keg of a nation. Yep, he was a bloody dictator and probably a pretty damned evil monster, but also not too much better or worse than a lot of other dictators around the world, and in that particular region, who we have not removed.

Even in light of the fact that there were no WMD–the putative core reason for the war–many conservatives still say it was worth it, and they would have done it all over again.

How about the cost? A minimum of $1.9 trillion, roughly $6100 for each individual man, woman and child in the United States. The actual cost is probably going to be higher.

So, was that worth it? Had Bush been honest in 2003 and told you that, just to remove Saddam, that you and every other American would have to chip in $6100 (that’s $24,400 for a family of four, no group discount)–instead of what he did tell us, that Iraqi oil revenues would pay for the “$70 billion” cost–would you have merrily chipped in?

How about if he told you that it would cost an additional 4,800 or more American lives? And that it would kill at least 120,000 Iraqis along the way?

Is that worth removing a single bloody tin-pot dictator?

Would you really do that again?

Categories: Bush and Character, Iraq News Tags:

They’re Not Seeing Us Off As Liberators, Either, It Seems

December 15th, 2008 3 comments

Bush just isn’t getting any breaks on Iraq. Pretty surprising footage, which you’ve probably seen a thousand times already:

From Bloomberg:

In Arab culture, throwing shoes is a grave show of disrespect. “This is the farewell kiss, you dog,” the man shouted in Arabic. …

The shoe-thrower, who was in a group of journalists, was wrestled to the ground and taken away. “This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq,” shouted the man, later identified by the Associated Press as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi- owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.

The guy actually had pretty good aim. Though it’s hard to judge, it seems that he might have hit Bush if Bush hadn’t ducked both times. The shoes might have been a little high, though–like I said, hard to judge.

And yes, it’s just one guy, the other journalists apologized, with all the deaths in Iraq it’s inevitable that at least someone would feel this way, etc. But it’s pretty iconic, don’t you think? If this is the footage that gets remembered when we think back about Iraq, it would be pretty damned appropriate.

It’s also a small peek at authenticity in an arena where little is authentic. Everything about Bush and Iraq that the U.S. can control, especially at high-level events like these, is scripted; for real life to intrude like it did here is worth noting because it’s the only thing you can be sure is true to life instead of being some kind of manufactured political play.



The thing to look for is how the Iraqis in general respond. Will they see this guy as a jerk, or will he become an underground hero? My bet is on the latter, which doesn’t bode well for him–who knows what the people in charge will do with him if they consider him a threat to the manufactured imagery.

If you think that all this not really something that’s important or relevant, remember that pageantry is very important with Bush and Iraq. Remember that other iconic moment, from the beginning of the war, where a crowd of “Iraqis” toppled the statue of Iraq? The scene you see again and again whenever a TV program shows a quick succession of images recalling the Iraq War? That even was a pure fabrication from start to finish, one that the media willingly went along with (and still goes along with today).

I see it as wholly relevant, perhaps definitively so: Bush going out not under the carefully staged guise of a patron statesman seeing off a country he liberated, but as a dirt-low huckster with an angry audience throwing shoes at him.

This is the pageantry Bush deserves, and I’m glad he’s getting it.

Categories: Bush and Character, Iraq News Tags:

The Surge: Why Not See It As It Is?

August 12th, 2008 1 comment

Kevin Drum quotes a general:

The surge did not create the first of the tribal “awakenings,” but it was the catalyst for their expansion and eventual success. The tribal revolt took off after the arrival of reinforcements and as U.S. and Iraqi units fought to make the Iraqi people secure.

Drum then ponders, “I’m not sure why surge supporters seem averse to making this argument directly.” I know why: if the surge were portrayed accurately, then McCain and Bush could not be given credit as smart, forward-thinking planners. That’s their entire angle on the surge: “we were right!”

Only they weren’t. At the time, the surge was a bad idea; had it not been for the fortuitous tribal awakenings and the Mahdi Army cease-fire, the surge would have resulted in very little gain, and maybe would have had a negative effect. But McCain and Bush lucked out–events on the ground which were totally beyond their control made the surge into something that brought a more positive outcome (the true depth and permanence of the positives are still far from a certainty).

This is not the image that McCain wants to project, however–he wants to be the able commander, not Homer Simpson. So the history gets re-written, where McCain takes credit for the awakening, even if he has to completely re-write the definition of what a “surge” is.

Obama Acting Presidential; Media Continues to Cover for Fumbling McCain

July 23rd, 2008 5 comments

Obama is coming across as very presidential and right on all the important issues in Iraq; Bush is now courting Obama’s timeline while pretending not to, as Iraq’s leadership clearly shows preference for Obama’s withdrawal plans–and McCain is left to pretend to a gullible media that he knows better than the Iraqis what it is they want. McCain and Bush are shifting toward Obama’s long-held position that we should shift away from Iraq and toward Afghanistan.

And Obama does an excellent job stating that he is not “ignoring the generals” unless he does exactly what they say; the whole “following the generals” claptrap has always been Bush’s way of borrowing the brass’ credibility because he himself has none, as well as for passing the buck and shifting the blame. “I am following the generals’ advice” has always been an excuse and a dodge, not a virtue. Obama clarifies, saying that its the generals’ job to advise, but it’s the president’s job to see the greater scope of things and make the final decisions (you know, to be a “decider”)–and the generals then implement the strategy the president dictates. That’s how it’s actually supposed to work, not this “how dare you go against the generals” BS.

Meanwhile, McCain, in an interview with CBS News, made a much bigger gaffe than his previous statement suggesting that Iraq and Afghanistan Pakistan share a border. This time, he stated that the Surge™ was responsible for the “Anbar Awakening,” despite the fact that the Anbar Awakening happened four months before the Surge™ was even announced, and even longer before the troops started arriving. But McCain claims that the Anbar Awakening’s debt to the Surge™ is “just a matter of history.”

The cover-up: CBS broadcast the question, but edited out McCain’s gaffe reply (h/t to Tim), instead editing in a different answer to make it look like McCain wasn’t a blundering buffoon. What kind of news agency catches a presidential candidate in a huge, glaring gaffe and then edits it to make it look like he made no gaffe?? And this, the “liberal” CBS?

While we’re talking about the Surge™, let’s note one more time that the Surge’s™ “success” is accidental–they lucked out, big time, as not only the Anbar Awakening softened up the ground, but that the cease-fire called by al Sadr caused the resulting decrease in violence–and the Surge™ simply happened to start at a time when we could take advantage of these independent developments. It’s the classic “Homer” success–you make a move which by all rights should end in disaster, but then fate intervenes to bring you success. The Surge™ was not a success because of McCain’s brilliant planning, he just happened to luck out, big-time, as the confluence of events in Iraq made a bad decision into a good one purely by accident.

Categories: Election 2008, Iraq News Tags:

Not That It Matters

July 23rd, 2008 1 comment

Not only did Maliki endorse Obama’s Iraq strategy if not Obama himself, not only was it not a mistranslation, not only has Maliki been saying the same basic thing for the past two weeks, not only did Maliki and his office repeat the endorsement of Obama’s plan after meeting with the candidate, but aside from all this, it looks like Maliki’s office approved of the original Spiegel interview in the first place, verifying that Spiegel’s translation was perfectly fine.

Not that it matters. The Liberal Media™ have the phoney-baloney “correction” from a Maliki staffer who was pressured by the U.S. into make a statement which, though nebulous, cast even the slightest shred of doubt about Maliki’s endorsement of a withdrawal of US troops by 2010. So, despite the overwhelming evidence that Maliki’s position is in support of Obama, the official view in the US media is that it “could have been” (read: was) a “mistranslation”–and most Americans, if asked, would probably report having received that impression. Which is all McCain needed to defuse what would otherwise have been an unmitigated disaster for his campaign–thanks to the complicity of the US media which, according to McCain, are “favoring” Obama.

Iraqi PM: Obama’s Right, McCain’s Wrong

July 20th, 2008 4 comments

Naturally, this came out in the lefty blogs, and was virtually absent from the MSM sites for several hours:

Iraq Leader Maliki Supports Obama’s Withdrawal Plans

In an interview with SPIEGEL, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Barack Obama’s 16 timeframe for a withdrawal from Iraq is the right one.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki supports US presidential candidate Barack Obama’s plan to withdraw US troops from Iraq within 16 months. When asked in and interview with SPIEGEL when he thinks US troops should leave Iraq, Maliki responded “as soon as possible, as far as we are concerned.” He then continued: “US presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.”

This is a HUGE story; the Bush administration’s own man in charge of Iraq has voiced support for Obama’s plan, repudiating McCain, who said that he would honor Maliki’s wishes were he to ask for a withdrawal:

Well, if that scenario evolves than I think it’s obvious that we would have to leave because — if it was an elected government of Iraq, and we’ve been asked to leave other places in the world.

A McCain spokesman said as much just a few weeks ago:

John McCain has always been clear that American forces operate in Iraq only with the consent of that country’s democratically elected government.

So, that’s that, right? Maliki was elected, he supports Obama’s plan, and as McCain has also said that being on the ground in Iraq is the ultimate credibility, you can’t get much more credible than the Iraqi PM. Right? McCain? McCain?

“His domestic politics require him to be for us getting out,” said a senior McCain campaign official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The military says ‘conditions based’ and Maliki said ‘conditions based’ yesterday in the joint statement with Bush. Regardless, voters care about [the] military, not about Iraqi leaders.”

Ah, I see. He’s just saying it to please the voters, but really he backs McCain, trust us!

Actually, the question here is, where is the MSM? Reluctant to print this breaking story for several hours, their coverage in print has been muted. This is a huge, major, ground-breaking blow to McCain and a big, unambiguous boost for Obama on a topic which is McCain’s strongest area, an area he’s been blasting Obama on relentlessly.

I just watched CNN’s top headlines: not a single mention of Maliki. They mentioned Obama in Afghanistan, but not this story. I also saw the start of their main political show, This Week in Politics, and their top story is the economy, no mention of Iraq. This is rather mind-boggling, even after factoring in the MSM’s willingness to shill for McCain.

Just last night, I was watching the web edition of ABC news, and they were playing the weaselly-worded “Time Horizon” as being a “victory for Bush,” as if it weren’t a plainly obvious and evasive way of saying “timetable” or “time line,” and effectively switching to Obama’s position while trying not to look like it.

And now, reports are coming out saying that Maliki was “misunderstood and mistranslated”; a Maliki spokesman said that Maliki’s statement had not been “as not conveyed accurately regarding the vision of Senator Barack Obama, U.S. presidential candidate, on the timeframe for U.S. forces withdrawal from Iraq,” and gave this incredibly nebulous statement:

Al-Dabbagh explained that Mr. al-Maliki confirmed the existence of an Iraqi vision stems from the reality with regard to Iraq security needs, as the positive developments of the security situation and the improvement witnessed in Iraqi cities makes the subject of U.S. forces’ withdrawal within prospects, horizons and timetables agreed upon and in the light of the continuing positive developments on the ground, and security that came within the Strategic Plan for Cooperation which was laid and developed by Mr. Maliki and President George Bush. The Iraqi government appreciates and values the efforts of all the friends who continue to support and supporting Iraqi security forces.

Al-Dabbagh underscored that the statements made by the head of the ministerial council (Prime Minister al-Maliki) or any of the members of the Iraqi government should not be understood as support to any U.S. presidential candidates.

Hmm… first of all, the source was the U.S. military’s press office, a strange place for the Iraqi PM’s office to release a statement. Second, I don’t see where the mistranslation could occur in a statement like this:

“SPIEGEL: Would you hazard a prediction as to when most of the US troops will finally leave Iraq?

Maliki: As soon as possible, as far as we’re concerned. U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

SPIEGEL: Is this an endorsement for the US presidential election in November? Does Obama, who has no military background, ultimately have a better understanding of Iraq than war hero John McCain?

Maliki: Those who operate on the premise of short time periods in Iraq today are being more realistic. Artificially prolonging the tenure of US troops in Iraq would cause problems. Of course, this is by no means an election endorsement. Who they choose as their president is the Americans’ business. But it’s the business of Iraqis to say what they want. And that’s where the people and the government are in general agreement: The tenure of the coalition troops in Iraq should be limited.”

The spokesman quoted by the U.S. military site did not specify what the specific “mistranslation” error was, and we’ll probably get the direct text in the original language from Spiegel soon enough. At first glance, I would say that this is little more than emergency damage control–get a loyal flunky to make a statement that can then be used to give some sort of credible argument that what happened didn’t actually happen.

It will be interesting to see how this story develops. But one McCain ally seems to have it quintessentially boiled down to just a few words:

Via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, “We’re fucked.”

McCain and the Iraq Statements

June 12th, 2008 Comments off

Recently, McCain said that when U.S. troops come back from Iraq is “not too important.” He was instantly criticized by Democrats; in response, he complained that the criticism ignores the context.

And you know what? McCain is right: his statements were taken out of context.

The catch, for McCain, is that if you look closely enough at the context, you’ll see an even deeper problem. The context is that McCain’s statements about Iraq (including way back to his “hundred years” statement) are based upon the premise that Iraq will very soon become a peaceful place where our soldiers never get attacked or killed. That’s what McCain is talking about when he says that our having soldiers and bases in Iraq will be just like our having soldiers and bases in Japan, Germany, and Korea.

And within that context, you can see why McCain’s latest comment makes sense: if things are peaceful in Iraq, then having troops there will be just another ordinary overseas assignment–whether a soldier gets posted to Baghdad or Yokota simply depends on that soldier’s preference for weather and the occasional venture into trying out the local cuisine.

This, however, is where McCain’s context breaks down: there is no evidence whatsoever that Iraq will become anywhere near so peaceful in the near future. It could happen, but that is so unlikely as to approach absurdity. Yes, last year’s cease fire by the Mahdi Army (and not the Surge™) has allowed for lower casualty rates among our soldiers, which is more than I would have thought possible–few predicted that al Sadr would do such a thing–but even with Iraq’s most important militia leader playing nice, even with things going as well as we can temporarily hope for, we’re still seeing an American soldier killed every day on average. Hoping for violence to completely disappear is almost literally a pipe dream.

But McCain is hoping to rewrite the conventional wisdom by acting as if a peaceful Iraq in the very near future is a foregone conclusion–that’s a big part of what his “2013” speech was about. He’s hoping to take the illusion of a successful Surge™ and ride it to the assumption that we’re winning in Iraq and will soon see it become just another U.S. ally where IEDs, marketplace bombers, and mortar attacks simply do not happen.

And this is where McCain could get into trouble: the pitch just isn’t selling. Most Americans do not make the same assumptions that McCain is making–which is why his “not too important” and “hundred years” comments play so badly.

And McCain has seen this trouble before. If you recall, he dropped into obscurity late last year, and everyone (myself included) figured he was toast. But people seem to have forgotten why that happened. McCain’s campaign plummeted after he made his statement that Iraq was safe enough to walk around its streets completely unarmed and unprotected–and then“proved” his point by visiting Iraq and taking a “stroll” through a marketplace–wearing a bulletproof vest, surrounded by a hundred soldiers, and covered by three Blackhawk helicopters and two Apache gunships. Soon afterward, he became something of a laughingstock.

Iraq is doing better now than it was then, which may have contributed to McCain’s comeback, but it is not doing so well that we can consider it another Japan or Germany. As I see it, McCain’s press to change assumptions about Iraq can have only a few possible outcomes, and none of them are very good for McCain. At best, he’ll get many or most Republican voters to see Iraq as maybe becoming manageable enough to keep our troops there. However, I think it is much more likely that things will continue as they are now: people will not accept McCain’s assumptions, and his statements about Iraq will continue to disconnect with what Americans perceive.

So, when McCain complains that his statements are being taken out of context, he is correct, but it is more his fault than anyone else’s–they’re taken out of context because McCain’s context is so patently absurd that no one will accept it.

Feet on the Ground

May 29th, 2008 Comments off

McCain is now bashing Obama for another stupid reason:

“Sen. Obama has been to Iraq once — a little over two years ago he went and he has never seized the opportunity except in a hearing to meet with Gen. [David] Petraeus,” McCain said at a campaign event in Reno, Nevada. “My friends, this is about leadership and learning.”

Oy. Look, how many times had McCain been to Iraq when he repeatedly confused Sunni and Shiite? How many trips had he already gone on when he claimed you could walk through Baghdad without a security detail or even a flak jacket, or that Petraeus’ vehicle is not armored? Clearly, these trips don’t do McCain much good, unless they serve to correct him from making the most fundamental stupid mistakes. Obama seems to know Sunni from Shiite, and that Iraq is too dangerous to walk through unarmed, and that we need to withdraw, so he doesn’t need to go.

But more to the point: such trips are for show only. They give you the political cache of saying “I’ve been there” and maybe “I’ve got guts,” while not giving you the actual right to claim either bravery or expertise. As one soldier put it last year, these visits only serve to harass the soldiers and distract them from their mission:

Biggest Hassle — High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and “battlefield” tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no effect on their preconceived notions of what’s going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they’ve been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here.

He’s talking about you, McCain!

Obama should either ignore McCain or call him out on this–but unfortunately, it looks like Obama’s going to make a visit there himself, making the less-than-impressive claim that he intended to all along, which at the least is better than accepting McCain’s let-me-show-Iraq-to-you-dummy invitation. But no trip he makes will tell him anything he needs to know. It would be far more instructive for him to quietly meet with groups of veterans and retired generals who served on the ground, know the story, and no longer have to toe the party line that Bush lays down. That would be worth a hundred Iraq trips.

Categories: Election 2008, Iraq News Tags:

Bush’s “Sacrifice”

May 27th, 2008 Comments off

Here’s how Bush wants us to “sacrifice” for the troops in respect to Memorial Day:

This Memorial Day, I ask all Americans to honor the sacrifices of those who have served you and our country. One way to do so is by joining in a moment of remembrance that will be marked across our country at 3:00 p.m. local time. At that moment, Major League Baseball games will pause, the National Memorial Day parade will halt, Amtrak trains will blow their whistles, and buglers in military cemeteries will play Taps. You can participate by placing a flag at a veteran’s grave, taking your family to the battlefields where freedom was defended, or saying a silent prayer for all the Americans who were delivered out of the agony of war to meet their Creator. Their bravery has preserved the country we love so dearly.

Don’t give the soldiers sufficient equipment–not even after five years of war–because that would mean less money for mercenaries and crony-no-bid-contracts. Don’t allow their flag-draped coffins to be shown or their funerals made public, because that would be politically inconvenient. Don’t keep veteran’s hospitals up to spec–in fact, let them deteriorate into hell holes. Lengthen their tours of duty, bring them back again and again with stop-loss. Deny them extra pay or benefits, even take away some. Boost recruitment by lowering education standards and even allow criminals to apply. And for god’s sake, don’t ever give them a decent exit package, like paying for their education in any reasonable way, because in repayment for their war service, we want to lock them into fighting on the battlefields for longer than is humanly possible, as evidenced by the skyrocketing post-service suicide rate amongst veterans.

No, honor them with a moment of silence, a few bands playing, maybe a train whistle here or there. More than they deserve.

This is how George A. W. O. L. Bush “honors” the troops (aside from giving up golf, kind of), with McCain lapping at his heels. Anyone who supports this should be ashamed.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Supporting the Troops Is Apparently a Relative Thing

May 23rd, 2008 Comments off

Everybody believes that the military is relatively right-wing, that conservative values and often Christianity are emphasized. It is likely true, though not having been there, I cannot say–but that tends to be the impression given from a wide variety of sources, with little to refute it.

However, this is not a case of cause-and-effect in terms of policy and legislation, or else the members of the military are masochistic. The Bush administration and the Republican Party, for quite some time now, have treated the soldiery–at the very least–with disregard. Oh, sure, they talk a good game–support the troops, how dare you criticize the troops, and so on–but these statements are generally made in reference to attacks on Bush and Republicans, whereupon they try to make it sound like an attack on them is an attack on the troops. The whole “human shield” strategy of dodging criticism, using the honor and sacrifice of the troops as a means of evading responsibility for malfeasance and incompetence. They love using the troops, not actually supporting them.

It’s not as if they actually care about the troops themselves. I would not go so far as to say they dislike the troops; it is simply that they don’t seem to give a rat’s ass about the troops when it comes to actual, real-life support. I would not suggest that the Bush administration or the Republican Party actively hate soldiers when they decide to arbitrarily lengthen their tours of duty, deny them benefits, scale down pay increases, or generally act in a way that disfavors the troops. I don’t think they do these things because they dislike or disrespect the troops. I think that they simply don’t care one whit, and would just rather spend the money on pet projects instead.

So it is no surprise that the new GI Bill, the one that actually benefits soldiers, is opposed mainly by conservatives and the Bush administration. The bill outlines broad new policies that allow for greater education benefits, not just for members of the active military, but also for those who serve in the National Guard and Reserves but nonetheless serve the same as those in the regular military. It is a promise that anyone who serves, learns. You get an education, an education that will benefit not only the soldier but will continue to benefit the country.

So why are conservatives opposed? Because it’s too generous. Well, after all the effusive praise, and “nothing’s too good for the troops” talk, and the protestations to defends and support the troops at all costs, that sounds a little, well, contradictory. But they insist: be too generous in post-service benefits, and you’ll have trouble with retention, with keeping soldiers in the service.

This attitude has two problems: first, it’s bogus:

The Congressional Budget Office, in its cost analysis, estimated that the benefits would result in a 16 percent drop in re-enlistments, a number opponents have repeatedly cited. But the office also predicted a 16 percent increase in recruitment because of the new benefits.

In short, we’ll get as many new troops as we’ll lose former ones, so it evens out. But the second flaw in the argument against is the attitude of “let’s treat the soldiers like crap when they get out so they’ll never want to leave.” Anyone see a problem with that?

Naturally, John “I’m a War Hero and I Love the Troops” McCain is against it (his response to Obama’s criticism: “you didn’t serve like I did, so shut up!”), as is George W. “I’m a War Hero Even Though I Went AWOL” Bush. McCain is against the bill (he simply didn’t show up for the vote), and Bush promises to veto it. Fortunately, enough Republicans are now so scared of losing their jobs that they crossed party lines (along with a few who actually do respect the troops) and supported the bill, so it has passed with a veto-proof majority.

But it is nice of McCain and Bush to go on the record and state officially that they would sooner short-change the troops than take even the smallest chance of decreasing the amount of cannon fodder they need for their perpetual war in Iraq.

Because, of course, they support the troops so much.

Categories: GOP & The Election, Iraq News Tags:

Experienced Military Veterans to Bush: You Frakked Up the Military, You Idiot

May 12th, 2008 Comments off

During the 2000 election, Bush repeatedly attacked Clinton for cutting military spending and allowing the armed forces to weaken, primarily because of deployments in the Balkans:

“If called on by the commander-in-chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report …, ‘Not ready for duty, sir.’”

But Maj. Thomas Collins, an Army spokesman, told CNN: “All 10 Army divisions are combat-ready, fully able to meet their war-fighting mission.”

The ten divisions included the two that Bush claimed were not ready–a claim clearly recognizable as false, as the two divisions were at that time deployed, therefore obviously ready to report for duty. That didn’t stop Bush, of course. He claimed that the Clinton administration was responsible for the cuts in military spending–ignoring the fact that Bush’s father (with Dick Cheney at his side) started the cuts as part of the post-Cold-War “Peace Dividend,” that Bush 41 cut more funding than Clinton had, and that Clinton was actually reversing the trend of cuts and was starting to increase military spending.

Bush has increased military spending to levels higher than at the end of the Cold War, a tragic irony considering that despite the expenditures, Bush has broken the military and made it less ready to fight a war than it has been since after Vietnam. Clinton’s military was positively buff in comparison.

Today, the U.S. military has been stretched far too thin. Think that’s a convenient liberal myth? Then think again–that’s what “3,400 active and retired officers at the highest levels of command”–that means officers of the rank of Major or higher–said in a recent survey (PDF). 88% reported that the Iraq War has “stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin.” Not just thin, but dangerously thin. 52% of all interviewed said they “strongly agreed” with that assertion.

And that’s not the only opinion they have: 60% say the military is weaker now than it was 5 years ago; the three most important reasons were cited as the pace of troop deployments and rotations, civilian leadership/oversight, and wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, according to 76% of those who thought the military is weaker. Only 2% of the one-quarter minority who thought the military is stronger cited civilian leadership as the reason (53% said it was “personnel with more experience, education, and training”).

80% said it would be unreasonable to expect the U.S. military to successfully wage another major war somewhere else in the world today. 50% said “very unreasonable.” Only 3% said “very reasonable.” So, what was that Bush was saying in 2000 about two of ten divisions reporting “not ready” if called on for duty?

74% said that the Bush administration set unreasonable goals for the military in post-war Iraq. Only 7% approved of using criminal and health waivers to beef up the military–the least-approved of measure, which is exactly what the Bush administration is resorting to now.

52% said that the military is weaker than it was 10 years ago, under Clinton, as opposed to 35% who said it was stronger; this coming from a strongly conservative military community–so much for Bush’s claims. Almost the exact same number–51%–said the military is weaker today than it was in 1993, when Bush 41 handed it over to Clinton. Again, a sharp blow to the idea that Clinton was the one who weakened the military somehow.

After five years and endless reports that our soldiers are not being equipped properly, 45% still report that the administration is still equipping soldiers “inadequately,” as opposed to 34% who said the equipment was “adequate.”

37% said that Iran has gained the greatest strategic advantage from the war in Iraq; China came in second at 22%, and the U.S. third at 19%. Heckuva job, Bushie!

95% of those who responded to the survey had served at least 16 years; 81% had served 21 or more years.

After understanding all of that, consider that John McCain wants to keep our troops in Iraq for another fifty to one hundred years.

Gingrich Slams “Liberal Media” for Reporting News

April 10th, 2008 2 comments

Via Think Progress: The New York Times reported that of the Iraqi troops that went to fight in Basra, fully 1,000 either deserted or refused to fight, including dozens of officers and “at least two senior field commanders.” Newt Gingrich complained angrily to Alan Colmes:

Let me give you an example, Alan, of the stunning bias of the American news media. 15,000 Iraqi troops went in to Basra, 1,000 of them didn’t fight very well. 14,000 of them fought very well and, in fact, were defeating the militias. Guess what the report essentially was in the elite news media? It was the 1,000 that didn’t fight very well. And the 14,000 that were risking their lives on behalf of their own country, without American forces present, didn’t get very much credit.

“Stunning bias,” he says–to report that in its first major test, the Iraqi military suffered a 7% desertion/mutiny rate, including two senior field commanders? Either Newt Gingrich has such low standards and expectations for the Iraqi military that he expects such horrific rates of insubordination to be considered normal, or he’s doing what he does best: playing the “Liberal Media” card to make an embarrassment to the Republican party seem like it’s not nearly as bad as it is. And of course, the latter is true.

This is the essence of the entire “Liberal Media” lie: it is a strategy to change the rules of the game and to call a failure a success by claiming that the referees are playing unfairly. Of course a 7% desertion/mutiny rate is newsworthy; imagine if 7% of U.S. troops did that–it would be considered unthinkable. What if, when the U.S. had about 150,000 troops in Iraq during the surge, about 10,000 of them deserted or refused to do their jobs? Including a few hundred officers and a couple of generals? Could we criticize the press for covering that astounding news, and not instead focusing on the 93% of the soldiers who didn’t desert? Certainly, the Iraqi military is not up to that standard–and that’s precisely the story, that the Iraqi military is not operating up to snuff.

This is bad for Republicans, who have tried to perpetuate the fiction that Iraq is shaping up, that the government is in control, that their military is up to the challenge, that things are progressing so our troops can eventually come home, or at least some of them, and the rest won’t have to take the brunt of the combat in Iraq. News that the Iraqi military, after years of training and building up, still suffers such high desertion rates, belies that fictional portrayal, and makes Republicans who say otherwise look bad. So naturally party hacks like Gingrich have to come forward and make the same old tired claim that it’s not really so bad, it’s just that big, mean liberal media trying to make things look bad.

Remember back in the early days of the war, when Republicans tried the same thing? They protested against the liberally-biased media only focusing on the mass slaughter and deaths of American soldiers, when there were all of those new schools being opened! The irony was that the reporters actually wanted to cover those school openings–but the U.S. military warned them not to, because reports on such events would simply make the facilities a target for militias; otherwise, reporters found that going to such events was far too dangerous for them just in terms of falling prey to violence on the streets. And, as it turns out, such repairs to Iraqi infrastructure were unsuccessful overall–even after the Mahdi Army cease fire, things have continued to get worse and worse for Iraqis.

It is an old standard Republican tactic to claim that the media is slanted, and is only reporting the bad news and not the good. And it is as dishonest a lie now as it ever has been.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Iraq News Tags:

The Media’s Schizophrenic Tapdancing on Surge “Success”

March 25th, 2008 Comments off

Recent news: as civilian violence in Iraq escalates again, the Mahdi Army cease-fire seems on the brink of collapse. But even while the media reports on this and correctly identifies this as a possible end to the relative calm in Iraq this past 6 months, it still stubbornly insists that it would threaten the “success” of the Surge™. Come again? Either the surge was more responsible for the relative calm, or the Mahdi cease-fire did. You can’t have it both ways–but they’re trying to:

Is ‘success’ of U.S. surge in Iraq about to unravel?

BAGHDAD — A cease-fire critical to the improved security situation in Iraq appeared to unravel Monday when a militia loyal to radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al Sadr began shutting down neighborhoods in west Baghdad and issuing demands of the central government.

Simultaneously, in the strategic southern port city of Basra, where Sadr’s Mahdi militia is in control, the Iraqi government launched a crackdown in the face of warnings by Sadr’s followers that they’ll fight government forces if any Sadrists are detained. By 1 a.m. Arab satellite news channels reported clashes between the Mahdi Army and police in Basra.

The freeze on offensive activity by Sadr’s Mahdi Army has been a major factor behind the recent drop in violence in Iraq, and there were fears that the confrontation that’s erupted in Baghdad and Basra could end the lull in attacks, assassinations, kidnappings and bombings.

Now, read that carefully, or go to the web page and read the whole thing. The headline claims that the surge is responsible for the relative calm, but the story clearly lays out that it’s the cease-fire that has done this.

Likely what happened was that the reporter on the ground who knows what’s what in Iraq wrote the story, and then an editor buying into the whole “Surge Success” bamboozle here at home pasted the headline on it, either because he believes it, or because he realizes that since everybody thinks the surge is a success, they’ll be confused if something else is credited.

Either way, Bush gets credit for something that had nothing to do with him. More Liberal Media™ fun!

As for the news itself, it is nothing close to fun, even in the sarcastic sense. This could signal a descent back into pre-cease-fire violence, lessened only by the balkanization of Iraqi sects and the relative lack of people left to violently butcher.

If that happens, what will be said about the surge? That it still worked, but the insurgents spoiled it? I’d say you can always bank on the U.S. media’s schizoid break with the reality of the situation, and that they’ll claim exactly that–despite how meaningless and self-contradictory it is.

Categories: "Liberal" Media, Iraq News Tags:

I’m Pretty Sure that the Dayton Marriot Would Be Glad to Play Host

March 15th, 2008 3 comments

Here is how it is going in Iraq, according to the ‘hero’ general Bush used as the legitimizing front for his “surge” strategy:

Iraqi leaders have failed to take advantage of a reduction in violence to make adequate progress toward resolving their political differences, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said Thursday.

Petraeus, who is preparing to testify to Congress next month on the Iraq war, said in an interview that “no one” in the U.S. and Iraqi governments “feels that there has been sufficient progress by any means in the area of national reconciliation,” or in the provision of basic public services.

Okay, here’s my question: in the whole process of Iraqi national reconciliation, where the hell has Bush been?

As far as I have been able to tell, Bush’s visits to Iraq have been limited to serving up turkey; if there has been much in the way of diplomatic efforts, it has been very low-level and certainly not well-recorded in public. What has come out seems to show that it is more a military operation than a diplomatic one, and there has not been a great effort by the Bush administration to rally for a grand solution.

I am certainly no expert here. I do not know the intricacies involved. But if anything seems clear to even a layman like myself, it is that diplomacy has taken a rather clear back seat to military control. Where the hell is the Iraqi version of the Dayton Accords? Why hasn’t the Bush administration been making a high-level effort to bring the factions to a settlement? Why hasn’t he staged a grand international conference with those leaders brought together to a table, where things could be hammered out under moderation closely monitored and controlled by the best experts on the region? And why didn’t this get started years ago?

Is there some cultural element I’m missing in which Iraqis resent unifying conferences? I am under no illusion that all we have to do is bring them to some city in the midwest and magically everything would get fixed; what I am saying is that I see no effort on the part of this administration to even try to fix things over there at the diplomatic level. Remember how the Iraqi government had to take a two-month break because it was “too hot” in Baghdad? Where was the high-level diplomatic effort then?

Like I said, I’m no expert. Maybe there are really good reasons why the diplomatic approach has not been in high gear for some time now. But the impression I get is that this administration has, quite simply, been jerking off for the past several years. Someone correct me if my impression is off base here.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Enough with the “Surge Worked” Meme

March 3rd, 2008 Comments off

This guy (who Kevin Drum often references) is arguing that the Surge worked because of these numbers:


His case: if those wimps Hillary or Obama had their way and we’d pulled out just before the surge, none of this would have happened.

The problem: like so many others, he completely ignores the Mahdi Army cease-fire. Look at Civilian, Iraq Police/Military, and Coalition deaths where the Mahdi Army cease fire is taken into account:




Statistically speaking, the surge had little or no effect in the time it was working–the drops in casualties came after the Mahdi Army called a cease fire. There were peaks and valleys during the surge, but the lasting decrease in violence came only after the cease fire had begun. And seriously, that explanation makes a hell of a lot more sense. Adding a fractional number of soldiers to the battlefield is far less likely to have made the difference than the insurgents most responsible for violence calling a stop to their attacks. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out.

And Muqtada al-Sadr did not call a cease fire because of the surge, he called it because his army was beginning to factionalize, and he needed the down-time to keep them together under his control. This does not mean that the underlying problem in Iraq has been curbed or is under control, it means that the same groups that caused most of the bloodshed before are marshaling their forces in preparation for a longer, bloodier fight. So you cannot credit the surge for lighting a fire under al-Sadr.

While it is good news that al-Sadr called the cease-fire, it is completely unreasonable to think that it will last forever, or even long enough for the Iraqi government to stabilize.

The unfortunate thing I see is that Iraq-war cheerleaders now have their talking points: the surge worked, and when the Democrats pull out the troops then (a) if there is peace, it’s only because of the surge and George Bush, and (b) if there is war, it’s only because the damn Democrats pulled out like cowards. Never mind that al-Sadr is the one who can make or break this thing and he is not going to be controlled by whatever number of forces we are able to put on the ground.

Long story short: Republicans created this unholy mess and are perfectly poised to claim credit for any victory and blame Democrats for any problems.

In other words, business as usual.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Buying the Meme, Even in the Face of Contradiction?

February 24th, 2008 1 comment

Okay I’ve got a question. Supposedly the drop in violence in Iraq is due to The Surge™. That’s all we’ve been hearing for the past several months, with even many moderates and liberals giving credit to Bush’s strategy for bringing down violence in Iraq.

And yet, in the same media stream, we get news that Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered his Mahdi Army militia to continue a cease-fire for another six months over the six that have already passed. When reporting these stories, the cease-fire is quite correctly credited for the sharp drop in violence, with success in Iraq hinging on al-Sadr’s decision and his ability to make it work.

So here’s the question: if it is so clear that the al-Sadr cease-fire is the reason for the drop in violence in Iraq, why is The Surge™ so universally credited with the same thing elsewhere, when there is no real evidence that it had any real impact? The greater number of troops may have helped after the cease-fire began, but if you look at the numbers, the surge didn’t really show any results–the drop came after the cease-fire.

To me, it comes across as a meme that was conceded to and accepted, like the one that says Republicans are strong on the economy, or that they are better at holding down government spending.

Or am I missing something?

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Things Better in Iraq?

January 29th, 2008 9 comments

Bush is expected to claim credit for the “Surge™” working in Iraq in his SOTU speech tonight. And it certainly looks like it’s working; The surge started in February 2007, and sure enough, by late summer, casualties began to drop. Wow! The “Surge™” worked! Of course, the real measure of success would be for the Iraqi government to take advantage of the drop in violence and make peace, settle things down–and sure enough, recently, a “re-Baathification” law was signed, signaling peace between the factions. Wow! The “Surge™” is a success!

Of course, it’s all BS. The violence in Iraq did not drop because of the surge; it dropped because, in one of the most under-reported news stories (gee, I wonder why) of 2007, Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mehdi Army which is responsible for most of the violence in Iraq, unilaterally declared a six-month cease fire. The reason: so his militia can be prevented from splitting into factions and fighting amongst themselves. It was only after al Sadr’s cease fire that the violence started to drop significantly, and no wonder. The surge was not a factor here.

Moreover, the “de-Baathification” law, which in theory should allow the Baathist Sunnis to rejoin the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, is not what it appears. The law was created and pushed by strongly anti-Baathist Shiites, and the Baathists themselves opposed the law. The reason: the law is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which would actually wind up excluding Baathists, banning them from taking on any real, influential positions.

So Bush is going to step up to the podium tonight and declare that the “Surge™” is a military and political success. However, the drop in violence is due to a temporary cease-fire which ends in about a month, and the political situation in Iraq remains stagnant, if not getting worse.

Update: Case in point: Iraqis can’t even get together on a new flag. Why? It’s de-Baathified.

Categories: Iraq News Tags:

Bush Vetoes Pay Raise for Soldiers, Military Spending in General

December 30th, 2007 2 comments

The Bush administration has been bashing Democrats for holding up military spending, even for small periods of time, or when the military has more than enough money to operate for longer periods of time. Republicans have loaded bills with all manner of unacceptable political poison pills, and then railed at Democrats for not “supporting the troops.” Bush and the GOP have repeatedly and shamelessly held the troops hostage for their low political purposes… and then we get this:

Friday, with no warning, a vacationing Bush announced he will veto a sweeping military policy bill because of an obscure provision that could expose Iraq’s new government to billions of dollars in legal claims dating to Saddam Hussein’s rule.

Regardless of how dishonest or slimy the Republican tactics concerning war spending bills have been, they have made their standards clear. By attacking Democrats for doing this sort of thing, they have made clear that they consider such actions unacceptable. By their standards, what Bush just did is as bad as you can get, no excuses tolerated. By their measure, Bush just attacked the troops and held up the war efforts. By their past claims, Bush has just betrayed the country and helped the terrorists.

What makes it worse is that this veto by Bush will actually hurt soldiers, now. In the past, Republicans claimed that Democratic holdups hurt the military because they denied it funding, saying that troops would stop getting paid or the military couldn’t buy troops armor or equipment–claims that were always clearly false. But this veto by Bush actually will hurt the troops in the near-term: at least one of the measures of the bill was a pay raise for soldiers that would have taken effect January 1st, but will now be delayed by at least two weeks. The bill also provided for veterans’ health care, job protection for family members of wounded soldiers, and provisions to prevent fraud and waste by military contractors.

And for what? To prevent Iraqis who suffered under Saddam Hussein to find recompense. Um, wasn’t the Bush administration supposed to be fighting for those exact people, and for the purpose of making right what happened under Hussein?

Even if conservatives see this reason for vetoing the bill as somehow “necessary,” they can’t have it both ways: either both the Democrats and Bush held up military bills for reasons they saw as being necessary, or both of them attacked the troops and the military and hurt the country.

Not that this will register with the right wing; for Bush and the GOP, there are always excuses, ones which somehow never apply to the Democratic equivalents. Outside of conservative circles, this is known as “hypocrisy.” Within conservatives circles, there is a blindness for that term when applied to conservatives.

Categories: Iraq News, Political Ranting Tags: