I haven't written a ton about Iraq lately, but I've collected a bunch of articles that I thought I'd bullet-point. None of them represent exactly good news.
• First, there's this Spanish version of the Downing Street Memo
, a transcript of a conversation between Bush and then-Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, wherein Bush explained that America would be in Baghdad in March 2003 regardless of a new UN resolution (in fact, he said that the coalition would attack if anyone on the Security Council vetoed the resolution). We all know that war was an inevitability from January 2001, really, strengthened by the attacks on 9/11, but this is just another reminder. Publicly, Bush was saying he hadn't decided to go to war at this time, but it was a foregone conclusion, and obviously so to anyone who was paying attention then. Juan Cole
• Enough with the past, however, the biggest problem facing the future of Iraq is the growing refugee crisis
. We're talking about over four MILLION Iraqis being displaced from their homes, two million of them internally. And only 1,000 have been transferred to the United States. Meanwhile, Iraqi refugees make up 10% of the ENTIRE population of Jordan. This will destabilize the entire Middle East if we fail to act. And right now, we're failing miserably.
• A tale of two national security figures on Gen. Petraeus: chief lickspittle Michael O'Hanlon
defends his college buddy (yeah, they went to graduate school together; somehow that doesn't get disclosed much) and says he is "convinced" that the Pentagon's statistics on Iraq deaths, which contradict Petraeus', are wrong. Meanwhile, Andrew Bacevich
, who has left blood on the battlefields of Iraq in the form of his son, speaks the unspoken truth about the General's testimony.
In testifying before House and Senate committees about the current situation in Iraq, Petraeus told no outright lies. He made no blustery promises about “victory,” a word notably absent from his testimony [...] Yet the essence of his message was this: after four years of futile blundering, the United States has identified the makings of a successful strategy in Iraq. The new doctrine that Petraeus had devised and implemented—the concept of securing the population and thereby fostering conditions conducive to reconstruction and reconciliation—has produced limited but real progress. This gives Petraeus cause for hope that further efforts along these lines may yet enable the United States to create an Iraq that is stable, unified, and not a haven for terrorists. In so many words, Petraeus told Congress that senior U.S. commanders in Iraq had finally found the right roadmap. The way ahead may be long and difficult—indeed, it will be. But Petraeus and his key subordinates know where they are. They know where they need to go. And above all, at long last, they know how to get there.
Critics have questioned the data that Petraeus offered to substantiate his case [...] The critics make a good case. Yet let us ignore them. Let us assume instead that Petraeus genuinely believes that he has broken the code in Iraq and that things are improving. Let’s assume further that he is correct in that assessment.
What then should he have recommended to the Congress and the president? That is, if the commitment of a modest increment of additional forces —the 30,000 troops comprising the surge, now employed in accordance with sound counterinsurgency doctrine —has begun to turn things around, then what should the senior field commander be asking for next?
A single word suffices to answer that question: more. More time. More money. And above all, more troops.
It is one of the oldest principles of generalship: when you find an opportunity, exploit it. Where you gain success, reinforce it. When you have your opponent at a disadvantage, pile on. In a letter to the soldiers serving under his command, released just prior to the congressional hearings, Petraeus asserted that coalition forces had “achieved tactical momentum and wrestled the initiative from our enemies.” Does that reflect his actual view of the situation? If so, then surely the imperative of the moment is to redouble the current level of effort so as to preserve that initiative and to deny the enemy the slightest chance to adjust, adapt, or reconstitute.
Yet Petraeus has chosen to do just the opposite. Based on two or three months of (ostensibly) positive indicators, he has advised the president to ease the pressure, withdrawing the increment of troops that had (purportedly) enabled the coalition to seize the initiative in the first place.
This defies logic. It’s as if two weeks into the Wilderness Campaign, Grant had counseled Lincoln to reduce the size of the Army of the Potomac. Or as if once Allied forces had established the beachhead at Normandy, Eisenhower had started rotating divisions back stateside to ease the strain on the U.S. Army.
Petraeus can't advocate for a maximum effort because the public won't stand for it, but I would also add that it wouldn't appreciably change the situation in Iraq, and would not leave him an "out" to say that the troop levels and lack of American will (the Green Lantern theory of geopolitics) were the eventual causes of failure. But Bacevich is spot-on.
• As for what's actually going on in Iraq, well, it's fun stuff. The Sunnis are waging an assassination campaign
. The US, at the same time, is trying to press its relationship with the Sunnis in al-Anbar by trying to recruit Sunnis into the Iraqi National Police, an effort decried by the leading Shiite bloc
that has since been scrapped. You can look for yourself at this picture from MacLean's
, the Time Magazine of Canada, and read the story about how Bush is reaching out to Saddam's former henchmen; the ruling Shiites understand this as well, and are rebelling against it. The Kurds are still freelancing on their own and intimating that they will break apart as an autonomous state, which the Turks consider a security risk
and a threat. American snipers are being pressed to notch more kills
, a throwback to Vietnam, where body counts stood in for victory. And also, American troops continue to die
• If things were going so well in Iraq, the AP wouldn't have their footage confiscated
by US troops.
Yesterday the AP reported that U.S. troops in Iraq confiscated an AP cameraman's videotape of the aftermath of a Baghdad bombing. A military spokesman, Lt. Colonel Scott Bleichwehl, explained that the troops were enforcing an Iraqi law prohibiting the photographing or videotaping the aftermath of acts of violence. That seemed strange -- U.S. troops enforcing Iraqi law?
So yesterday I asked U.S. military representatives in Baghdad about the confiscation, the alleged law, and the use of U.S. troops as law enforcement for a foreign country. A spokesman replied to me that he knew of no agreement or arrangement "that would compel [U.S. forces] to enforce Iraqi law." A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy declined to comment on the matter at all -- even to confirm the existence of such an Iraqi media law -- and instead referred me back to the military.
The military is being extremely evasive about this. Clearly they're covering their own ass while trying to blame it on an Iraqi law.
Labels: Andrew Bacevich, David Petraeus, George W. Bush, Iraq, Jose Maria Aznar, Kurdistan, Michael O'Hanlon, refugees, Shiites, Sunnis, Turkey