Glorious Victory in Iraq
Claims of "progress" in Iraq don't
White House depiction of Iraq
Canaan, special to Fog City Journal
November 27, 2007
Yippee! There's been a downturn in the violence in Iraq. The
surge has been a huge success and Iraq is now a nation of group
hugs, cotton candy, and rainbows.
At least, that's the impression you get from the White House
and a media who's past mistakes should make them one helluva lot
more cautious. In an interview with President Bush, ABC's
Charlie Gibson asked, "You took a lot of doubting and
rather skeptical questions about the surge. I'll give you a chance
to crow. Do you want to say, I told you so?" Bush said he
didn't. George W. Bush is now more circumspect about the Iraq
war than the media.
And he's certainly more cautious than the Boston
Globe's Jeff Jacoby:
With the media at last paying attention to the progress
in Iraq, shouldn't leading Democrats think about doing the same?
Perhaps this would be a good time for Hillary Clinton to express
regret for telling Petraeus that his recent progress report
on Iraq required "a willing suspension of disbelief"
- in effect, calling him a liar. Perhaps Senate majority leader
Harry Reid should admit that he may have been wrong to declare
so emphatically: "This war is lost, and the surge is not
All of the Democratic presidential candidates have been
running on a platform of abandoning Iraq. At the recent debate
in Las Vegas, they refused to relax their embrace of defeat
even when asked about the striking evidence of improvement.
They continued to insist that "the surge is not working"
(Bill Richardson), that "the occupation is fueling the
insurgency" (Dennis Kucinich), and that the "strategy
is failed" and we must "get our troops out" (Barack
Jacoby ends his piece by asking how dems can "be so invested
in defeat that they would abandon even a war that may be winnable?"
and by saying that, with things in Iraq "looking so hopeful,
this is no time to cling to a counsel of despair."
It's a little ironic that Jacoby meant to misuse the word "hopeful,"
but failed. The word he was looking for was something that meant
"improved" -- the word he used means "optimistic."
An optimist and a realist are often two different things and Jacoby's
playing the optimist here.
It takes the Philadelphia
Inquirer's Trudy Rubin to put things in a more realistic
light. "Iraqis I know who fled their homes are still afraid
to go back," she writes. "Violence is down to early-2006
levels -- Before the most horrendous wave of sectarian killings
that followed a bombing by Sunni militants of a holy Shiite shrine.
But car bombs still explode, civilians still die violent deaths,
and some provinces remain troubled."
In other words, things have gone from "violent as all hell"
to "horrendous" and back to "violent as all hell"
again. This isn't a downturn in violence, this is the end of a
spike. It took a "surge" of thousands of troops to return
Iraq to a level of violence that was considered unacceptable in
2006. This is "success" and "progress" only
if you define "success" as a return to a very violent
status quo and "progress" as a step forward after a
To get a snapshot of what Iraq looks like today, we can turn
to yesterday's Reuters'
Factbox for Iraq. Yesterday, a roadside bomb injured six in
Mosul. In Falluja, "Police detained four gunmen after an
attack that wounded a policeman." In Baghdad, a car bomb
killed nine and wounded 30, a roadside bomb wounded two civilians,
and another roadside bomb killed one Iraqi soldier and wounded
six others. Iraq is a violent nation.
In the Democratic
response to Bush's weekend radio address, retired Lt. Gen.
Ricardo Sanchez said, "[In my capacity as former commander
of the Multi-National Force-Iraq], I saw firsthand the consequences
of the administration's failure to devise a strategy for victory
in Iraq that employed, in a coordinated manner, the political,
economic, diplomatic and military power of the United States.
That failure continues today. At its base is the mistaken belief,
despite years of evidence to the contrary, that victory can be
achieved through the application of military power alone."
The problem here is that even if there were progress in the field
in Iraq, there is no progress in the Iraqi government. Nothing
can happen without political progress. "The keys to securing
the future of Iraq are aggressive regional diplomacy, political
reconciliation and economic hope," Sanchez said, "Yet,
as our current commanders in Iraq have recently noted, the improvements
in security produced by the courage and blood of our troops have
not been matched by a willingness on the part of Iraqi leaders
to make the hard choices necessary to bring peace to their country."
And even then, this war continues to be a war in search of a
reason for being. There were no WMD, no ties to terrorism, and
Saddam's dead. In fact, the war has actually been over for quite
a long time. What we're engaged in is an occupation -- we're not
fighting a war anymore, we're some other nation's SWAT team.
And we know that Britain's
military thought invading Iraq would be illegal before the
war, that neocon White Houser Richard
Perle later admitted the war was illegal, and that UN weapons
inspector Hans Blix agreed.
Since when is success a legitimate reason for finishing up a
crime? No one argues that Al Capone's criminal career should've
been excused because he succeeded in becoming the warlord of Chicago.
If our presence in Iraq was illegal before the spike in violence
ended, it continues to be illegal now. "But we're winning!"
is a crappy argument to continue a criminal enterprise.
But, there is no real evidence that we are winning. In fact,
I'll believe that a "win" is even possible when someone
explains to me what a "win" actually is. As it is now,
I don't have any idea -- and neither do the people cheerleading
for the administration. How do you "win" an occupation?
An occupation is an end in itself. The occupation is the win --
not quite what you'd envisioned, is it? What we're hoping for
is some sort of "do-over," so we can get a better win.
It's not going to happen.
The media should approach recent developments in Iraq with the
same skepticism they should've had for neocon claims before the
invasion. The Bush administration should have lost their claim
to the benefit of the doubt a long, long time ago.
Current claims that Iraq is now turning around should be analyzed,
not simply repeated. The media has no business reporting that
Iraq is a nation of group hugs, cotton candy, and rainbows on
the Bush administration's claims that this is so. If I know it
isn't, then why don't they?
Terry Canaan is a former political fundraiser living and writing
in Wisconsin. He publishes the blog "Griper