Thu 21 Dec 2006
[Pick your triangle and move to square one…]Our self-effusive politicians lie rather than admit mistakes. Our soldiers keep dying and these same politicians talk about sending more into harm’s way in Baghdad. The military death toll is now only 60 off the 3000 mark, one we are sure to reach in early January. Yesterday the Department of Defense released the names of the last nine on this list: they were Joe, Matthew, Henry, Kevin, Nicklas, David, Matthew, Seth and Luke. Tomorrow new names will be added. “Regretable but acceptable,” argue the rhetorical warriors against international terrorism.
It seems like everyday we are back to square one. What do we do now, since just doing nothing does not make matters better? Meanwhile President Bush needs more time to sort out the options, more time to evade the gentle criticism Mr. Baker recently provided to save the younger Bush from further disaster thrust on the country and the world. I suspect that if Mr. Baker knew now how terrible the foreign policy of Bush the Younger would turn out to be, he would not have pushed the chad issue six years ago in Florida to get his friend’s son into the White House in the first place. But all that is oil under the damn fields of Iraq.
The Democratic relief looks no better. The choice of Silvestre Reyes (a Democrat from Texas) to head the House Intelligence Committee is anything but an intelligent choice. In a recent interview with journalist Jeff Stein, as reported again yesterday by Maureen Dowd in her New York Times column, Mr. Reyes thought that Al Qaeda was “Predominantly — probably Shiite.” The incoming chair was also reported to be clueless as to who Hezbollah were. Duh?
Having won the shock-and-awe war against the Taliban and Saddam, the United States military is bogged down in ill-suited police activities and a no-win occupation (is there any occupier that does not say “we are invited”?) with too few troops and pathetic political maneuvering on both sides of the proverbial aisle. Opinion polls indicate that at last a majority of the tuned-out American public is now aware that we need to get out of Iraq and do it soon. But in a Tony Snowjobbed spin climate in which there is no stop for the buck in Truman’s terms and no end to the loss of bucks in real terms, it is hard to be an optimist.
The pundits are having a field day, although the vast majority of those offering advice know so little about Iraq on the ground that we might as well admit we are blind-leading-the-blind-sighted. Take, for example, an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times by Reuel Marc Gerecht, a less-than-jolly fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. As a former CIA officer, he should be in a position to know something when he suggests the following:
No progress can be made in Iraq, however, if the Sunni Arabs, who have regrettably embraced the insurgency and holy war in large numbers, are allowed politically to check counterinsurgency operations.
The key for America is the same as it has been for years: to clear and hold the Sunni areas of Baghdad and the so-called Sunni triangle to the north. There will probably be no political solution among the Iraqi factions to save American troops from the bulk of this task. The sooner we start in Baghdad, the better the odds are that the radicalization of the Iraqi Shiites can be halted. As long as this community doesn’t explode into total militia war, Iraq is not lost, and neither is Mr. Bush’s presidency.
Duh? Perhaps this incredibly naive (to be kind) policy idea suggests why Mr. Gerecht (don’t be fooled by the literal meaning of his German name) is a former CIA officer. The assumption here is that there are two enemies facing the United States in Iraq: insurgent Sunnis and increasingly radicalized Shia (I prefer not use the wasteful term Shiite, unless those who do so are willing to be honest and drop one of the i’s and the final e). The reasoning (straight out of years playing “Risk” no doubt) appears to be that the military needs to pacify Baghdad without being seen as favoring the Sunni over Sadr’s militia so that it does not allow the continued radicalization of the Shia. One jihadist group at a time. Divide before we say we conquered and cut and run. Duh?
The main problem with the scenario is how far removed it is from what Iraqis are actually doing, which is trying to survive the economic chaos and almost total lack of security under unwanted occupation by the world’s only acknowledged superpower. There is no avowedly “Sunni” insurgency. Iraqis all across the spectrum of religious, political and class labels sense an urgency for the occupation of their country to end. It is obvious to all, including poor Mr. Al-Maliki, that the American troops will pull out and probably sooner rather than later. Apart from removing Saddam, a mixed blessing for the vast majority of ordinary Iraqis who enjoyed general security because of his police state, the American presence has been a disaster for all involved. Let’s be honest here: the American presence is in the Green Zone, which is no Bastille when it comes to escaping, and on the well-protected military bases. What Mr. Gerecht sees as a sectarian insurgency is quite simply a jostling for power on all sides given that the Americans will not stay forever and cannot possibly install a sustainable puppet government. It is not about people enaged in holy war, but desperate reaction to an unholy mess.
The blind spot that fuels such scenario plotting is a steadfast reluctance to admit that removing Saddam’s regime from power unilaterally, with no adequate plan for the post-mission-accomplished peace, was a complete and irreversible mistake. Future historians, I suggest, will find this such an obvious conclusion that the Bush-Iraqed War will be fodder for more future Ph.D. theses in history than Napoleon’s Waterloo.
Daniel Martin Varisco
[Also archived on HNN at http://hnn.us/roundup/entries/33245.html.]
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