Saturday, September 08, 2007

Myopia in Washington, D.C.

George Packer, The New Yorker's Iraq war correspondent, has a new piece up called "Planning for Defeat." When you start to read the article, it becomes clear that Packer is trying to convey something more subtle and nuanced with that title than what it usually means in the context of debate in the United States between those who support the war and those who oppose it.

Here is what Packer has to say about the upcoming "assessment and testimony with charts and notes" by Gen. David Petraeus, which the Bush administration has scheduled to take place on Tuesday, September 11, which of course is the fifth anniversary of the murder of 3,000 people in a terrorist attack planned by the still-at-large Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda organization [emphasis mine]:

This week, Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad, and General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, will give their assessment of the surge to Congress—an event that, in Washington, has taken on the aura of a make-or-break moment for the Administration’s policy. But their testimony is likely to be unremarkable. Administration officials, military officers, and members of Congress described their expectations of it in strikingly similar terms, and a few said that they could write it in advance: military progress, a political stalemate among Iraqis, more time needed.

The Petraeus-Crocker testimony is the kind of short-lived event on which the Administration has relied to shore up support for the war: the “Mission Accomplished” declaration, the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein, Saddam’s capture, the transfer of sovereignty, the three rounds of voting, the Plan for Victory, the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Every new milestone, however illusory, allows the Administration to avoid thinking ahead, to the years when the mistakes of Iraq will continue to haunt the U.S.

The media have largely followed the Administration’s myopic approach to the war, and there is likely to be intense coverage of the congressional testimony. But the inadequacy of the surge is already clear, if one honestly assesses the daily lives of Iraqis. Though the streets of Baghdad are marginally less lethal than they were during 2006, sixty thousand Iraqis a month continue to leave their homes, according to the International Organization for Migration, joining the two million who have become refugees and the two million others displaced inside Iraq. The militias, which have become less conspicuous as they wait out the surge, are nevertheless growing in strength. ... In the backstreets, the local markets, the university classrooms, and other realms beyond the reach of American observers or American troops, there is no rule of law, only the rule of the gun. The lives of most Iraqis are dominated by a complex array of militias and criminal gangs that are ruthlessly competing with one another, and whose motives for killing are more often economic or personal than religious or ideological. A recent report by the International Crisis Group urged the American and British governments to acknowledge that their “so-called Iraqi partners, far from building a new state, are tirelessly working to tear it down.”

Of course, those governments -- particularly the American government -- would rather allow that to happen than to acknowledge it is happening. And that is what "Planning for Defeat" means.

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