Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Surge Is a Failure, and It's NOT All About Us

"The Surge Worked" is the title of a nauseating editorial by John McCain and Joe Lieberman in the Wall Street Journal. They recite the usual nonsense about our troops "beating back Al Qaeda" and ending the sectarian violence, but what I find most sickening about this piece is how McCain and Lieberman use the failure to meet established goals as evidence of the surge's magnificent success, as well as the reason why the U.S. must stay in Iraq. [All emphasis is mine.]

Whereas, a year ago, al Qaeda in Iraq was entrenched in Anbar province and Baghdad, now the forces of Islamist extremism are facing their single greatest and most humiliating defeat since the loss of Afghanistan in 2001. Thanks to the surge, the Sunni Arabs who once constituted the insurgency's core of support in Iraq have been empowered to rise up against the suicide bombers and fanatics in their midst -- prompting Osama bin Laden to call them "traitors."

As al Qaeda has been beaten back, violence across the country has dropped dramatically. The number of car bombings, sectarian murders and suicide attacks has been slashed. American casualties have also fallen sharply, decreasing in each of the past four months.

These gains are thrilling but not yet permanent. Political progress has been slow. And although al Qaeda and the other extremists in Iraq have been dealt a critical blow, they will strike back at the Iraqi people and us if we give them the chance, as our generals on the ground continue to warn us.

In other words, everything you've just read is a lie. Political progress was the whole point of a "surge" to bring down the killing. Also, as clammyc notes in an excellent analysis at Booman Tribune, the reduction in violence is a failure on its own terms:
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to exactly one year ago and take Bush’s exact words from his speech announcing the escalation:
The most urgent priority for success in Iraq is security, especially in Baghdad. Eighty percent of Iraq's sectarian violence occurs within 30 miles of the capital. This violence is splitting Baghdad into sectarian enclaves, and shaking the confidence of all Iraqis. Only Iraqis can end the sectarian violence and secure their people. And their government has put forward an aggressive plan to do it.
So one goal (or the main military goal) was to get the violence in Baghdad down. By the end of April, violence was still raging in Baghdad, despite this escalation. And while violence in Baghdad decreased by October, it was still raging elsewhere. On top of this, the decrease in violence in Baghdad was due to the fact that Sunnis have been “cleared out” or “cleansed” from most Baghdad neighborhoods.

Even the one measure of reduced sectarian violence in Baghdad is an absolute failure because it comes at the price of the same segregation and sectarian enclaves throughout Baghdad that Bush decried in his speech. But what does that say for the other areas of Iraq?

And another thing: I'm well and truly tired of right-wing warmongers in Congress and their lackeys in the media heaping praise on Gen. Petraeus and American troops for every development in Iraq they can point to as progress, and either ignoring Iraqis themselves or giving them patronizing pats on the head for deciding to work with the "great American troops" -- as here:
First, it is unknown whether the security gains we have achieved with the surge can be sustained -- and deepened -- after we have drawn down to 15 brigades. Until we know with certainty that we can keep al Qaeda on the run with 15 brigades, it would be a mistake to commit ourselves preemptively to a drawdown below that number.

As the surge should have taught us by now, troop numbers matter in Iraq. We should adjust those numbers based on conditions on the ground and the recommendations of our commanders in Iraq -- first and foremost, Gen. Petraeus, who above all others has proven that he knows how to steer this war to a successful outcome.

Every American should feel a debt of gratitude to Gen. Petraeus and the great American troops fighting under him for us. This gratitude is due not simply for the extraordinary progress they have accomplished in Iraq, but for what they have taught us about ourselves.

If the mismanagement of the Iraq war from 2003 to 2006 exposed our government's capacity for incompetence, Gen. Petraeus' leadership this past year, and the conduct of the troops under his command, have reminded us of our capacity for the wisdom, the courage and the leadership that has always rallied our nation to greatness.

As Americans, we have repeatedly done what others said was impossible. Gen. Petraeus and his troops are doing that again in Iraq today.

But how have Americans "done what others said was impossible" in Iraq? By "arming, bribing and paying off former insurgents" to get short-term, temporary reductions in violence so Gen. Petraeus and George W. Bush can look like they're "winning" the war.

Via Booman Tribune, AlterNet's Katie Halper wrote about this back in September when she interviewed Rick Rowley, a filmmaker who produced the video "Uncovering the Truth Behind the Anbar Success Story."
Embedded with the U.S. Army and Iraqi militias, Rowley shows us that the Sunni "freedom fighters" with whom the United States is now allied are not just insurgents who had been killing Americans but war criminals responsible for sectarian cleansing.

Rowley, and his co-producers David Enders and Hiba Dawood, are the only Western journalists to bring a camera into the refugee camp where the displaced Shiites recount being attacked, bombed and driven out by the very tribes Petraeus and Bush are hailing as heroes.

Rowley's report, which includes interviews with candid U.S. soldiers and footage of a military commander handing a Sunni leader a wad of cash, suggests the role of bribery and coercion in building alliances that serve short-term goals in Anbar province, but in the long run deepen a multisided civil war. ...

How can "the security gains we have achieved with the surge ... be sustained and deepened" when the means used to "achieve" those gains are by their very nature unreliable and unstable?

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