radio·free·donia

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Bush and Iraq: Truly and Completely Delusional

Yesterday, in his Saturday radio address, Bush said:
A vital part of our strategy to defeat the terrorists is to help establish a democratic Iraq, which will be a beacon of liberty in the region and an ally in the global war on terror.
It's hard to understate the complete absurdity and preposterousness of the notion that we can enable Iraq to become "a beacon of liberty" anywhere. Puh-leeze.

He went on:
The terrorists understand the threat a democratic Iraq poses to their cause
None. Zip. Nada. To constitute a threat, a prospective event has to be possible.
Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war.
That's just definitions and semantics. The reality is that Sunnis are attacking Shi'ites and vice versa - and in the south, different Shi'ite groups are fighting each other. Call it what you will. How about 'uncivil war'?
They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country.
And when Saddam ruled Iraq, only a small number of Iraqis wanted a Saddamite dictatorship. Yet he killed a lot of people. And over the past few months, far more Iraqis have been killed in this uncivil war than Saddam killed in a typical year.

This has come about after we'd already occupied the country for three years. Under our occupation, the situation in Iraq has gotten steadily worse. A year ago, we were still trying to subdue the Sunni Triangle, albeit with little hope of success. Now we're trying to prevent Baghdad itself from descending into chaos.
Working side-by-side with Iraqi forces, we recently launched a major new campaign to end the security crisis in Baghdad. This operation is still in its early stages, yet the initial results are encouraging.
Early stages?? This operation began on June 14, nearly twelve weeks ago. There's a limit to how long U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces can overconcentrate on Baghdad, even if it were working.
The people of Baghdad are seeing their security forces in the streets, dealing a blow to criminals and terrorists. According to one military report, a Sunni man in a diverse Baghdad neighborhood said this about the Shia soldiers on patrol: "Their image has changed. Now you feel they are there to protect you."
Here's what Riverbend has to say about it:
Residents of Baghdad are systematically being pushed out of the city. Some families are waking up to find a Klashnikov bullet and a letter in an envelope with the words “Leave your area or else.” The culprits behind these attacks and threats are Sadr’s followers- Mahdi Army. It’s general knowledge, although no one dares say it out loud. In the last month we’ve had two different families staying with us in our house, after having to leave their neighborhoods due to death threats and attacks. It’s not just Sunnis- it’s Shia, Arabs, Kurds- most of the middle-class areas are being targeted by militias.

Other areas are being overrun by armed Islamists. The Americans have absolutely no control in these areas. Or maybe they simply don’t want to control the areas because when there’s a clash between Sadr’s militia and another militia in a residential neighborhood, they surround the area and watch things happen.

Since the beginning of July, the men in our area have been patrolling the streets. Some of them patrol the rooftops and others sit quietly by the homemade road blocks we have on the major roads leading into the area. You cannot in any way rely on Americans or the government. You can only hope your family and friends will remain alive- not safe, not secure- just alive. That’s good enough.
Pardon me if I take Riverbend's word over Bush's. She's there, for one thing, and for another, she's been writing about the war from her perspective since it began. She's been writing the truth. Bush wouldn't know the truth if it walked up to him and punched him in the nose.

Back to Bush's words:
If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.
There are certainly a small number of foreign terrorists in Iraq. But the bulk of the fighting is between Iraqi and Iraqi. If we leave, the Sunni insurgency won't follow us home, like a stray cat; it will continue to fight the Shi'ites for dominance in Iraq. Nor will Moqtada al-Sadr's thugs come to America; they'll be too busy alternately combatting the Sunnis and their Shi'ite rivals.

For Bush, it's all about us; for the violent factions in Iraq, it is all about Iraq. Iraqis will be the ones to pay the price if we leave, but they're already paying the price. I'm sympathetic to the argument that we can't just suddenly pull out because things will quickly get worse, but if pulling out means that what would happen in 2008 or 2009 if we stay, will happen in 2007 instead, you'll have to excuse me if I find that less than compelling.

If there's really something we can do to arrest the bleeding, we should do it, but I don't see that anyone has any brilliant ideas as to what that might be. And Bush isn't interested in them anyway, because it would admit that 'victory' is out of reach. And victory, astonishingly enough, is what he's after:
The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq, so America will not leave until victory is achieved.
Anyone who thinks we will achieve anything remotely resembling 'victory' in Iraq is either on some powerful drugs, or is an incredible mixture of dumb and delusional.

Yet this was no offhand remark. He said the exact same thing two days earlier to the American Legion:
The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq. So the United States of America will not leave until victory is achieved.
The night before that (August 30), in Utah:
We will stay the course, we will help this young Iraqi democracy succeed, and victory in Iraq will be a major ideological triumph in the struggle of the 21st century.
And it isn't just Bush. Vice President Cheney, to the VFW on August 28:
We have only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat.
And:
When it comes to our own troop levels, the President will listen to the recommendations of commanders on the ground. And he'll make the call based on what is needed for victory...
They obviously are saying we will emerge victorious from Iraq. Over what? Over whom? How? It hasn't been just about the Sunni insurgency in quite some time now - the Shi'ites are fighting among themselves, and the Kurds are still trying to cleanse Kirkuk. There are at least four sides to this uncivil war at the moment. How does one win 'victory' in such a multidimensional underground conflict? We don't even know where to start. Or if we do, we've certainly done a great job of showing it.

I don't know whether we can do anything to stop the bleeding in Iraq. But I do know that we won't win a 'victory' there. That's not rocket science; even Bush should be able to get his few brain cells around that.

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