There is a very good reason I don’t write about the war as much as I used to. Well, there are actually a couple of reasons.
First, I don’t have much of anything to say. Those of you who have stuck with me on this site know my ambivalence about the current mission; that I have absolutely no faith in the Iraqi government to validate the sacrifices our troops are making by doing the things vitally necessary to create a viable, multi-sectarian Iraqi state. The last time I looked, this is still the goal of the mission in Iraq and the government of Nouri al-Maliki is doing everything it can to help that mission fail. The Shias are in control and have no desire to share power. Thus, every single political benchmark that the Administration has laid out for the Iraqi government to achieve in order to measure success is not being met.
It remains to be seen whether Bush will make good on his promise to the American people that if the Iraqi government failed to achieve the political goals he and Maliki agreed upon in Jordan last year, he would start withdrawing the troops, leaving the Iraqi Prime Minister hanging, hoisted on his own sectarian petard.
Another reason I don’t write about the war is that the commenters on this site are broken records. They say the same things in support or opposition of our efforts time and time again regardless of what I write about. That is why comments have been disabled on this post. I’m sick of hearing for the gazillionth time that Bush is an idiot or I’m an idiot for not supporting everything our President does. Not one iota of originality seeps into the discussion. Not one.
Perhaps this is what the American people are sick of regarding the war. The same arguments made by the same people over and over again about who’s to blame, who supports to the troops, who’s a traitor, who’s an unthinking Bushbot.
Reminds me of the movie Airplane! where people start getting sick then committing suicide listening to Stryker’s hard luck story about “Macho Grande” over and over again.
I’m an enabler, of course. No matter what the news from Baghdad, my analysis remains basically the same. The surge is working in some places, not so well in others. The entire Iraqi government – the cabinet, the legislature, religious leadership – is failing to budge on oil revenue sharing, constitutional changes that have been promised, National Reconciliation, and the rest. The troops continue to perform well. There are signs of hope, signs of despair, and signs that when we leave, all hell will break loose. Iran and Syria are still meddling despite our efforts at “dialogue.” Al-Qaeda still sets off car bombs in Baghdad whenever they wish in order to maximize new coverage. And our western press continues to assist them in that endeavor.
At least this time, there is news to report. The Shia holy shrine at Samarra was bombed. On second thought, that’s not really news. It’s happened before. The same appeals for calm are coming from the same people. And the same kind of retaliation can be expected in the coming days that occurred in February of 2006.
Then there are the Democrats who, in a brazen attempt to practice a little self-fulfilling prophecy, have declared the surge a failure. This on the eve of what apparently will be a massive offensive by American troops against death squads, insurgents and al-Qaeda:
Across the main war zones, American formations bolstered by the troop increase are reaching full operational readiness for what the commanders have described as a summer offensive against Qaeda-linked insurgents and Shiite death squads. But the commanders have spoken of intelligence reports pointing to plans by Al Qaeda for a â€œcatastrophicâ€ attack similar to the one at Samarra last year, setting off a new round of mass sectarian killings, driving a deeper wedge between Sunnis and Shiites and thwarting American hopes for greater stability.
At least the Democrats have been consistent. They’ve done everything possible to undermine the war effort to this point. Why stop now?
The real news is contained in a 46 page report compiled by the Pentagon every quarter about violence in Iraq and political progress by the Iraqi government. It is not the slanted coverage offered by the media. It is not a report written by left wing loons or Democratic defeatists. It is written by the military itself. And it does not paint a pretty picture:
Iraqi leaders have made “little progress” on the overarching political goals that the stepped-up security operations are intended to help advance, the report said, calling reconciliation between Shiite, Kurdish and Sunni factions “a serious unfulfilled objective.” Indeed, “some analysts see a growing fragmentation of Iraq,” it said, noting that 36 percent of Iraqis believe “the Iraqi people would be better off if the country were divided into three or more separate countries.”
The 46-page report, mandated quarterly by Congress, tempers the early optimism about the new strategy voiced by senior U.S. officials. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, for instance, in March described progress in Iraq as “so far, so good.” Instead, it depicts limited gains and setbacks and states that it is too soon to judge whether the new approach is working.
Sectarian killings and attacks—which were spiraling late last year—dropped sharply from February to April, but civilian casualties rose slightly, to more than 100 a day. Despite the early drop in sectarian killings, data from the Baghdad morgue gathered by The Washington Post in May show them returning to pre-”surge” levels last month.
Suicide attacks more than doubled across Iraq—from 26 in January to 58 in April—said the report, which covers the three months from mid-February to mid-May.
Violence fell in Baghdad and Anbar province, where the bulk of the 28,700 more U.S. troops are located, but escalated elsewhere as insurgents and militias regroup in eastern and northern Iraq. In Anbar, attacks dropped by about a third, compared with the previous three months, as Sunni tribes have organized against entrenched fighters from al-Qaeda in Iraq, the report said.
Overall, however, violence “has increased in most provinces, particularly in the outlying areas of Baghdad province and Diyala and Ninewa provinces,” the report said. In Diyala’s restive capital of Baqubah, U.S. and Iraq forces “have been unable to diminish rising sectarian violence contributing to the volatile security situation,” it said.
Not very cheery news. And then there is this about our brave allies, the Iraqi military:
While most Iraqi units are performing “up to expectations,” it said, some Iraqi leaders “bypass the standard chain of command” to issue orders on sectarian grounds. It cited “significant evidence” of attacks on Sunni Arabs by the predominantly Shiite government security forces, which have contributed to the displacement of an estimated 2 million Iraqis from their homes.
Shiite militias, which have engaged in the widespread killing and sectarian removal of Sunni residents in Baghdad, now enjoy wide support in the capital, the report said. “In Baghdad, a majority of residents report that militias act in the best interests of the Iraqi people,” it said, while only 20 percent of respondents polled nationwide shared that view. Maliki’s promises to disarm militias have not produced a concrete plan, the report said.
Mass-casualty attacks on Shiite targets by Sunni insurgents, including the group al-Qaeda in Iraq, have increased Shiite wariness of reconciliation, the report said. “The Shi’a dominated government is vulnerable to pressure from large numbers of economically disadvantaged, marginalized Shi’a” who offer “street-level support” for Shiite militias.
Peachy. Our own military is basically saying that rooting out the death squads and disarming the militias, will involve going in without the support of the street level population of Baghdad. I leave it to your imagination what kind of problems that little bit of information can cause.
Al-Maliki is still frozen like a department store manikin, unwilling or unable to move forward with reforms. The Sunnis see the endgame approaching and are desperate for the Americans to stay or at least give them modern arms in order to stave off an even bigger tragedy than the one occurring now. The Kurds continue to tweak the Turks with PPK attacks across the border, making Ankara do a slow burn over both the attacks and our inability to stop them. And Shias in the south are rapidly starting to choose sides in what promises to be a fight for dominance between Iranian backed militias and equally fanatic SIIC cadres.
And we’re worried if the surge is “working?”
But this is not news. It’s been going on for at least a year and nothing we have done or are doing currently is slowing down the momentum of this bloody country careening toward disaster. Yes, things are that bad in Iraq. Our own military says it. Maybe it’s time for the President of the United States to start saying it and at the same time, tell us what he intends to do to stave off disaster.
I would say to my one note lefty friends that removing the troops is not – repeat, is not – the complete answer to this problem. Of course, if your only goal is to see the United States humiliated in order to validate your worldview and make political hay out of the ensuing tragedy then I can see why you’d support such a position.
And I would also say to my equally boring righty friends that the surge may not be a failure but it is irrelevant when placed alongside everything else that is wrong in Iraq. The time has passed for any efforts of our military to make the difference between success and failure in Iraq. The Iraqis themselves have seen to that.
I am rapidly approaching the point of supporting efforts to somehow contain the conflagration so that it doesn’t spill over and start a general Middle East war. This obviously would require a substantial redeployment of our troops. I would like to see them placed somewhere they could prevent a humanitarian catastrophe involving the Sunnis but that might not be possible. Any way you splice it – with the political will for carrying on as we have virtually gone on the Hill in both parties as well as out in the hinterlands among the American people – we better be prepared for a bloody aftermath in Iraq. And we also better get used to the idea that there’s not too much we can do to stop it.