Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Surge buys time, but not victory
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Four and a half years after President Bush declared “Mission
accomplished” in Iraq, victory is again being proclaimed. “The surge is
working” has become the latest catch phrase from chest-pounding
Republican editorialists. Although oddly reluctant actually to pronounce
the name of the mighty warlord Bush, GOP presidential candidates promise
more aggressive prosecution of the war ad infinitum. A front-page stpry
in The New York Times solicitously warns Democrats that by criticizing
the war, “they run the risk that Republicans will use those critiques to
attack the party’s nominee in the election as defeatist and lacking
faith in the American military.” Gosh, you think? For ordinary citizens,
it’s almost as hard recalling previous triumphal moments—the capture of
Saddam Hussein, Iraq’s parliamentary elections, Saddam’s execution,
“Darth” Cheney’s 2005 announcement of the Iraqi insurgency’s “last
throes” —as keeping straight exactly whom we’re fighting, or why. Two
weeks ago, The Washington Post’s respected military correspondent Thomas
Ricks reported that U. S. commanders in Baghdad “now portray the
intransigence of Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government as the key threat
facing the U.S. effort in Iraq, rather than al-Qaeda terrorists, Sunni
insurgents or Iranian backed militias.”

Unless the Baghdad government agrees to share more power with Sunni
rivals soon, Army Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno told Ricks, “We’re going
to have to review our strategy.”

Anonymous State Department officials told Ricks that criticizing the
al-Maliki government was the Pentagon’s way of shifting blame if things
go wrong.

“That’s their out,” one unnamed diplomat said. Indeed, a friend of mine
who saw heavy combat in Saigon during the Tet Offensive sees ominous
parallels between the lionization of Gen. David Petraeus today and
similarly worshipful treatment given Gen. William C. Westmoreland during
the summer of 1968. He fears that U. S. policy-makers have again deluded
themselves about the capacities of friend and foe.

Nobody denies that violent attacks, particularly against U.S. soldiers,
are down across much of Iraq. That’s definitely good news. Exactly how
much and why, however, are more controversial than sloganeering would
have you believe.

The Los Angeles Times reports that U.S. military sources complain that
Iraqi government statistics are totally often nonexistent and always

“That’s the crux of the problem,” said Army Lt. Col. Todd Gesling. “The
Iraqis don’t have a robust culture of reporting things.”

My column on the word “robust,” definitely the Washington cant term of
the decade, will have to wait for another day. Meanwhile, a recent Pew
poll of American reporters in Iraq finds that “[n]early 90 percent of
U.S. journalists in Iraq say much of Baghdad is still too dangerous to
visit.” Many say they think recent news coverage “has painted too rosy a
picture of the conflict.” That could be dismissed as left-wing media
bias if the soldiers didn’t agree.

“It’s never as bad as it was,” one senior officer told the Post, “and
it’s not as good as it’s being reported now.”

Maybe Ricks himself said it best in an online chat with Washington Post
readers. With violence back down to 2005 levels, he wrote, “It’s kind of
like moving from the eighth circle of hell to the fifth.” Where he heard
50 gunshots a day in Baghdad two years ago, it’s down to about ten

But for how long? It’s important to recognize that Petraeus’ “surge”
hasn’t so much defeated insurgents as bought them off with guns and

Operating according to the traditional Arab understanding that “the
enemy of my enemy is my friend,” the U.S. has basically created its own
Sunni and Shiite militias. Upward of 192 “concerned local citizens
groups” have been formed, armed and paid $300 a month to patrol their
own (ethnically cleansed) neighborhoods. On the tacit understanding that
Americans will soon be leaving, U.S. troops largely patrol the
boundaries. In Chicago or LA, we’d call it a protection racket. The
implicit bargain is this: Keep your powder dry and we’ll be gone; then
you can cut each other’s throats if you like. “When the U.S. leaves,
what we’ll have are two armies,” one prominent Shiite politician told
McClatchy newspapers ’ Leila Fadel. “One who’s loyal to the government
and one not loyal.” It’s also traditional in the Middle East that each
group anticipates and fears betrayal by all the others. Many fear that
Iraq could degenerate into a kind of warlord state like Sudan, with
local gangs and tribes ascendant and no central government to speak of.
It’s also true that peace, by whatever means, can grow habitual. For
now, Petraeus’ surge has bought some time. If only somebody in
Washington knew what to do with it.

•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.



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