Are We Closer to “Victory”?
McCain’s remedy is more destruction
Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the American forces in Iraq,
is more candid than his publicity agents. Unlike the senators and
editorial writers who claim that the glorious “surge” should be hailed
as one of the most successful military campaigns in history, he warns
that the escalation’s achievements are mixed at best—or, as he put it,
progress on the ground is “uneven,” “fragile and reversible,” with
“innumerable challenges” remaining to be addressed.
His caveats cannot dampen the enthusiasm of the politicians and pundits who would maintain the occupation of Iraq and even expand our aggressive presence in the Middle East. Selling that policy requires propaganda proving that the surge is succeeding and that if we only stay long enough, spend enough money and sacrifice enough young men and women, then someday we will achieve a great victory. “We are closer,” says the general, carefully.
Yes, everything is getting better and better every day in Iraq—and it will always be getting better and better, even if we have to stay for a hundred or a thousand years. To promote these illusions, John McCain and his sidekicks, Lindsay Graham and Joe Lieberman, repeatedly cite statistics showing that violence has fallen since last summer, a trend that was real, while neglecting to mention the ominous recent toll, which is equally real. Both American and Iraqi casualties have been rising since the low point in December 2007 and with greater velocity over the past several weeks. A dozen American troops died within the few days before Gen. Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared on Capitol Hill to report, an average that harks back to the war’s most lethal months.
The worsening casualties reflect
the Iraqi government’s blundering assault on the militias and
strongholds of Moktada al-Sadr, which exposed its own military
deficiencies just in time for the Petraeus-Crocker show. To Sen. McCain
and his cohort, the aborted battle of Basra showed the “progress made
by the Iraqi security forces,” as he wrote in the rightwing weekly Human Events, blithely ignoring mass desertions by thousands of Iraqi officers and troops.
With that kind of progress, victory must be only decades away.
Daily Life Is Hellish
Meanwhile, the lives of ordinary Iraqis are hellish, despite the billions of dollars flowing into the government treasury every day from rising oil revenues. Despite the enormous budget surplus enjoyed by the government of Prime Minister Nouri al- Maliki, the United Nations humanitarian agency recently reported that between 4% and 9% of Iraqi children under 5 suffer from malnutrition.
More than five years after the invasion, most Iraqis still have no reliable electricity, medical care, employment or even clean water. Yet, columnist David Brooks of The New York Times eagerly tells us that the Iraqi people are more optimistic than they were last year, quoting an ABC News poll conducted in March. And nearly half say the United States was right to overthrow Saddam, he announced with an air of triumph. He omits the less comforting findings of that poll, which showed that 42% of Iraqis still also consider it “acceptable” to attack American troops, 61% believe the presence of our troops is making security worse rather than better and only 26% support the occupation.
What the ABC News survey actually reveals is that Iraqis remain profoundly divided along sectarian and ethnic lines. Despite the “awakening” of tribal opposition to Al Qaeda among the Sunni, for example, they remain extremely hostile to the United States and the Shia-dominated government—as do the Shia masses loyal to the Sadrist movement.
Those persistent divisions—and the irresistible
impulse of every faction to manipulate us to their advantage— have
blocked the political reconciliation that was supposed to be the
ultimate objective of the surge. Sens. Lieberman and Graham
praise “benchmark legislation” passed by the Iraqi parliament on
amnesty, provincial elections and other issues. But a recent report
issued by the United States
Institute of Peace, an official nonpartisan institution funded by
Congress, disparaged the supposed advances by the Iraqi government,
which it described as “tactical horse-trading’’ designed to acknowledge
those benchmarks as minimally as possible.
The proponents of war and occupation gladly accept this benchmarks charade along with all the other deceptions and corruption because their eyes are fixed on the eastern horizon. Sen. McCain and his friends constantly proclaim that “our fight in Iraq cannot be separated from our larger struggle to prevent the emergence of an Iranian-dominated Middle East.” In other words, their remedy for the destructive consequences of this war is a wider and even more dangerous conflict.
2008 Creators Syndicate Inc. What’s your take? Write: email@example.com or comment on this story online at www.expressmilwaukee.com.
Photo by Sgt. Jason L. Austin, USA