[I personally have had it with generals’ predictions of the success or failure of our efforts in Iraq.  The one thing I had drilled into my head during my stint in the NROTC as an undergrad was that generals are always fighting the LAST war.  The Maginot Line constructed after WW1 to block any future German invasions was used as the prime illustration:


The Nazis simply swooped over and around this expensive line of fortifications which slowed down their Blitzkrieg (lighting war) not a whit.

Similarly one cannot expect generals schooled in how to fight conventional wars to figure ways to halt a combination of guerilla and civil strife such as we see in Iraq where the majority Shiites are determined to take revenge for decades of Sunnis oppression, the Sunnis are resisting this threat, while the Kurds to the north are going it alone and bugging the Turks.

Mass corruption is the name of this game and there is no way for our military to block either that or sudden attacks out of the dark.  Lest we forget, our own Revolutionary War was taught to us as a tale of victory by Green Mountain boys and others carrying muskets and winging shots from behind trees at exposed red coats lined up nicely as targets and waiting for a conventional enemy charge that never came.

By all reports our own military are increasingly freaked out by the fact they they have no idea from where the next bullet will come or where the next IED will blow.  We hear that our troops will run out of steam by April and the Mahdi Army has announced that it is laying low until March — see any connection there?  Meanwhile our other ‘allies’ are departing.  We now have some 160,000 troops there and the remaining ‘Willing’ have dropped to 10,000 or fewer with no signs that the “Old Europe” is going to do more than peer from the sidelines.

I heard a sad series of interviews on npr yesterday of Iraqi refugees in Syria — some one and one half million of the elite who have fled the violence — a father with two young children whose doctor mother had been murdered on her way to work in an Iraqi clinic.  Presumably those left in Iraq are the corrupt who have been making out like bandits by selling off the weapons provided to them and the frightened ones displaced from their homes, jobs, and any foreseeable way to make a life.  Needless to say, they have every reason to hate us Americans who have destroyed their uneasy but viable peace.

Instead of building a massive new embassy in Baghdad. presumably assuming our indefinite stay and domination of the Iraqis, it looks to me that it is time for us to be figuring how we can get out of there ASAP.  We might then be able to save the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan/Pakistan where the nukes and al Qaeda now are!

Krugman’s comment today in the NY Times looks to be on target. Ed Kent]


Op-Ed Columnist
Time to Take a Stand

Published: September 7, 2007

Here’s what will definitely happen when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week: he’ll assert that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq — as long as you don’t count Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head.

Here’s what I’m afraid will happen: Democrats will look at Gen. Petraeus’s uniform and medals and fall into their usual cringe. They won’t ask hard questions out of fear that someone might accuse them of attacking the military. After the testimony, they’ll desperately try to get Republicans to agree to a resolution that politely asks President Bush to maybe, possibly, withdraw some troops, if he feels like it.

There are five things I hope Democrats in Congress will remember.

First, no independent assessment has concluded that violence in Iraq is down. On the contrary, estimates based on morgue, hospital and police records suggest that the daily number of civilian deaths is almost twice its average pace from last year. And a recent assessment by the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office found no decline in the average number of daily attacks.

So how can the military be claiming otherwise? Apparently, the Pentagon has a double super secret formula that it uses to distinguish sectarian killings (bad) from other deaths (not important); according to press reports, all deaths from car bombs are excluded, and one intelligence analyst told The Washington Post that “if a bullet went through the back of the head, it’s sectarian. If it went through the front, it’s criminal.” So the number of dead is down, as long as you only count certain kinds of dead people.

Oh, and by the way: Baghdad is undergoing ethnic cleansing, with Shiite militias driving Sunnis out of much of the city. And guess what? When a Sunni enclave is eliminated and the death toll in that district falls because there’s nobody left to kill, that counts as progress by the Pentagon’s metric.

Second, Gen. Petraeus has a history of making wildly overoptimistic assessments of progress in Iraq that happen to be convenient for his political masters.

I’ve written before about the op-ed article Gen. Petraeus published six weeks before the 2004 election, claiming “tangible progress” in Iraq. Specifically, he declared that “Iraqi security elements are being rebuilt,” that “Iraqi leaders are stepping forward” and that “there has been progress in the effort to enable Iraqis to shoulder more of the load for their own security.” A year later, he declared that “there has been enormous progress with the Iraqi security forces.”

But now two more years have passed, and the independent commission of retired military officers appointed by Congress to assess Iraqi security forces has recommended that the national police force, which is riddled with corruption and sectarian influence, be disbanded, while Iraqi military forces “will be unable to fulfill their essential security responsibilities independently over the next 12-18 months.”

Third, any plan that depends on the White House recognizing reality is an idle fantasy. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, on Tuesday Mr. Bush told Australia’s deputy prime minister that “we’re kicking ass” in Iraq. Enough said.

Fourth, the lesson of the past six years is that Republicans will accuse Democrats of being unpatriotic no matter what the Democrats do. Democrats gave Mr. Bush everything he wanted in 2002; their reward was an ad attacking Max Cleland, who lost both legs and an arm in Vietnam, that featured images of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.

Finally, the public hates this war and wants to see it ended. Voters are exasperated with the Democrats, not because they think Congressional leaders are too liberal, but because they don’t see Congress doing anything to stop the war.

In light of all this, you have to wonder what Democrats, who according to The New York Times are considering a compromise that sets a “goal” for withdrawal rather than a timetable, are thinking. All such a compromise would accomplish would be to give Republicans who like to sound moderate — but who always vote with the Bush administration when it matters — political cover.

And six or seven months from now it will be the same thing all over again. Mr. Bush will stage another photo op at Camp Cupcake, the Marine nickname for the giant air base he never left on his recent visit to Iraq. The administration will move the goal posts again, and the military will come up with new ways to cook the books and claim success.

One thing is for sure: like 2004, 2008 will be a “khaki election” in which Republicans insist that a vote for the Democrats is a vote against the troops. The only question is whether they can also, once again, claim that the Democrats are flip-floppers who can’t make up their minds.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  212-665-8535 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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