WINNING THE REAL WAR....Andrew Sullivan writes:
Readers know that I don't support any timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. This puts me in the excruciating position of supporting a war conducted by an administration whose key players are manifestly incompetent and reckless.
....Unable to access intelligence, forced to rely on news reports, blogs and other sources for information, I don't have an alternative master-plan to win either. I would support an increase in troop levels, a clear-and-hold strategy, a more aggressive military commitment to protect the infrastructure, and the kind of outreach to alienated Sunnis that Maliki and Khalilzad are attempting. But as long as Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are running the show, I cannot say I am optimistic that such a sane strategy will be employed or that it will succeed. It's like asking Ken Lay to turn Enron back into an ethical, profit-making company. But what else can I do? I agree with John McCain that peremptory withdrawal or a fixed date would amount to surrender to an enemy that seems to be gaining momentum and strength.
Scratch a Republican and I'll bet a lot of them feel the same way under the surface. They know in their hearts that this administration can't win the war in Iraq, but they can't stand the thought of withdrawing because it seems too much like surrender. So they're stuck supporting a war they know is a losing effort.
"Excruciating" is one word for this, though I might suggest a few others. Instead, I want to ask a question: Why are people like Andrew Sullivan so convinced that a carefully planned phased withdrawal would be such a disaster?
Because it would set off a civil war? Iraq is already in the middle of a civil war, and a public plan for withdrawal might actually make an expansion of the current civil war less likely. In the best case, the Sunni insurgency might become less violent once they know we're genuinely planning to leave. In the worst case, the Shiites will beat them once and for all after we're gone.
Because it would give al-Qaeda a safe haven? But why? A Shiite nation with close ties to Iran would be no friend of al-Qaeda. And freeing up troops in Iraq would allow us to beef up our presence in Afghanistan, where a resurgence of the Taliban is a genuine threat.
Because it would destroy our standing in the world? This is a fatuous argument. Staying in Iraq is doing far more damage to our standing in the world than a careful withdrawal ever would. Withdrawing from Vietnam didn't destroy America's standing in the world, withdrawing from Algeria didn't destroy France's standing in the world, and withdrawing from Lebanon didn't destroy Israel's standing in the world. It was staying too long that did the damage.
If the only way to win a war against Islamic jihadism is by invading and occuping Muslim countries, we're going to lose. Luckily, it's not the way to win. It's time to acknowledge this reality and demand that the Bush administration stop posturing and instead pursue a genuine, long-term winning strategy for the broader war we're fighting. An open-ended commitment to occupying Iraq isn't part of that.
One of Kevin Drum's readers comments:
Smitty, reports from various Iraqi cities speak of scenes reminiscent of tales of the Taliban in Afghanistan regarding treatment of women. Roving enforcers dictating how they dress, banning cell phone usage and the driving of cars. There are reports of girls being prevented from attending school.
The Bush administration is getting that same information from their own Ambassador to Iraq. Two previous reports, aardwolves, from CIA bureau chiefs stationed within Iraq since the war began were the same, and they lost their careers over it. There's no winning left to happen. 80% of the country is in chaos, and the remaining 20% is devolving quickly.
Take a good look at the photos illustrating the piece - they're from every place mentioned in the report. Iraq is a wasteland of heat, sand, radioactive waste, darkness, putrid water, raw sewage, malnutrition, hunger, starvation, unemployment, uncertainty, torture, and death. Remember Katrina and those who remained? Any Iraqis who CAN get out of Iraq, are getting out of Iraq. Those remaining will never be the same. They'll never be whole again. That includes Americans (military and media), too.
Have you taken notice of the correspondents reporting from even the "safe" zone? The green zone inside the city of Baghdad. It has long not been any guarantee of protection. PTSD. It used to be that you only got to see what a bundle of raw nerves the journalists in Iraq (green zone, too) were from the outtakes that never made it onto the air. Any loud noise and they would freeze in terrified paralysis; dry mouth, wide eyes, in a protective crouch. Now you can see all that and more in the on air broadcasts.
Contrary to the Bush administration's insistence that "Nobody could have known...", many knew that once Bush unleashed the dogs of war in Iraq, what is happening now was bound to happen. Bush was desperate to start the war, and silence the growing chorus of critics who were just beginning to break through the Bush administration’s constant, relentless drumbeat to war and focus the nation’s attention . Because once Bush could start the bombing of Iraq, there could be no turning back, no closing of barn doors once the horses are out. Bush hurriedly began bombing Iraq just so this very conversation, the American people assessing Bush's and the Neocons' plan, couldn't take place. Because "Once you're in it, you have to support the troops, and you can only do that by supporting the war....Don't ask any questions!"
All inquiries were hopscotched over. When Bush and Cheney and Rice and Rumsfeld and Powell (and the GOP's most aggressive operatives sent out to make the case for war on the cable and network programs) were asked anything remotely substantive, they soaked up the on air time with rhetoric straight off a talking points list. If an interviewer pressed them, or a policy critic contradicted them and corrected their factoids, exasperated irritation was invariably the response. We know now, after the fact, that the White House would call news bureau chiefs and raise holy hell after programs like those. That explains why fewer opponents to Bush's planned war were appearing in MSM, but were everywhere in the alternative media.
It's not the Democrats or the left that are holding the Bush administration to arbitrary dates for leaving Iraq. The Bush administration has failed to live up to the expectations that they themselves set for this war. Americans did not sign on for a long war in Iraq. They signed up for the one described by the Bush administrationbefore the war:
Back to that email, Mr. Secretary. Hundreds of people have been awakened with dreams of a war with Iraq quickly escalating into World War III. What can effectively be done to limit the conflict, and what is your opinion about the possibility of a wider war breaking out?
Rumsfeld: In the event that force has to be used with Iraq, there will be no World War III. The Gulf War in the 1990s lasted five days on the ground. I can't tell you if the use of force in Iraq today would last five days, or five weeks, or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that. And, it won't be a World War III. And if I were to characterize the difference between 1990 and today, the United States military is vastly more powerful. And the Iraqi Army and military capability has declined substantially. The difference is, the reason for needing to disarm Iraq, and that is chemical and biological weapons today, and a very robust effort to develop nuclear weapons tomorrow. And, that is the difference between today and then.
We heard that same message from each emissary of this administration. "Short, in and out," "flowers and candy," "Iraq oil revenues will pay for the whole thing."
If I knew that this was going to be an insurgent war, and I did (as did everyone in my circle of friends far away from the corridors of power in Washington), then, of course, the Bush administration knew.
How can anybody in this administration still get away with saying it (as recently as this week when Cheney said it at a press luncheon), when it was the reason Bush 41 didn't do march on to Baghdad a decade earlier. With today's VP as his SoD, no less!
There were those who signed on, like Colin Powell, because they believed that Bush was going to wage the war in the one way that it might turn out to be a short war (certainly over by now) - an abrupt change of leadership (with smooth sailing for Corporate-World thereafter), as reported by the BBC's Greg Palast, in his new book "Armed Madhouse." There was an outside chance that if Bush went in with overwhelming troop strength, planned for and focused on quelling an insurgency at its inception (by retaining the Iraqi army, government workers, massive rebuilding efforts run by, for and employing Iraqis), it might have worked. IF, Bush's intention was to merely topple Saddam Hussein and install a democratic republic. But that wasn't the intention. Need I list the reasons we should know that it's not and never was the intention?
Bush and Cheney have been talking about this "long war" since 2001. Their emissaries (those like Newt Gingrich, Cliff May, Frank Gaffney, the hacks sent out to sell the policy on cable television) dropped "the U.S. occupied Japan, Germany, Korea, the Phillipines, has had bases in those countries for over fifty years, and Korea" references whenever "when are we bringing the troops home, leaving Iraq?" question was broached. The Bush administration always intended a permanent occupation of Iraq with a puppet front government. They set about building permanent bases in both Afghanistan and Iraq as soon as the Oil Ministries were secured, which was as soon as we stopped dropping bombs. One of the reasons Osama Bin Laden "declared war" on the U.S. was because we (infidels!) have a base in Saudi Arabia. Had. It's now in Iraq. And Kuwait. We were so worried about WMD and Iraq's nuclear capability that we didn't rush to secure any of it. Iraqis looted those facilities while our military was securing the files at Iraq's Oil Ministry.
We talk much about Bush failing in Iraq because it's such a mess according to most sane persons' sensibilities. Have you considered that this is what the Bush administration intended? Has any American President been as successful as this one has been at achieving his domestic (and foreign, too, when you really think about it) agenda? All while remaining in office, in control over all branches of government, despite the lowest approval ratings since Nixon? A unitary Presidency, when exit polling of the last 3 elections put the other party in power, and the mass psychosis has the media who hired the exit pollsters CHANGING the exit poll numbers. Not questioning the tallied ballot counts, but declaring that the exit polls were wrong. When exit polls had, up until this administration, proven to be so scientifically accurate that the U.S. still uses the same methodology to monitor the elections in developing nations.
I read and watch these discussions and wonder how long it's going to take before you realize that you're talking to Republicans, Conservatives, as if they are normal, sane rational patriotic American people. No sane person would keep Rumsfeld on as SoD if what's going on in Iraq wasn't the desired result. No sane majority in Congress would abdicate their power if this wasn't exactly serving their needs, delivering to them more and better, certain power.
Stand back for a bit, observe without responding, and you might come to the same conclusion as I: Only those who are certain of their continued control (remaining in office after the next elections) would be making the decisions that these people are making.
They have already admitted that they know NO MORE than you or I on intelligence matters, and what led up to the decision to go to war. I, and most liberals, actually knew more than our Congress claims to have known, because we listened to all of the experts, on all sides, before the war. We asked questions of those with special knowledge - weapons inspectors, government whistleblowers, who came forward to participate in the national dialogue that was taking place in the alternative media.
The picture that we got, even if you didn't know who or what to believe, was a fevered effort to overwhelm eminent dissenting messengers who disagreed with the Neocons' call to war and prevent them from being heard.
Congress performs no oversight whatsoever on what Bush is doing with taxpayer dollars, in the military, in Iraq, in intelligence agencies, or anywhere. The biggest deficit in the history of the world, billions are missing, squandered and wasted, and Congress has held no hearings?
Congress admits to being kept in the dark by this "Unitary Executive" on everything from surveillance programs of the American people to war appropriations. They continue to abdicate their role, demur and defer to their Constitutional co-equal partner. That's never happened. Never in the history of the U.S., never in the history of the world.
It also goes counter to every law of animal nature. Having alpha personalities drove these people to compete for leadership roles in the richest most powerful country in the world. To make the laws of the land in the Congress of the United States. That's a powerful drive for power. And it never ends. If you looked at their school records, I'd bet they were in student government, captains of the football team, debating society presidents. Whatever the area, they rose to prominence. But now, they have ceased participating? Their poll numbers are plunging. And despite being lied to by the occupants and representatives of the Executive branch, they're not changing their positions on anything. In fact, they're only making more preposterous proclaimations (Santorum and his latest on WMD in Iraq) and shamelessly pandering to the Republican Christian rightwing fundamentalist base.
What is that telling you?
Here's a hint: Even when the Republican Christian rightwing fundamentalist base shows up in force at the polls, they are outnumbered by everybody else. What does Karl Rove have to do to get the Christian rightwing base to show up at the polls (and at the very real risk of losing the moderates in the Republican party) (answer: create chaos with inflammatory insubstantial issues), and in that chaos, what is he able to pull off?
The left isn't wrong on the issues, and our positions aren't unpopular. Our positions got us more legal votes than the right in the last 3 elections. Cast, legal ballots. I'm not even referring now to their Democratic voter and ballot suppression stunts, or dirty tricks like jamming Democrats' "get out the vote" campaigns on election day. I'm talking about legally cast and filled out ballots that never got counted. I'm talking about voting machines that consistently erred in Bush's/Republicans' favor and never (rarely, but so rare as to be statistically impossible) in Kerry's/Gore's/Democrats favor. I'm talking about whole preceincts in Democratic strongholds voting Republican.
Throw off the rhetoric of "they get votes by keeping the people scared, in a state of constant wars" and "they're better at getting the base out to the polls." In an odd, twisted sense, one of the benefits and purposes of their war efforts and their "get out the fundamentalist vote" campaigns is just so they can make a claim to explain their "wins" - when they haven't actually gotten the votes to win elections that they must then steal.
I have a question for people who think that spoiled Democratic ballots are due to stupid voters (stupid black people, stupid elderly people, native-Americans, and all other special interest/minority groups within the Democratic party). Are Christian fundamentalists, that call in to political talk shows and spout gospel, quote passages in the bible, smarter, more capable of filling out ballots correctly than Christians or blacks or elderly or any other in the Democratic party? How about hispanics? Wouldn't you think that hispanics' ballots would be spoiled at a similar rate between the two parties? Cuban immigrants' vs. Mexican immigrants? El Salvadoran vs. Guatemalan? Even within Mexico itself, immigrants from different regions. English is still a second language and equally challenging to understand on a ballot. And yet it's the groups identified as Democrats that are having their votes suppressed, challenged, thrown out.
Unless and until we fix the broken election process, all the rest of this talk is useless. The American people have already voted, in overwhelming numbers, against everything this administration and Republicans stand for.
Filed under: Bush, Iraq, election reform, Andrew Sullivan, Kevin Drum, Washington Monthly, civil war, Congress, Karl Rove, exit strategy, redeploy, Christian fundamentalist, right-wing, Unitary Executive, steal, Rumsfeld