Tuesday :: Jan 22, 2008

Meanwhile, There's a War Going On


by Turkana

Anyone still paying attention knows that one of the keys to the relative decrease in violence, in Iraq, has been the unilateral six-month cease-fire, called by Moqtada al Sadr. And he had been indicating that he would continue the cease-fire, when it expires, next month. That could be changing. As the McClatchy Newspapers reported:

A police raid Saturday on an extremist Shiite Muslim mosque thought to be the headquarters of an extremist cult capped a weekend of violence in southern Iraq, while elsewhere tensions between Iraq's Shiite-led government and renegade Shiite cleric Moqtada al Sadr continued to escalate.

Iraq's national security advisor said he was briefly taken hostage Saturday in a Baghdad mosque and implied that his captors were Sadr supporters. Mowaffak al Rubaie was released only after Iraq's interior minister, who oversees the police, intervened.

In an e-mail to McClatchy, Rubaie said that Sadr's followers "used the same tactics that they used before on Abdul Majid al Khoei." Sadrists were accused of fatally stabbing Khoei, a moderate young Shiite cleric who was considered a rival to Sadr, in 2003. A warrant for Sadr was issued in 2004, but it's never been executed, and he's denied any involvement.

On Friday, a spokesman for Sadr warned that the cleric might not extend a six-month cease-fire by his Mahdi Army militia, which U.S. officials say has contributed to the reduction in violence in Iraq. In a statement, Salah al Obeidi charged that rival Shiite militias have infiltrated Iraq's security forces and that some senior security officials remain in their jobs although they've been charged with human rights offenses.

"This will force us to reconsider the decision to extend the cease-fire despite repeated public statements in the past that we will," Obeidi said.

In other words, all the happy talk about the "surge" working may soon come to an end. But it's all been lies, anyway. As Joe Conason recently wrote:

As America marks the first anniversary of the troop escalation in Iraq, at least one thing has become clear. Although the "surge" is failing as policy, it seems to be succeeding as propaganda. Even as George W. Bush continues to bump and scrape along the bottom of public approval, significantly more people now believe we are "winning" the war.

What winning really means and whether that vague impression can be sustained are questions that the war's proponents would prefer not to answer for the moment. Their objective during this election year is simply to reduce public pressure for withdrawal, which is still the choice of an overwhelming majority of voters.

Conason points to the recovery of John McCain's presidential campaign, which would not have been possible without the corporate media's propaganda campaign on behalf of the "surge." The promotion of Bill Kristol from The Weekly Standard and Faux News to the less disreputable New York Times is highlighted as "proof that being hideously wrong is no obstacle to scaling the heights of American punditry."

What has fallen far more sharply than the casualty statistics in Iraq is the standard for success there, as defined by neoconservatives like Mr. Kristol. In the original promotional literature produced by these individuals and their associates, and recited by the president, this war was supposed to remake the Middle East into a showcase for democracy, with ruinous consequences for our terrorist enemies and cheaper oil for us -- and all for free because the Iraqi petroleum industry would cover all the costs.

Then came defining victory down. The "surge" was supposed to give the Iraqis enough breathing room to resolve many of their differences. Benchmarks. Laws on fair distribution of oil revenues and political power. In a recent Washington Post article, Thomas Ricks and Karen DeYoung had this interesting explanation:

In the year since President Bush announced he was changing course in Iraq with a troop "surge" and a new strategy, U.S. military and diplomatic officials have begun their own quiet policy shift. After countless unsuccessful efforts to push Iraqis toward various political, economic and security goals, they have decided to let the Iraqis figure some things out themselves.

Which was an incredible tacit admission of what's really going on in Iraq. Bush and company decided to allow the Iraqis to solve their own problems, meaning they previously hadn't allowed them to. Meaning that the whole "sovereignty" thing was just a sham? As if anyone hadn't known. But it was interesting to get it so explicitly stated.

And, of course, the Iraqis haven't been solving anything. The mess Bush has made in Iraq is not easily solved, and centuries-old rivalries are not easily resolved! As Conason continued:

Even those minimized objectives have yet to be met. The oil-sharing statute is stalled in the Iraqi parliament, while Kurdish regional authorities make their own separate deals with foreign oil companies. The Sunni militia organizations that we have armed to fight al-Qaida have been rejected by the Shiite central government. The statute passed by the Iraqi parliament last week to reduce sanctions against former members of the Ba'ath Party, which was supposed to mollify the Sunni leadership, appears only to have alienated them further because they consider it fraudulent.

Worst of all, despite the undoubted courage and commitment of our troops, violence in Iraq has increased since the new year began. Killings of civilians by car bombs and snipers averaged more than 50 per day during the first two weeks of January, and U.S. military deaths are averaging slightly more than one per day, or nearly 50 percent higher than last month.

So, things are maybe not going quite as well as the propaganda suggests. Keith Olbermann recently interviewed Ricks, who is also the author of Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq:

OLBERMANN: If the goal of the surge was—as stated a year ago tonight—to prevent American blood being shed in Iraq, obviously, we could have accomplished that by never going there. Likewise, the fictional Iraqi WMD was that phrase about the solutions for Iraqi problems rings oddly historically. The problems that Mr. Bush caused here, Al-qaeda in Iraq, does not the concessions to Iraqi solutions amount to a declaration of surrender on the economic and political that the president claimed was worth thousands of American lives?

RICKS: It certainly is a way of, kind of, moon walking away from those goals while still giving them a head nod and saying, “Look, if this is not going to happen, let‘s at least have these guys cobble together something so we can get out of here eventually.”

OLBERMANN: So, a year later, when Senators Lieberman and McCain get all choked up how the surge has worked, are they apt or, at least, getting close to that old morbid joke about the doctor telling the family, “Well, the operation was a success but, I‘m afraid, I have to tell you the patient died?”

RICKS: Well, from their perspective, perhaps, the surge is a success. As you said in the introduction, Iraq is no longer on the front pages everyday. For some politicians, that might be exactly the definition of success they were looking for. But, yes, judged on the terms in which the president presented it, the surge has not worked. The purpose of the surge was to improve security. But, to improve it to lead to a political breakthrough. And that political breakthrough has not happened. It was supposed to happen by last summer. That was the theory of the surge. So, the theory of the surge is now demonstrably false. We‘re in 2008 and it hasn‘t happened. So, there‘s a big question: OK, if the breakthrough doesn‘t happen, what do we do next?

OLBERMANN: Do the Iraqis think it has worked?

RICKS: I think, Iraqis recognize that large parts of Baghdad are more peaceful than they were. But, violence is basically back to 2005 levels. And, that was no picnic -- 2005. It‘s just that 2006 was pure hell.

And now al Sadr is considering ending his cease-fire. Which means pure hell may soon be returning.

Turkana :: 10:38 AM :: Comments (17) :: Digg It!