Monday, July 28, 2008

Mission accomplished in Iraq at last?

Don't worry, be happy - and just what are you smoking in that pipe, dude?

Jo Fish at FireDogLake came up with a great euphemism, "Wire Service that Must Not Be Named" for the A********* P****. It was a kooky idea of them to try to stop people from even linked to their stories. But I'm beginning to wonder if they weren't just embarrassed to have some of their stuff highlighted for a wider audience.

For instance, here is a McCain campaign press release credulous article, As insurgency fades, fragile peace unfolds bylined to Robert Burns and Robert Reid 07/27/08, this version from the Orlando Sentinel.

Mission is finally accomplished in Iraq, according to this article. No kidding:

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point at which the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

It's not the end of fighting; it looks like the beginning of a perilous peace.

The combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush declared it had. The new phase focuses on training the Iraqi army and police, curbing illicit weaponry from Iran, boosting links between Baghdad and local governments, integrating former insurgents into government jobs and rebuilding the economy. Scattered battles go on, especially against al-Qaeda holdouts north of Baghdad. But organized resistance has all but ceased. (my emphasis)
First, I need to repeat my obligatory comment every time someone announces Glorious Victory in Iraq: Great news! Let's have the troops home by Christmas!

Let's also recite the reality-based reasons for the reductions in violence. The goal of the surge was political reconciliation including a series of major compromise that have not been achieved. So, by the terms on which it was originally presented to the public, The Surge, aka, the McCain escalation, is a failure.

But there have been reductions in violence, from the more horrific to the less horrific. Yes, the increase in US troops had a role. I guess that's what the Wire Service that Must Not Be Named means by "a perilous peace". But so did other things. There was the Sunni Awakening, in which Sunni tribal leaders started fighting against the Al Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI) group, whose connections to the Al Qa'ida that pulled the 9/11 attacks is pretty tenuous from what we've seen in the public record. Our Savior-General Petraeus decided to use a variation of the buy-off-the-local-warlords strategy that we've been using in Afghanistan, which has resulted in an exceptionally weak central government, the massive growth of narco-trafficking, and an escalating war in that country. In other words, the US military made an effective truce with and provided funds to many of the Sunni guerrilla ("terrorist") groups that oppose the heavily pro-Iranian Shi'a government in Baghdad which we support. This Awakening process began months before The Surge was even announced, and had very little to do with the increase in US troops. But strengthening these Sunni militias makes the long-term political reconciliation more challenging, not easier.

Muqtada al-Sadr's JAM (Mahdi Army) has observed a ceasefire for most of 2007 and 2008. There seems to be little evidence that it has lost power or influence. On the contrary, it's a more formidable political force than in was in 2004 when it clashed openly with the US occupation forces for the first time.

The level of killing has also been affected by five million refugees leaving places where they were more likely to be killed by sectarian and tribal enemies to place where they were less likely to be killed. About half of those are internal refugees, the other half external, mostly in Syria and Jordan. See Helena Cobban's Iraq: Provincial elections and displacement 07/23/08 for how the refugee problem affects the provincial elections, which were recently postponed until likely sometime in 2009.

Then there was the effective completion of "ethnic cleansing" in Baghdad itself. The A********* P**** has a euphemism that is a new one to me, "neighborhoods purged of minorities":

Systematic sectarian killings have all but ended in the capital, in large part because of tight security and a strategy of walling off neighborhoods purged of minorities in 2006. That has helped establish a sense of normalcy in the streets of the capital.
The Iraq War has gone on for so many years that there are some well-established traditions connected with it. Election-year optimism about how well things are going is one of them. Then there's the late-year predictions that huge drawdowns will occur the following year.

With both Obama and the Iraqi government demanding that the withdrawal of American troops should start in 2009, the latter may actually come true this time. If Obama gets elected and the antiwar movement succeeds in bringing enough pressure to bear on his administration.

Tom Hayden discusses the Iraqi withdrawal demand Maliki Endorses Obama Timeline in Huge Blow for McCain, Bush Huffington Post 07/19/08.

For a less happy-face view of the current state of affairs in Iraq than that of the Wire Service that Must Not Be Named, check out Bob Dreyfuss' Iraq: Poised to Explode The Nation Online 07/27/08:

Despite the Optimism of the Neocons, which has pushed mainstream media coverage to be increasingly flowery about Iraq's political progress, in fact the country is poised to explode. Even before the November election. ...

There are at least three flashpoints for an explosion, any or all of which could blow up over the next couple of months. (Way to go, Surgin' Generals!) The first is the brewing crisis over Kirkuk, where the pushy Kurds are demanding control and Iraq's Arabs are resisting. The second is in the west, and Anbar, where the US-backed Sons of Iraq sahwa ("Awakening") movement is moving to take power against the Iraqi Islamic Party, a fundamentalist Sunni bloc. And third is the restive Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr, which is chafing at gains made by its Iranian-backed rival, the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI).
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