"I think we are winning. Okay? I think we're definitely winning. I think we've been winning for some time." - Gen. Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the Iraq War 04/26/05
"I just wonder if they will ever tell us the truth." - Harold Casey, Louisville, KY, October 2004.
Somehow I expected more from Bush's speech on Wednesday about the Iraq War: President Outlines Strategy for Victory in Iraq at the United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland; White House Web site 11/30/05. Instead, it was not much more than a new set of talking points for the same story they've been pushing since practically the beginning: we're winning, we're winning (see Gen. Myers' quote above) and we have to keep on winning and things are going beautifully over there and anyone who criticizes Dear Leader Bush's war policy is giving aid and comfort to the enemy and hates American troops.
The White House has made its related paper - and "propaganda paper" is really the appropriate word for it - entitled National Strategy for Victory in Iraq available at the White House Web site in HTML and PDF formats.
Certainly, Dear Leader tossed in a boilerplate line that in the context was little more than a sneer about how it is "one of the great strengths of our democracy that we can discuss our differencesopenly and honestly, even at times of war." It's just that anyone who actually goes so far as to criticize anything about the administration's flawless policies is aiding The Terrorists.
And there wasn't a lot more to it than that. He's still trying to bully the war critics with this sleazy demagoguery. And he's encouraging his Party to keep up the jingo rhetoric. There was no part of the speech where he encouraged those who support the his policies in Iraq to sign up for the Army or the Marine Corps and go fight there. But there were a few alleged quotations from soldiers, all of which turned out to be right in line with Dear Leader's wise policies.
We've come a long way from that quaint war resolution of 2002 that authorized Bush to take military action only if it were clear that other measures would not provide assurance that Iraq's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction were not violating UN sanctions that forbade Iraq to keep weapons of mass destruction. Those WMDs were barely mentioned even in the Victory in Iraq propaganda pamphlet.
Bush painted a fantasy picture that, while not as concrete as aluminum tubes of death and yellowcake piles of uranium death and plyboard drones of death of hydrogen-gas trailers of death and so on, was in its way just as dishonest:
The third group [of insurgents, though Rummy says its patriotically incorrect to call them that this week] is the smallest, but the most lethal: the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda . Many are foreigners who are coming to fight freedom's progress in Iraq. This group includes terrorists from Saudi Arabia, and Syria, and Iran, and Egypt, and Sudan, and Yemen, and Libya, and other countries. Our commanders believe they're responsible for most of the suicide bombings, and the beheadings, and the other atrocities we see on our television.
They're led by a brutal terrorist named Zarqawi -- al Qaeda's chief of operations in Iraq -- who has pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden. Their objective is to drive the United States and coalition forces out of Iraq, and use the vacuum that would be created by an American retreat to gain control of that country. They would then use Iraq as a base from which to launch attacks against America, and overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East, and try to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire that reaches from Indonesia to Spain. That's their stated objective. That's what their leadership has said.
These terrorists havenothing to offer the Iraqi people. All they have is the capacity and the willingness to kill the innocent and create chaos for the cameras. They are trying to shake our will to achieve their stated objectives. They will fail. America's will is strong. And they will fail because the will to power is no match for the universal desire to live in liberty.
The part of Bush's speech and the propaganda paper that differentiated between three groups of insurgents - angry Sunnis, Saddam loyalists, and the legions of Bush's current favorite bogeyman Zarqawi - struck Pat Lang as the one possibly valuable piece of Wednesday's PR effort. He writes (Ah! It's an IRAQI Rebellion! Ah! Sic Semper Tyrannis blog 11/30/05):
He did not mention the awkward implication of [his description of the first group] that there are a hell of a lot of supporters maintaining this force in existence, but based on the speed with which the administration acknowledges the truth, we should see an admission of that in a year or so.
Is this important? You bet it is! Up until this morning, the "Zarqawi Madness" insisted on by the government was a straitjacket within which the intelligence people and the command in the field had to operate.
This changes a lot in both the operating environment and the political parameters within which a solution must be found.
But you have to wonder how seriously to take any of that when you look in the "Victory Will Take Time" section of the propaganda pamphlet and see this:
We and the Iraqi people are fighting a ruthless enemy, which is multi-headed, with competing ambitions and differing networks. Getting an accurate picture of this enemy, understanding its makeup and weaknesses, and defeating it, requires patience, persistence, and determined effort ... (my emphasis)
A lot of the Victory in Iraq pamphlet has a similar look of various talking points being jammed together, with not an excessive amount of concern about whether they are coherent. When we're listing reasons to be hopeful, we have the "good news from Iraq" that the resistance is clearly differentiated into those three groups. But a few pages later, when we're told why all good patriotic Americans who hate The Terrorists need to be patient, it says, well, hey, it's only been 2 1/2 years we've been at this. How can anyone expect us to know who the enemy is in so short a time?
Maybe they assigned the people who dreamed up those WMDs being in Iraq to finding out who the insurgents are. In that case, we may never know who we're fighting!
Robert Dreyfuss isn't in an optimistic mood. He writes in Political Islam vs. Democracy TomDispatch.com 11/29/05:
Today, the unpleasant reality is that 150,000 U.S. troops, who are dying at a rate of about 100 a month, are the Praetorian Guard for that radical-right theocracy. It is a regime that sponsors Shiite-led death squads carrying out assassinations from Basra (where freelance reporter Steven Vincent, himself murdered by such a unit, wrote that "hundreds" of former Baathists, secular leaders, and Sunnis were being killed every month) to Baghdad. Scores of bodies of Sunnis regularly turn up shot to death, execution-style.
The latest revelation is that SCIRI's Badr Brigade, now a 20,000-strong militia, operated a secret torture prison in Baghdad holding hundreds of Sunni detainees. There, prisoners had their skin flayed off, electric shocks applied to their genitals, or power drills driven into their bones. SCIRI and Al Dawa are the senior partners in an Iraqi government which has imposed a unilateralist constitution on the country that elevates the power of the Shiite-dominated provinces and enshrines their vision of Islam in the body politic. Two weeks ago, during his visit to Washington, D.C., I asked Adel Abdul Mahdi, a top SCIRI official and Iraq's deputy president, about the charges of death squads and brutality. "All of the terrorists are on the other side," he sniffed. "What you refer to is a reaction to that."
Perhaps the ultimate irony of Bush's war on terrorism is this: While the President asserts that the war in Iraq is the central front in the struggle against what he describes as "Islamofascism," real "Islamofascists" are already in power in Baghdad - and they are, shamefully, America's allies.
That's harsh, dude. But as a description of the current situation, I would find it hard to contest.
Jim Lobe asks if Bush is The Unpopular in Pursuit of the Unwinnable? Inter Press Service 11/30/05. He reads the Victory in Iraq pamphlet as suggesting a drawdown of US troop levels in 2006. Which is a fair reading. It hints at a coming drawdown; I'm surprised the hints weren't stronger.
Lobe describes the administration's current marketing offensive this way:
Bush's speech, as well as the strategy document's release, marks the beginning of an unprecedented campaign to rally the public behind the president, as well as his policy in Iraq. With his approval ratings hovering below 40 percent for several weeks, Bush's political advisers, as well as independent analysts, believe that the public's perceptions of success or failure in Iraq will largely determine his political potency over the three years that remain in his presidency.
In addition to Wednesday's address, Bush plans to give several other speeches on Iraq in the coming days, each featuring different aspects of his administration's strategy and culminating in what the White House fervently hopes will be a huge turnout in Iraq's elections Dec. 15.
Other top officials, including the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, have also scheduled speaking engagements that the White House hopes will not only dominate news coverage, but also make it appear that the strategy is one that is fully backed by the military itself.
That perception is regarded as particularly important at the moment, both because the administration and its supporters have tried hard in recent weeks to equate growing calls for withdrawal with a betrayal of the country's soldiers, and because some of those calls have been endorsed by critics, notably Democratic Rep. John Murtha, with particularly close and long-standing ties to the uniformed military. (my emphasis)
Lobe takes note of the way Bush used Joe Lieberman's apalling comments on the war in his speech:
"(T)he Iraqi people are in reach of a watershed transformation from the primitive killing tyranny of Saddam to modern, self-governing, self-securing nationhood," wrote Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Congress' leading Democratic neo-conservative, in The Wall Street Journal Tuesday, "unless the great American military [that] has given them and us this unexpected opportunity is prematurely withdrawn."
It was not by accident Bush extolled Lieberman in Wednesday's 40-minute speech which, like the former Democratic vice presidential candidate, insisted that Iraq had made "incredible progress" in the last two and a half years and was on the verge of a major breakthrough in its transformation into a democratic state.
It's sentimental nonsense like saying the Great American Military that helps turn the real existing soldiers in the Army and the Marines into comic-book heroic creatures who can be sent off to kill and die at the whims of grandiose dreamers and vicious schemers. If more Senators and Congressmen thought of them as the real human beings they are instead of these sentimental caricatures, they wouldn't have been so quick to send them into a godawful situation like the Iraq War to do away with nonexistent WMDs. Getting rid of the WMDs was a Mission Accomplished before a single bomb was dropped in the war.
Lobe references more than just hope, though, in his reading of the speech and the pamphlet as suggesting a significant drawdown over the next few months. He thinks it reflects an approach that shares more of the "realist" approach to foreign affairs than to neocon dreams:
"I think that Bush was trying to put the best possible face on a policy that he's being forced to change by circumstances both here and in Iraq," Lawrence Korb of the Campaign for American Progress (CAP) and co-author of a widely-cited "redeployment plan" that calls for a gradual withdrawal from Iraq, told IPS.
"There's no doubt that if you look at the troops that have been alerted to go next year, that you will have less than 100,000 troops in Iraq by the end of 2006," he added.
That was made evident not only by the references to the reduced visibility and presence of U.S. forces, but also to a much more nuanced breakdown of the "enemy" as consisting mostly of "rejectionists". These are described by Bush as "ordinary Iraqis, mostly Sunni Arabs" who must, as the strategy document made particularly clear, be cultivated through political means in order to isolate harder-core foes -- "former regime loyalists" and "the terrorists affiliated with or inspired by al Qaeda."
The strategy document implicitly assails the de-Baathification programme that was so vigorously advocated by neo-conservatives and expresses serious concerns about the infiltration of the new security forces by Kurdish and Shiite militia.
But it appears above all to reflect the more realist views of U.S. Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad; his military counterpart, Gen. George Casey; and the new Deputy National Security Adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan, Meghan O'Sullivan, who clashed frequently with neo-conservatives in the Pentagon before and after the U.S. invasion.
Bush is giving us neither a "victory strategy" nor an "exit strategy" for the Iraq War.
"Wars are easy to get into, but hard as hell to get out of." - George McGovern and Jim McGovern 06/06/05