Sunday, June 18, 2006

Iraq War: Troops home by Christmas? Moon made of green cheese?

"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.

Time magazine asks With Zarqawi Dead, Can the Troops Come Home? by Sally Donnelly and Timothy Burger 06/19/06

Sure, the an anonymous Pentagon source says in an election year.  We'll draw down troops ... six months from now.! Thomas Friedman has made the "six months" timeline into one of this war's "light at the end of the tunnel" phrases.  As in, how many times have we heard this one?

Donnelly and Burger report:

Even with the post-Zarqawi prognosis for Iraq unclear, a loud debate erupted in Washington over when to bring the troops home. The Bush Administration, which got a bump in the polls after al-Zarqawi's death, has talked for weeks about U.S. forces standing down as Iraqi forces stand up. With the Iraqi military and police up to 263,000-strong, some U.S. officers are privately saying it is time to start pulling American forces back. And some congressional Democrats renewed their calls for a pullout timetable.

A definitive reply to the calls for a drawdown came from General George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq: Not just yet. A senior defense official tells TIME that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld last week quietly approved Casey's request to begin the deployment process for 15,000 troops, who should be in the Middle East by October to replace some of the 127,000 now in Iraq. "Things are still too uncertain in Iraq for the U.S. commanders to take a chance," says an officer. But there may be more good news soon. According to a senior officer, Casey - who is expected to meet with Rumsfeld in Washington this week - is leaning toward a reduction to 100,000 troops in Iraq by Christmas.  (my emphasis)

I'm all for beginning withdrawal.  But, as the quote at the bottom of this post reminds us, getting out of a war ain't easy.  If the insurgency is undiminished and/or getting more intense, along with the expanding civil war and the growing possibility of a regional war, drawing down 27,000 troops without it being part of a comprehensive plan for a rapid withdrawal of all of them would likely make American troops even more vulnerable.

Oh, yeah, there are 263,000 Iraqi military and police all ready to go!  Mission accomplished.  Let's bring all of the Americans home by Christmas.

Of course, if you believe that 263,000 Iraqi military and police are prepared, please e-mail me so I can put you in touch with a wonderful investment opportunity involving the son of a former African dictator.

Juan Cole isn't very upbeat about the current situation in Iraq (Informed Comment blog, 06/18/06):

Bombings and other civil war violence took the lives of some 43 persons in Iraq on Saturday. There were 7 bombings in Baghdad. One car bomb aimed at an Iraqi security forces checkpoint in al-Alawiyah district in the center of Baghdad killed 11 persons, one a police officer, and wounded 15 others. A later car bomb blew up an Iraqi police checkpoint just southwest of the capital, a Shiite area, killing 12 and wounding 38. Also, another car bomb was detonated near an office of the political movement of clerical Shiite nationalist Muqtada al-Sadr, killing 5 and wounding 6 others. Reuters has further details. The report in The Age adds, "In the town of Mahmudiya just south of the capital, a car bomb targeting an Iraqi army checkpoint killed seven people."

I take no pleasure in being right, but it is obvious that killing Zarqawi had no effect whatsoever on the course of the Iraqi Civil War.

Much less Iraq, it turns out that things are pretty parlous for employees at the fortress-like US embassy in Iraq. The positive spin Bush's handlers tried to project during his visit was being belied by his own embassy cable traffic, according to WaPo.

Editor and Publisher gives some details of the memorandum from the US Embassy in Baghdad just before Bush's latest PR visit, in 'Wash Post' Obtains Shocking Memo from U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Details Increasing Danger and Hardship by Greg Mitchell 06/18/06:

Embassy employees are held in such low esteem their work must remain a secret and they live with constant fear that their cover will be blown. Of nine staffers, only four have told their families where they work. They all plan for their possible abductions. No one takes home their cell phones as this gives them away. One employee said criticism of the U.S. had grown so severe that most of her family believes the U.S. "is punishing populations as Saddam did."

 Since April, the "demeanor" of guards in the Green Zone has changed, becoming more "militia-like," and some are now "taunting" embassy personnel or holding up their credentials and saying loudly that they work in the embassy: "Such information is a death sentence if overheard by the wrong people." For this reason, some have asked for press instead of embassy credentials.

The Post has made a PDF file of the memo available.

Steve Gilliard also isn't very optimistic in The coming madness 06/19/06, particularly in light of the news about the State Department memo:

The idea that three years into the war that US employees cower in the Green Zone and US troops have been kidnapped should be frightening. Instead, the Republicans are living in denial.

The Americans foolishly bragged about killing Zarqawi, showing his dead body on TV, and now they act shocked that a well executed plan to capture Americans took place. God knows how that will end, but my bet is not anyway you'd want to see. ...

When people say that men in police uniforms killed someone, I just assume it's the police. It's clear from the DOS memo that militias have infiltrated Green Zone security.

It's obvious that the US venture in Iraq will end as all colonial wars do, ugly and without warning. Someone will play their hand and the US will be caught.

But what is amazing is that there is absolutely no will in Congress to face the ugly reality of Iraq. They want to pretend that the Kerensky government can stop the Islamicist revolution. It can no more able to do that than stop New Orleans from flooding. It is weak and totally dependent on US protection. To Iraqis, it doesn't exist.  (my emphasis)

At this point, unless by some miracle the Bush administration takes a drastically different approach - i.e., pull out the Americans on a rapid timetable, which is by far the least bad of our all-bad choices now - we really should all be aware that this could wind up ending ugly, seriously ugly, and maybe soon.

William Lind wrote earlier this month of the Bush administration in the Iraq War (The Power of Weakness, Again 06/08/06):

They are caught in a hurricane, and all they can do is spit in the wind. The rest of us should get ready for the house to blow down.

And we know how well the Bush team does with hurricanes.

"Wars are easy to get into, but hard as hell to get out of." - George McGovern and Jim McGovern 06/06/05

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