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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Latest Dog and Pony Show

As I write, the testimony of Gen. Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker is being taken by Congress. What's widely expected of this testimony is a recommendation that the "surge" stop being so much a temporary surge and more a lasting escalation. It seems that "the surge is working" only if you ignore unpleasant realities -- like the fact that the temporary escalation won't be temporary at all.

Not surprisingly, there is information you'll never see, testimony that won't be so public and facts that won't be discussed. Since the occupation must go on until Bush is safely out of office -- and it must, that's the mission in its entirety at this point -- the public will be presented only with reasons to stay. For the Bush administration and its handpicked yes-men/Generals, there are two sides to the story in Iraq; how well we're doing now and how gloriously victorious we're about to be. Certain facts, known to them, will not be known to you. Z. Byron Wolf of ABC News writes on his blog, Political Radar:

Coincidental to the very public testimony tomorrow by Army General David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, lawmakers with security clearance on Capitol Hill also got another, very secret assessment of Iraq last week -- this one a National Intelligence Estimate prepared by the US intelligence community.

And while the testimony of Petraeus and Crocker is sure to be grist for news on Iraq for some time, don't look for the Intelligence Committee assessment in the public anytime soon. Despite pleas last week from Democratic lawmakers that an unclassified summary of the classified document be released this week to go along with the Petraeus/Crocker testimony, National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell, decided... well, we don't know what he decided, because his reasoning for keeping the NIE secret is secret.

Senate Intelligence Committee members Carl Levin and Ted Kennedy, who've seen the report, issued a statement saying that "It is incomprehensible that the reply sent to us is labeled ‘For Official Use Only,’ thus not even permitting the public to see the reasons given for hiding this information from public view." Levin and Kennedy say there's no reason for classifying the summary. Apparently, there are no secrets in there. Which means that what we'll hear will be a sanitized version of the facts on the ground.

I can take a stab at what the classified summary says. Or, at least, I can sum up the summary -- "This sucks and we are likely screwed."

It's not hard to come to this conclusion. All you really have to do is look at the political situation in Iraq and listen to those who know what the hell they're talking about. For fun, let's start things out with a little contrast -- someone who doesn't know what the hell they're talking about. Roger Carstens in Human Events:

That the surge is working is beyond dispute. All of the major measurable indicators support this conclusion, as they highlight a steady reduction in the amount of violence, increased Iraqi military capacity, and the destruction of extremist elements.

Attacks, for example, which had been steadily increasing for over two years, have been consistently declining since June of 2007. Improvised Explosive Device (IED) ambushes have also dropped during this same time period.


Civilian deaths -- perhaps the most important indicator of a reduction in the overall level of violence in Iraq -- are also being reported at the lowest levels in almost two years.

That was January. This next was February...

Baghdad Observer:

Two women suicide bombers were the apparent cause of the explosion in the al Ghazil pet market in downtown Baghdad and a bird market in a Shiite neighborhood in the southeast of the capital. When the bodies were gone people covered the remains of flesh on the road with pieces of cloth.

We cannot run pictures that are too graphic, no pictures with blood and gruesome remains, no pictures of things that most Iraqis have seen at least once and often many more times than that in the almost five years of this war.

When the head of the female suicide bomber was found in the al Ghazil pet market, Iraqis filmed it on their cell phones.

A man lifted the head of a woman by her brown hair and with blood seeping from the severed neck he placed it gingerly into a shopping bag. Dead birds and animals were gathered up and put into a dumpster. Cleaners swept away the pools of blood, shop owners began to repair their shops once again and life went on

This is an "improvement" in the same way that getting moved from the ninth level of hell to the eighth would be -- nothing worth celebrating. Besides, any decrease in violence is wasted unless there's political progress. There hasn't been. The best word to describe the political situation would be "regress."

Associated Press reported what it called "Seesaw Violence" yesterday. The conclusion, unspoken in the article, is that the surge hasn't worked. As troop levels are being drawn down, "violence in Iraq has seesawed up and down." This is why Crocker and Petraeus will argue that we need to halt the drawdown -- although they'll use words like "pause" or "suspend temporarily."

Of the political situation, we come to the "we are likely screwed" part of my unclassified assessment. Al-Maliki's government has become desperate. He has very few supporters nationwide and is using the power of the military to attack his closest rivals. In desperation, Maliki has become despotic and undemocratic.

He demands that Muqtada al-Sadr disband the Mehdi Army -- a demand that al-Sadr says he will consider. It's al-Sadr and the Mehdi Army that are Maliki's rivals. I wouldn't hold my breath. Al-Sadr says he'll meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and abide by his ruling, but no date has been set. He may just be buying time. In any case, it's hard to see how this would make much difference -- all those Sadrists would still exist and it's hard to believe their politics would change any.

The US claims that the Sadrists are backed by Iran -- so they're bad. But Maliki's government and its ally the Badr Brigade are likewise backed by Iran. In fact, Iran is such a powerful force in Iraq that people think of them as a second governmental force. McClatchy's Leila Fadel tells of visiting the Iranian Ambassador for an interview. Her translator told her, "This is the second ruler of Iraq," after US Ambassador Ryan Crocker.

Maliki's administration is, apparently, governmental chump change -- a tertiary concern. Far from making political gains, he fights to even remain relevant. The surge, which was meant to give the government breathing room to make progress, hasn't resulted in any political progress at all.

The surge has failed.

So the testimony of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker is a dog and pony show. The only purpose the occupation now serves is to delay the inevitable until Bush is safely out of office -- so someone else can be blamed for "losing Iraq."

But Iraq is already lost. The situation there is unnatural and the government is on life support. As long as we stay there, nothing will change.

Which is why that NIE summary will remain classified.


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