Saturday, June 23, 2007

Misdirection and misrepresentation

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Ooh. Aah. Yet another non-committal commitment on Iraq:

The U.S. may be able to reduce combat forces in Iraq by next spring if Iraq's own security forces continue to grow and improve, a senior American commander said Friday...

Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top day-to-day commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, did not predict any reductions in U.S. forces but said such redeployments may be feasible by spring. There are currently 156,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon from his headquarters outside Baghdad, Odierno gave an update on the U.S. offensives under way in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad and in areas south and west of the capital. He said U.S. and Iraqi troops have made important progress.

"I think if everything goes the way it's going now, there's a potential that by the spring we will be able to reduce forces, and Iraq security forces could take over," Odierno said. "It could happen sooner than that. I don't know."

Note the key words: "if" -- "potential" -- "could". And then: "I don't know."

So then why say anything? Everything here is meaningless.

It may not be Odierno's fault -- in other words, he may just have said what he was told to say or what was decided he should say -- but how is it possible to trust anything anyone connected to the Iraq War says anymore? And that goes for the military as well as the civilian leadership. Well, it isn't possible, not if you've been paying attention. And so it is only reasonable -- for those of us to whom reason is important -- to be skeptical as to whether or not there has in fact been any tangible progress in Diyala or anywhere else (the definition of progress remains vague, as ever), as well as to the competency of Iraqi forces (how will we know if and when they're ready to take over?), as well as to the prospects for redeployment (or withdrawal, however it may be spun).

The warriors and warmongers -- the wagers of this war in Baghdad and Washington -- want to have it all ways, to leave open all options, to keep waging war but to keep talking about pulling out. And this isn't flexibility, which could be a virtue, but the absence of a genuine plan to wage a war that has already been lost, which is a vice that keeps on killing.

It is time -- long past time -- for the ifs and coulds to give way to a definitive conclusion to this war. As long as it keeps on being waged, the only potential is for still more failure.

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