Sunday, May 13, 2007

Behind the spin: The perseverance of failure in Iraq

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Speaking for the warmongers, of whom he is as much a leader as anyone else, Dick Cheney declared on Friday that the U.S. had to "persevere" in Iraq. (I commented on his ludicrous comments here.) But "persevere" to what end? And for how long? The spin has been that the "surge" is working, that there has been progress, that violence is down in Baghdad and Anbar province. The spin has come from the usual suspects, including John McCain, the White House and its allies, and prominent pro-war pundits and bloggers, even as the slow bleed of worried Republicans away from Bush and the war continues and indeed accelerates. It has been reported that the U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, has claimed he will be able to tell whether the "surge" has been working by September, but, increasingly, the truth about what is really going on in Iraq is coming out, such as this:

The commander of U.S. forces in northern Iraq said Friday that he did not have enough troops to deal with the escalating violence in Iraq's Diyala province, an unusually frank assertion for a top officer and a sign that American military officials might be starting to offer more candid and blunt assessments of the war.

Army Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. "Randy" Mixon also said that the Iraqi government had failed to help the situation in the restive province and that it has been a hindrance at times by failing to support local army and police forces. Diyala borders Baghdad on the east, and violence in the province has grown as U.S. troop levels have been bolstered in the capital.

Mixon's call for help coincides with a rise in the number of sectarian death squad killings in Baghdad. U.S. officials had heralded an earlier decline in such deaths as a sign of the success of the security clampdown in the capital that began Feb. 13.

So now what? -- More troops? If so, what troops? And where to? And would more troops even make much of a difference at this point? Would the American people, who have already turned against the war, support the deployment of more troops? (Or the extensions of tours of duty of more troops.) Democrats wouldn't, but would Republicans, particularly the ones looking ahead to '08?

How much longer must this go on? There is neither the popular nor the political will for the war to continue as is, and it does not seem that there will ever be a military breakthrough in what is now both a civil and an insurgent war.

The point is that perseverance is pointless. The status quo, which includes the "surge," isn't working, whatever "success" there has been has been either temporary or illusory, and it is simply too late, and simply not possible, to do what should have been done years ago, that is, to send the appropriate number of troops over to Iraq.

The right plan for right now is not to send in more troops to contend with rising violence in Diyala or anywhere else but to initiate the responsible phased withdrawal of the bulk of U.S. forces from Iraq.

The problem is that Bush, Cheney, and those in power who still cling to delusion will have none of it. And that means that the perseverance of failure in Iraq will continue.

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