IRAQ: Talk of Progress Excludes the Political bumped

The wingnuts are afire. Between the O’Hanlon-Pollack op-ed and other military news out of Iraq, Republicans think they’ve found a winner. The surge is “working,” progress is being made. However, this discussion is happening in a vacuum that excludes the political. Republicans are also ignoring what the continual redeployments and extended tours are doing to our Armed Force structure. All they want to do is prop up the president, no matter the cost. Today, in an interview with John F. Burns, as well as on wingnut radio, it was full tilt propaganda, where the political side of the Iraq war and the military consequences of our continued presence was not taken seriously at all.

There are few journalists who I respect more than John F. Burns, the Baghdad bureau
chief for the New York Times. Recently, he lost one of his Iraqi reporter/interpreters
execution style. He’s been in Iraq for five years. Burns
has given an interview with Hugh Hewitt
in which Burns talks about the fear
of Iraqis and their dread of what will happen if (I would say when)
America leaves. He also addresses the political, but not in any way that offers
hope.

JB: No, I would say that’s probably the most depressing or discouraging
aspect of the entire situation. I think it’s probably fair to say that
the Iraqi political leaders, Sunni, Shiia, Kurd in the main, are somewhat
further apart now than they were six months ago. In other words, the Bush
administration’s hope that the military surge would be accompanied by
what they called a political surge, a movement towards some sort of national
reconciliation, uniting around a kind of national compact, that has simply
not occurred. Indeed, the gulf between the Shiite and Sunni leaders in the
government is probably wider than it has ever been. There’s a great
deal of recrimination. There’s hardly a day when the Sunnis do not,
as they did again today, threaten to withdraw from the government altogether.
There’s virtually no progress on the key benchmarks, as the Bush administration
calls them, matters like a comprehensive oil law that will settle the issue
of how oil revenues, which account for 90% of government revenues here, will
in future be divided and spent between the various communities, and many other
issues, eighteen of them, benchmarks identified by the Congress, there’s
very little progress on those benchmarks. Where there is some progress is
at the grass roots level, some progress, though we’re beginning to see
tribal leaders, in particular, in some of the most heavily congested war areas,
beginning to stand up and say they’ve had enough of it, and to volunteer
to put forth their young men, either to join the Iraqi police or army, or
to join in tribal auxiliaries, or levees if you will. That’s probably
the most encouraging political sign. But at the Baghdad level, unfortunately,
the United States still does not have an effective political partner.

The entire interview is very disheartening for many reasons, but mostly because
Republicans, with the help of wingnut radio, intend to change the subject. Rush
was all over this today, which I’ll discuss on my radio show. They’re turning
the entire argument on its head in order to focus only on military aspects of
the war in Iraq, virtually ignoring the consequences of no political solution
anywhere in sight.

The Catch 22 in all this is that Burns also states that the talk of withdrawal
is hurting the political side. The inference is clear. The conversation insinuates
that we should stay in Iraq, because the military side is “working,”
even though the Iraqis are not one inch closer to reconciling their political
differences, which just so happens to be the only path to any peace at all in Iraq. That for us to leave would cause a full riotous civil war, which the Iraqis
fear every day. Never mind that the Iraqi parliament isn’t so concerned that
they’d cancel their month long vacation, a topic Hewitt didn’t dare broach.

Thinking soberly about what Burns is saying, the only place to which I return
is what a colossal blunder Bush and the Congress made by going into Iraq. It’s
been said many, many times before, but as we discuss, plan and start to get
our hands around withdrawal it becomes even more infuriating. Lesson learned?

John Burns is as good as it gets. His assessment of General Petraeus could
not be higher. Burns believe Petraeus will give us an honest assessment because
Petraeus believes he owes it not just to Bush but also to Congress. That may
be true, but it’s clear what we will hear in September. The challenge will be
to face the political chasm between the Iraqis, understand we cannot bridge
it and decide that as dangerous as Iraq has become for Iraqis, the world has
become far more dangerous for us and that we’ve got other arenas to which we
simply must turn our attention.

Former admiral, now Rep. Joe
Sestak, was on “Hardball,”
yesterday. He laid out the timeline and the realities of redeploying from Iraq, which for the health of our Armed Forces, as well as the national security of this country, is inevitable.

… The Americans are tired of this war. It‘s what I hear throughout
my district. But at the same time, they want to salvage the best of the situation,
and they need Congress now to try to do it by turning towards a comprehensive
way to do it, a strategic approach. That‘s what I hear from them.

And the elements are there. You mentioned them. First off, what you have
is an Army that must begin to redeploy by next spring if we are to salvage
an Army that can be ready over the decades to come, years to come. Second,
that redeployment can‘t be tomorrow. I tell everyone that. You remember
Somalia, Mike, after Black Hawk down, 6,300 troops to get out of that country
took six months, and we inserted 19,000 service members in order to protect
them because when you redeploy, withdraw, is when you‘re most vulnerable
militarily.

Remember, the Soviet Union leaving Afghanistan, 120,000 in nine months it
took them, and 500 people died on the way. We have 160,000 troops there in
Iraq and over 50,000 to 100,000 contractors. What we have to do is remember
we can only take a two to two-and-a-half brigades at a time. And there‘s
40 brigade equivalents riding into Kuwait to wash them down, to shrink-wrap
the helicopters, to put the tanks and clean them up and get them on the ships.
That is going to take 15 to 18 months. .. …

Iraq does not revolve around whatever military successes we can achieve, though
it’s clear Republicans plan to exploit our military once again to keep Bush’s
foreign policy disaster going, even on life support until the ’08 election.
Iraq never has revolved around American will. Even in the midst of the dire
situation in Iraq, the biggest decision the Iraqi parliament has made together
so far is to go on vacation. They’ve got more important choices to make. No
matter how brilliantly our military performs, our presence in Iraq is not inspiring
them to make them.