Sunday, September 26, 2004

Today's evidence of Democratic progress in Iraq

This is an important visit because the Prime Minister will be able to explain clearly to the American people that not only is progress being made, that we will succeed. The American people have seen horrible scenes on our TV screens. And the Prime Minister will be able to say to them that in spite of the sacrifices being made, in spite of the fact that Iraqis are dying and U.S. troops are dying, as well, that there is a will amongst the Iraqi people to succeed. And we stand with them. It's also an important visit for me to say to the people of Iraq that America has given its word to help, and we'll keep our word.

Yep, just like Preznit says. In fact, today we arrested the senior commander of the Iraqi National Guard.

The military did not give further details on Mr. Lahibi's ties to the insurgency, and senior military commanders in Baghdad declined to provide more information at a news conference in the late afternoon. "I don't have any specifics on why he was picked up," one commander said.

The arrest is the most significant known one of an Iraqi commander who was supposed to help the American military fill the gaping security vacuum left by the ousting of Mr. Hussein and the dismantling of the Iraqi army. It raises questions about whether, in the haste to stand up a legitimate Iraqi force by recruiting former senior Baath Party officials, the Americans have signed on officials with questionable loyalties and abilities, and whether the military will have to conduct a more thorough review of such people as American soldiers gird themselves to try to retake such insurgent-controlled cities such as Falluja, Samarra and Baquba, the capital of Diyala province.

American military commanders have said in recent weeks that they intend to wage a campaign later this fall to seize control of the hot spots, but that Iraqi security forces loyal to the Americans and the interim government must join in the fight and take responsibility for controlling the areas afterward.

Who are we kidding? Kids -- U.S. and Iraqi -- are dying everyday for what looks more and more like a shadow play for the "pleasure of the president."

The debate is growing louder. It's getting louder, because folks close to the administration are beginning the trial balloons floating and, so far none of the balloons are getting shot down.

EVEN by its own disturbing standards, this was a hallucinatory week in Iraq. Beheadings, kidnappings, bombings, outbreaks of deadly disease and everyday mayhem were accompanied by interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi's upbeat statement to Congress: "We are succeeding in Iraq."

Are we? The discordant images and messages captured a central difficulty of defining an Iraq policy. In the absence of any semblance of agreement on what the situation is, or even who is behind the insurgency, setting a course is problematic. But with more than 1,000 Americans already dead, and more dying each week, one question has begun to be posed with growing insistence: Should American forces leave?

Over at WaPo, via Kos, Michael Hirsh asks, "How will we know when we can leave?

For Hirsh, Paul Bremer's plan to create Germanification in Iraq was a pipe dream that has rapidly morphed into new plans for Iraq -- Vietnamization. Hastily set up a legitimate government and get the troops out.

Americans must begin to penetrate that silence by reckoning with some grim realities about the Iraqi endgame. The first is that there is no prospect of "winning" in Iraq, at least none that even remotely resembles the administration's rhetoric. The German model has become part of what Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Republican critic of the war, has called the "grand illusion" of Iraqi progress. Indeed, far from following the path of America's postwar triumph in Germany, the administration's approach on the ground is closely tracking one of America's greatest foreign policy follies: Vietnamization. That was the name for President Richard Nixon's disastrous policy of handing off the war to the ill-prepared South Vietnamese army and a thinly legitimate government in Saigon, so that U.S. troops could come home. Now the Bush administration is hanging its hopes on Iraqification, the propping up of equally unprepared Iraqi forces in hopes that we can ready them in time to forestall defeat long enough to withdraw.

Like Vietnam, the pull-out will be a disaster for the people of Iraq. A civil war, sparked by tribal warlords vying for power (perhaps the correct name for U.S. plans in Iraq is Afghanistanization). Unlike Vietnam, it would also represent a disaster for U.S. interests that will make Vietnam look like a great victory. The country we'd be leaving behind would bn oil-soaked failed state in the middle of the Middle East, and a new base for al Qaeda with better infrastructure and closer to the main action. And instead of removing troops from the land of Mecca, we'd have to reinforce those troops just to keep the Saudis propped up.

Feel safer?


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