Sunday, February 4, 2007

Obsessed, yes.

* 126 American military killed in Iraq so far in 2007 - 39 killed so far in February (2/9/07)

Readers have said I am fixated on this war. Yes, I am - and the statistics above are the reason why. I'll write about it as long as I have to.

- This week, we learned that the final contingent of "surge" troops won't arrive in Iraq until May. There are stated reasons for what has been called "slow-walking" the additional soldiers to Iraq (necessary training, time required to produce needed equipment, etc) but I think the main purpose for this "slow-walking" is to buy Bush more time before he has to answer for his plan. Even politicians on his side have said that we should know whether the escalation is working in some relatively short time frame. Most frequently, the stated period has been somewhere between three and six months but presumably, Bush will argue that the clock doesn't even start ticking until all the troops are there. Thus, instead of a judgment on the surge, counting down from January, the Bush administration and its supporters will insist that they have until at least the fall of 2007 before any evaluation can be made. I think Bush thinks he can pull of one of two scenarios: a) the Democrats will end his war by cutting off funding and thus, he can say that they "lost" Iraq or b) he will run out the clock, forcing the next president to clean up his mess. If that president is a Democrat, as is likely, the Republicans will blame the Dems unto infinity for "losing" a war which was unwinnable from day one.

More and more, I feel a sense of deja vu about this war and Vietnam. I think the ending will be much the same. The people will force a withdrawal of our troops but that doesn't mean the politics won't affect our political discourse for a generation, just as Vietnam did. Just this week someone told me that we lost in Vietnam because we "didn't have the guts to fight it to the end but I wonder what this person thought would be the end and how long it would have taken to get there? We "had the guts" to stay for a decade and lose 58,000 men. It always seemed to me, we should have had a "gut check" long before that. And, in fact, we did. Just like now, the people wanted it over but their leaders just couldn't bring themselves to admit defeat.

- Last week in Iraq, a suicide bomber killed at least 130 people. The market where the attack happened was a place where Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds all gathered to shop so who was the target when it seems as if, whoever the bomber was, he killed at least some of his own? And this appears to be what Iraq has become now - a place where the killings have no particular target but are just done out of a bloodlust gone crazy.

- Our intelligence agencies finally released the National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq that the Congress had requested weeks ago and it gives a bleak assessment of the situation, saying that Iraq is essentially, beyond civil war. It is worse than civil war because civil war implies two groups vying for power but Iraq is multiple groups killing one another, as stated in the paragraph above, for reasons we can't even comprehend. The report does say though that Iran is not likely to be a "major driver of violence" in Iraq, although the Bush administration wants us to believe that it is. And why did it take so long for this report to be released? You have to assume that the president did not want it to come out until after his surge had already begun because it offers little hope that additional troops make much difference in the long-term.

But the proponents of the escalation of this war forge on despite all evidence that their predictions have been wrong in the past. Senator Joe Lieberman assured us over a year ago that the administration had a "strategy for success" in Iraq. Senator John McCain said over a year ago that he was confident, "we would see significant progress in Iraq in six months to a year." Why do these people, who have been proven so drastically off-the-mark, still have any credibility at all? And yet, McCain is the Republican front-runner for President. In fact, all the Republican front-runners are supporters of the president on Iraq.

- And speaking of the surge, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has reported that the 21,500 additional soldiers the president is sending to Iraq are only the combat component. It is estimated by the CBO that it will also be necessary to send another 28,000 of our military in a support capacity so actually, the number who will be going is more like 50,000.

- The Bush administration has requested an additional $140 billion for the next two years for Iraq and Afghanistan. What problems could we have solved in this country for that amount of money that has been spent on Iraq? We could have made Social Security and Medicare solvent for the forseeable future. We could have completely rebuilt New Orleans. We could have instituted a program of national healthcare. We could have repaired every substandard school in America. We could have fulfilled all the recommendations for Homeland Security made by the 911 Commission. We could even have devoted enough resources to actually win the war in Afghanistan. Red is the color of Iraq - red for the blood of our soldiers; red for the ink in our Treasury - and yet it rolls on.......