Sunday, December 9, 2007

Iraq

*146 American troops killed since September 1, 2007

First, Iraq. The troop "surge". It has been judged by Republicans to have been a great success. And on one front, it has been a success. Violence is down. That in and of itself, is a very good thing. Only 146 of our American soldiers have been killed since September 1. I'm not sure I believe "only 146 deaths" is really a cause for joy but but it is better than some previous months.

My problem with the troop surge is that I don't understand what the point was. I know the stated reason President Bush gave. It was to "buy time" for the Iraqi government to have some "breathing room" to make political progress. And have they made political progress? Nope, not so's you'd notice. In fact, far from making use of the breathing room we gave them, the Iraqi government, en masse, has just gone on vacation - again.

Meanwhile, we are going to bring some troops home. We have to. We knew all along that we didn't have enough manpower to sustain the surge much beyond the first of the year. Still, I expect we will bring them home to great fanfare with the president proclaiming that they are able to return because of the success of the mission.

But unless what they've accomplished is a permanent change, one that can be maintained by the Iraqis themselves once our presence isn't so dominating, it may prove to have been a temporary fix.

Vice-president Cheney says that he believes that Iraq will be a self-sustaining democracy by January of 2009. He's never been right about anything before but there's a first time for everything, so maybe this will be that time. But if that's so, why is Bush trying desperately to work out an agreement with the Iraqi government that will guarantee our presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future, tying the hands of the next president, who may not agree with such an arrangement?

Republicans often accuse those who have been opposed to this war of "wanting America to lose". This isn't true, at least in my case. My bottom line is that I never believed we should have gone into Iraq and even if we "win" (the definition of which changes from month to month but let's take Cheney's vision of Iraq as a "self-democracy" as victory), I don't think it was worth it. I don't think the very best possible outcome that could happen was worth the lives of almost 4,000 Americans, the health of tens of thousands of other Americans, the lives of God only knows how many Iraqis, the total destruction of a country, a trillion dollars spent that we could have put to better use, was worth it.

I thought going to Iraq was a tragic mistake on Day one and I think it is a tragic mistake on whatever day this is - no matter what happens in Iraq and even if "only" 146 Americans die in the next three months.