Voice in the Wilderness

The news about the "war on terror" your local newspaper won't print.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Declare Failure and Go Home

To us cynics here in the wilderness the news that some U.S. troops are to be withdrawn from Iraq beginning next spring has all to do with the 2006 elections and little to do with the conditions in Iraq.

Of course it's entirely possible that as the public begins to weigh the consequences of the war with their votes, the insurgency will have diminished, the Iraqi armed forces will become incredibly capable, and the various factions vying for power over the last thousand years or so will all sit down together to join hands and sing "Kumbaya." This, of course, would fly in the face of reason and logic, which would make it completely consistent with everything else about this war.

Let us begin with the areas where the administration insists improvements have been made.

The State Department has to report to Congress on how the money the legislature allocated for Iraq is being spent. The report's executive summary reads somewhat like the annual report of a company whose stock has plummeted 40 points in the last year:
The goal of US reconstruction assistance to Iraq is to help develop a democratic, stable, and prosperous Iraq, at peace with itself and its neighbors, enjoying the benefits of a free society and a market economy. In support of this objective, Congress generously appropriated $2.5 billion in April 2003 and $18.4 billion in November of 2004 for the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund (IRRF). This report documents that these funds are being spent to create a foundation in the near term upon which the Iraqi government and private sector can build a more secure and prosperous country in the future using Iraq’s own revenues, assistance from other bilateral and multilateral institutions, and additional assistance from the USG.

Over the last two years, portions of the IRRF have been used to support the training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, but the majority of the funds have gone to the refurbishing and construction of thousands of health clinics, hospitals and schools; the reconstruction and modernization of the energy, transportation, communications and other sectors fundamental to the transformation of the economy; and many institution-building and technical assistance programs. (Read the entire report.)

If you have the fortitude to get through this incredibly mind-numbing report, and especially its appendices, you will find it enlightening for what it doesn't say. The report is filled with examples of supposed accomplishments, in the areas of training the Iraqi forces, equipping the security services, and such.The section on electrical power is most, uh, illuminating:

The most critical problem, this summer and beyond, is reoccurring attacks on energy infrastructure, particularly pipeline interdictions that disrupt fuel supplies to power plants, and sabotage to the transmission network limits the amount of generated electricity that reaches the Iraqi people.
This would account for why the following was written in an article by Leila Fadel, appearing in Knight-Ridder-owned newspapers:
Over 18 months, American officials spent almost $2 billion to revive the capital ravaged by war and neglect, according to Army Gen. William G. Webster, who heads the 30,000 U.S. and foreign troops and 15,000 Iraqi soldiers known collectively as Task Force Baghdad. But the money goes for long-term projects that yield few visible results and for security to protect the construction sites from sabotage.

As a result, Iraqis have seen scant evidence of improvement in their homes, streets or neighborhoods. They blame American and Iraqi government corruption.
"We thank God that the air we breathe is not in the hands of the government. Otherwise they would have cut it off for a few hours each day," said Nadeem Haki, 39, an electric-goods shop owner in the upscale Karrada district in the east of the capital. (Read the entire article.)
The story doesn't say that all is hopeless -- improvements have been made -- but that it will take time and dedication. You wonder who will do these things.

Then, there is the insurgency, which, of course, is in its "last throes," according to Vice President Dick Cheney. The State Department report gamely suggests:
With continued assistance, the Iraqi Army will increasingly be able to conduct independent counterinsurgency operations, and the Iraqi police will gain the capability to operate in a counterinsurgency environment. Building this Iraqi security capability is an essential element in the overall strategy of transition of greater responsibility for security tasks to Iraqi forces.
This antiseptic language does nothing to evaluate how virulent and widespread the insurgency is -- there are dozens of bombings across the country each day and it is estimated that upwards of 25,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. Nor does the State Department even guess how long it will last.

Writing from Baghdad, Sally Buzbee of the Associated Press reports that people on the scene are pessimistic:
Six months after Iraq's historic election, the country is on the verge of another political breakthrough, the successful writing of a new constitution. Yet there are growing worries the political momentum is doing nothing to calm a bloody insurgency.

Indeed, the insurgents appear closer than ever to tipping the country into civil war, leaving many Iraqis profoundly gloomy in this summer of relentless car bombs, scorching heat and sporadic electricity.

The issue is of keen interest to Americans, whose president has pledged that the U.S. military will stay in Iraq at its current level until the country can defend itself.

"I see this as a long, slow struggle," said Phebe Marr, author of "Modern History of Iraq," who just returned to the United States from a visit.

The obvious risk is that the violence will make the country so chaotic, and Iraqis so disillusioned, that political progress in Baghdad becomes irrelevant. (Read the entire article.)

How well will the "Iraqization" of the war progress? Writing in the July 21 New York Times, reporter Eric Schmitt says a Pentagon assessment is blunt:

About half of Iraq's new police battalions are still being established and cannot conduct operations, while the other half of the police units and two-thirds of the new army battalions are only "partially capable" of carrying out counterinsurgency missions, and only with American help, according to a newly declassified Pentagon assessment.

Only "a small number" of Iraqi security forces are capable of fighting the insurgency without American assistance, while about one-third of the army is capable of "planning, executing and sustaining counterinsurgency operations" with allied support, the analysis said. (Read the entire article.)

The bureacratic language of the State Department report belies the seriousness of the situation. It is loaded with words and phrases such as "initial phase," "started" and "begun." Hardly the sort of language that strikes courage into the hearts of those who believe that our work in Iraq is well on the way to being done.

And then, there is the political situation. The six-month deadline for completing a constitution (the U.S. consititution took two years to devise and enact) has come and gone, and the squabbling is no less intense now than when the process began, shortly after the February elections. (Which were strongly influenced by the U.S., Seymour Hersh has reported in The New Yorker.) The Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites are still light years apart on any sort of plan to share power.

Writing in the journal The National Interest, Zalmay Khalilzad, the new U.S. ambassador to Iraq, suggested a checklist for gauging success in that country. (The article is available online in The National Interest to paid subscribers only.) Daniel Serwer, vice president for peace and stability operations at the United States Institute of Peace, comments on that checklist in today's Boston Globe. Read his comments. Then, decide for yourself if the planned troop withdrawal represents a realistic response to the way things are in Iraq or just the administration's attempt -- at best Pollyannish, at worst Orwellian -- attempt to make the American people forget all about the war by the time they head to the voting booths in November of 2006.


  • At 11:56 PM, Blogger George said…

    Inevitably this always catches up with you and usually at the worst possible time Moving . Moving

  • At 10:06 AM, Anonymous Wendi said…

    When we are born our brains are like empty computers waiting to be fed information. As we grow our peers act as our programmers, they supply us with the knowledge which we channel through the conscious mind into the subconscious (our hard drive). The subconscious mind is the biggest hard drive ever developed - it stores everything we come in contact with and by no means is all of this information of a positive nature.
    All that we have heard, touched, smelt, tasted and seen are stored in the recesses of our minds. The subconscious mind holds on to this information until we need to recall it. For example when you were young your curiosity lead you to investigate your surroundings. When you approached a substance that was dangerous, such as fire, your parents or guardians would most likely have rebuked or scolded you if you ventured too near the flame. Perhaps you may even recall an incident when you were physically burned. Your subconscious mind then began to relate scolding (or pain) with the intense heat of the fire and would therefore feed the feelings of the scolding incident back to you whenever you got too close to fire again, thus acting as an early warning system.
    This is the mechanism used by our brains to learn. It is also the same method employed by the mind in every situation. The subconscious mind has a tendency to emulate what it sees - it tends to replicate its environment. This is why so many people find themselves in similar relationships and situations that they saw their parents in while they were growing up. Most people also hold very strongly or similar views of their parents.
    Think of a time when you gave yourself praise. What words did you use? Do you use the same words that your parents or peers used when they were praising you? The same is applicable when you scold yourself.

    Watch your internal dialogue. Look at it closely. It takes diligence to change the way you think. When you notice yourself thinking a negative chose to think the opposite. This way you neutralise the negative thought. Now the think the positive thought again! You have just reversed the negative thinking in that moment and remember you only have this moment. No other time exists!
    Daydream about what might be. Imagine things they way you wish them to be. If you catch yourself thinking "this is just a daydream - a fantasy" then stop! Think the opposite. It is not a daydream it is your reality. Now think it again.

    By doing this simple procedure you will begin to retrain your subconscious mind to think positively and you will ultimately begin to consciously create a life that dreams are made of! personal development


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