Monday, September 13

It's Worse Than You Think

Is the title of a Newsweek article posted on MSGOP. Pretty amazing and the only thing I can think of is that someone left the barn door ajar. Anyone paying attention was aware that the transferrence of soveriegnity in Iraq, was a political ploy designed to get the happenings of quagmiristan off of the front pages.

This is election season and it's a lot easier for the administration to sing happy tunes about Democracy in Iraq, when the media is going to bury the story. Unfortunately for them our fascination with numbers and statistics was bound to rise to the occasion as we slipped past a thousand dead american soldiers. But before we study the Newsweek piece, I would like to share with you, something I saw over at Tristero, a NewsHour interview of a couple of retired officers, and they are telling it pretty straight.

What do these new figures say, Gen. Trainor, about the state of play, the balance between U.S. forces and the insurgency? I mean, we heard Secretary Rumsfeld say, 'well, it's a sign of the progress the U.S. is making and they're desperate.' Is it that, or is it a sign of rising instability?

LT. GEN. BERNARD TRAINOR: Well, I think, Margaret, that anybody that tries to put a good face on this situation-- that they're desperate-- I think that they're just whistling in the dark.

This insurgency is going on, it's growing, it certainly has no indications of being an act of desperation at all. And the 1,000-casualty mark, you know, it's a milestone. It has a psychological effect, and obviously is going to have some partisan political interest. But of itself, you know, it's somewhat irrelevant.

Rumsfeld, who's knowledge of the location of bodies buried, is the only reason he still has a job, has always put a happy face on whatever horrors out of Iraq made it into the light of day, in fact it would seem to be his primary occupation. It is nice that Gen. Trainor has the stones to smack down the Rumsfeld's characterisation of desperation equals progress. Next up Col Sam Gardiner:

MARGARET WARNER: What do you think it says about the state of play over there?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Well, the secretary of defense is fond of measures of merit. I think --

MARGARET WARNER: Measures of merit?

COL. SAM GARDINER: Yes, of how we're doing, how do we measure this. Ray mentioned some of the numbers in terms of attacks per month. But if you look at, for example, the number of attacks per day, last October it was around 20.

At the hand-off, it was 35. This month it was 87 -- numbers of attacks on the oil pipeline -- January and February, less than five; June, 16; August, 20; September, high already. The numbers aren't good. The numbers show that the insurgency is getting worse. We seem to have turned the corner, and it's getting worse.

Who let these patriots escape custody, this administration can't have retired carreer military officers straying off the ranch and speaking the truth. Since the handover and attendant press blackout, we have had 2 extremely bad months over there, and a record month of casualties (1100 in Aug). We are engaged in a war of attrition at this point, entangled in some gordian knot crafted in a catch 22 factory.

MARGARET WARNER: What's fueling it?

COL. SAM GARDINER: There probably are a number of things, Margaret. One of them is we did some bad things. We made some enemies.

The way we treated people in prison, knocking down doors. We insulted them as part of the hard line earlier. That's first. The second thing is there are people now in Iraq from outside. The Iranians are involved, people are coming in from Syria, so that the insurgency is being fueled from the outside.

If only wars could be fought with hardcore political acumen, then our glorious flypaper strategy might then bear fruit. But george wanted his war on the cheap, He sold it to the country on this premise alone. All the other crap WMD's for instance was smoke and mirrors, because if he had been honest and said that 17 months hence we would have sunk 138billion and climbing, and would be looking at 1000 body bags, support for this war would have sunk like a stone.

No the war was marketed as a flowery greeting, pay for itself affair. Unfortunately it's execution has been the definition of pennywise and pound foolish. And did we really have to abuse those prisoners? Of course we did, Georgie boy wanted some good news, and everybody knows that the best way to do that is torture people who have been randomly swept up off the streets, who may very well be innocent, provide no actionable intelligence........"hearts and minds" indeed.

MARGARET WARNER: What's your view of the fix for this?

COL. SAM GARDINER: The fix is, I think, the fix administration has picked, which is to get it off of the newspapers. The strategic communications objectives right now, as I read them, are to take this off of the radar screen of the American people.

In July, you can... we were seeing roughly 250,000 articles in the world press per day about this. It's now down to 150.

MARGARET WARNER: What about the fix on the ground?

COL. SAM GARDINER: There is no fix on the ground. As one goes into a situation like this, every decision you make not to do something gives up a strategic option.

We've given up lots of them-- not relying on the army, not getting rid of the militia. When you get down to the point we are now, you're into tactical defense.

Let's not have casualties. Let's hope this thing somehow finds a solution. I don't hear anybody with a solution.

So as we suspected, the transfer plan was about keepping this story off of the radar of the American People, after all, why should we be burdened with the ugliness of a war that we are all in part responsible for, and we most certainly will be paying for in perpetuity. That might lead some to question the only thing that is keeping juniors nose above the water, his steadfast leadership in a world of fungible changeabilities and nefarious boogy men.

Col Gardiner's last statement is not entirely accurate. Kerry does have a plan involving increasing the boots on the ground with help from our estranged allies, and getting us the hell out of there during his first term. A bit vague, maybe, but given the secrecy of the crew presently runnign the show, I would be very careful attempting to come up with any detailed plans untill I know exactly what I am dealing with. What is obvious is that he would never have prosecuted the war without a plan in place to secure the peace, and the post war planning (or lack thereof) has been the achilles heal of the bush administration. Unfortunately for them Newsweek has joined the fray.
Sept. 20 issue - Iraqis don't shock easily these days, but eyewitnesses could only blink in disbelief as they recounted last Tuesday's broad-daylight kidnappings in central Baghdad. At about 5 in the afternoon, on a quiet side street outside the Ibn Haitham hospital, a gang armed with pistols, AK-47s and pump-action shotguns raided a small house used by three Italian aid groups. The gunmen, none of them wearing masks, took orders from a smooth-shaven man in a gray suit; they called him "sir." When they drove off, the gunmen had four hostages: two local NGO employees—one of them a woman who was dragged out of the house by her headscarf—and two 29-year-old Italians, Simona Pari and Simona Torretta, both members of the antiwar group A Bridge to Baghdad. The whole job took less than 10 minutes. Not a shot was fired. About 15 minutes afterward, an American Humvee convoy passed hardly a block away—headed in the opposite direction.
Kidnapping with impunity, always one of those positive transitional steps, indicitive of a healthy young democracy. Patience folks, security takes time, especially if your occupation, i mean Liberation, force is outnumbered roughly 250 to 1. Our next objective seems to be trying to quell the chaos long enough to hold elections this January, a date contrived no doubt to give bush a chance to tout this success during his next state of the union, should he actually be elected, but that, like the footage of the codpiece strut, may end up dead on arrival.

A senior Iraqi official sees no chance of January elections: "I'm convinced that it's not going to happen. It's just not realistic. How is it going to happen?" Some Iraqis worry that America will stick to its schedule despite all obstacles. "The Americans have created a series of fictional dates and events in order to delude themselves," says Ghassan Atiyya, director of the independent Iraq Foundation for Development and Democracy, who recently met with Allawi and American representatives to discuss the January agenda. "Badly prepared elections, rather than healing wounds, will open them."

The whole thing has been a series of self delusional activities, from the firing of a general who suggested that 300,000 or more troops would be necessary, to the manipulation of intellegence, that allowed us to be played like fools by Chalabi, and the Neandercons, to the dream of a war that would pay for itself. Let's not forget the idea that logistical management could be handled by civilian contractors, and there are many more examples of deluded assumptions that could only result in the disaster we now face.
America has its own Election Day to worry about. For U.S. troops in Iraq, one especially sore point is the stateside public's obsession with the candidates' decades-old military service. "Stop talking about Vietnam," says one U.S. official who has spent time in the Sunni Triangle. "People should be debating this war, not that one." His point was not that America ought to walk away from Iraq. Hardly any U.S. personnel would call that a sane suggestion. But there's widespread agreement that Washington needs to rethink its objectives, and quickly. "We're dealing with a population that hovers between bare tolerance and outright hostility," says a senior U.S. diplomat in Baghdad. "This idea of a functioning democracy here is crazy. We thought that there would be a reprieve after sovereignty, but all hell is breaking loose."
As much as the republicons wish to claim that Kerry is responsible for all the chaff about Vietnam, it is simply not true. The Bush campaign can not afford to have any coherent discussion of the present state of Iraq, to do so would only maginify the failure of his administration to get anything right. If you are looking for anyone else to blame, the media is fully complicit as enablers of distraction, and would rather cover a horse race than discuss anything that resembles an honest debate about policy. They are primarily fluffers, nary a wonk to be found among them. There is a flash slideshow at the top of the page of the Newsweek article that is a must see. I'll finish up with an excerpt from a guest editorial I found at Juan Cole's place, by UCLA Professor of Economics Harold Cole.
Eerie parallelism

The anniversary of September 11 seems to be generating a bit of a reflection on where we are and how are we doing vis-à-vis the war on terrorism. The recent article in the Atlantic and [Saturday's posting at Informed Comment] all seem to be coming to the similar conclusions: (i) while initially successful in Afghanistan, we had a real opportunity for a long run success there and we blew by not committing enough men and resources to it, and (ii) the Iraq war was a major strategic disaster brought about by our fundamental misunderstanding of the people we dealing with.

It’s striking how similar this is to our assessment of how we went wrong in Vietnam. I started rereading my old copy of Stanley Karnow’s book on Vietnam. The initial discussion of the mindset and assumptions that we had going into Vietnam are eerily similar to what Fallows describes in his interviews with Wolfowitz. People not familiar with a region or a culture never the less conclude that it is open to our moving in and radically changing its organization and cultural/political orientation. They are then surprised to find out that that is not the case when the costs in terms of bodies and treasure start piling up:
Assumptions Assumptions Assumptions. What kind of roads are paved with good intentions? Where are we going, and what am I doing in this handbasket. Planning based on faulty assumptions inevitably lead to disaster. It soesn't matter if you are talking about engineering, or the blurprints of war, If the planning is flawed, the intended results will continue to escape you, specially if you'ins is resolute and steadfast to a fault. I saw the following on a Kos diary and think it's inclusion here is appropriate.
American perspective on freedom is somewhat skewed. For the most part, we've always had it and we've never TRULY had to fight for it. We've also always been a prosperous nation, with functioning local governments, infrastructure, and for the most part enough for everybody to eat. It's so easy for us to assume that everyone must want what we want and what we have- and to some extent, I think people do have a sort of innate desire for political freedoms.

But what my friend can't understand is that life under Saddam, especially when he was uncle Sam's buddy, was a mixture of uncertain terror and permanent fear with a functioning economy, secular protection for women, and decent public health care and schools. Now they have some measure of "democracy" but their infrastructure is destroyed, there are no jobs, no health care, constant terror, gunfire and death.

Something I dont' think we often appreciate is that many people will take living under tyranny with a decent standard of material existence than living under a nominal democracy the way Iraq is now- in short, most Iraqis probably have a legit reason to wish for the old days, without necessarily thinking Saddam was good by any means.
I can't remember who authored this quote, but with respect to the choice of livng with old reliable in the form of Saddam, might somehow be more desirable that living in the present day Iraq, I am reminded of the following "most men live lives of quiet desparation" or as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independance:
"Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed."