Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bush has convinced me - We need to get out of Iraq


Far from justifying his plan to send more American troops to Baghdad, and presumably without intending to, President Bush on Wednesday articulated a case for ending the occupation of Iraq sooner, rather than later.

Bush began by telling us what we already know: that Iraq is a disaster and that it is his fault. He accepted "responsibility" for the failures without saying what that means. Responsibility without accountability is meaningless, so I hope the president will forgive me for dismissing his mea culpa as mere empty rhetoric.

However, while Bush shrugs off any accountability for himself, he is more than willing to force America's fighting men and women to bear the consequences of his failure. He intends to send more than 20,000 additional troops into harm's way to... well, to do what is not entirely clear.

The "new strategy" is to place the responsibility for ending the violence on the Iraqi government and its military. U.S. troops will be embedded with Iraqi units to assist them, Bush says.

But even as he attempts to convince us that more American troops must enter the fray to assist the Iraqis in suppressing the insurgency, Bush strives to lower expectations about what they can achieve.

This new strategy will not yield an immediate end to suicide bombings, assassinations, or IED attacks. Our enemies in Iraq will make every effort to ensure that our television screens are filled with images of death and suffering. Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace -- and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.


The changes I have outlined tonight are aimed at ensuring the survival of a young democracy that is fighting for its life in a part of the world of enormous importance to American security. Let me be clear: The terrorists and insurgents in Iraq are without conscience, and they will make the year ahead bloody and violent. Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue -- and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties. The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will.
President Bush did not outline a plan for victory on Wednesday so much as he expressed a hope. He hopes that Iraq's "young democracy" can end the violence and establish security and stability for its people. This hope has its roots in Bush's baseless belief that Iraq's Sunnis and Shia desire above all to live together in harmony. This hope seems optimistic in the extreme. If Iraq's Sunnis and Shia wanted to hug and sing "Kumbaya," they would do so. Instead, they are torturing each other to death with power drills. Hope, as they say, is not a plan. In this case, it is a delusion.

In order for the Iraqi people to feel safe and secure, the violence has to end. The Iraqi government's greatest problem continues to be its inability to facilitate an end to the violence. In the runup to Bush's speech, most observers assumed that he would cite ending the violence as the reason for sending more American troops into harm's way. To the contrary, he now says the violence can be expected to continue, no matter what. This, as Bush might or might not be aware, is the precise reason that opponents of the escalation cite for not sending more troops to Iraq. It won't make any difference.

With Bush explicitly admitting the same thing, there now exists no rationale for sending more Americans to Iraq. If greater numbers of American troops won't help to end the violence, there is clearly nothing more that can be accomplished by those already there. Therefore, the occupation of Iraq must end.

Thank you for clearing that up, President Bush. Now, bring our troops home.


The Washington Post has an analysis about the likelihood of increased violence in Baghdad and whether it will yield a positive result.

The last time the U.S. military fought both Sunni and Shiite elements in Iraq was the spring of 2004, which became one of the most difficult times in the war. U.S. commanders were stunned to face a two-front conflict against Sunni insurgents in Anbar province and Shiites in Baghdad and across a broad swath of south-central Iraq. Troops from the Army's 1st Cavalry Division fighting in Sadr's stronghold of about 2 million Shiites in eastern Baghdad became enmeshed in a series of clashes resembling the movie "Black Hawk Down." Sadr's militias besieged isolated U.S. patrols and took over police stations, schools and municipal buildings.

An Army officer who recently commanded a battalion in Baghdad predicted last night that the plan would fail because Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his government "will do things to maintain protection" of Sadr's forces. He also dismissed as "happy talk" the president's notion that the predominantly Shiite Iraqi army and police could reassure pro-insurgent Sunni neighborhoods by conducting foot patrols through them.