Friday, December 26, 2008

Reality Check

The Washington Post today carries a short article about about the Iraqi PM canceling a visit to Iran. About two-thirds of the way in, this statement appears.
Iraq approaches the provincial elections as a far less violent country than it was during a nationwide ballot in 2005. Roadblocks and barricades effectively partition the capital into hamlets, snarling traffic but restoring a semblance of normality. That was reinforced Thursday when the government declared Christmas a national holiday for the first time, a bittersweet reprieve for the country's beleaguered and rapidly dwindling Christian minority.

The statement states a very real fact about Iraq at the end of 2008--that nation is far less violent than in past years. In the view of America's conventional wisdom, America has achieved success in Iraq. CheneyBush's bold surge of troops turned the corner. The fact that the quoted statement is immediately followed by an account of a murderous attack in Baghdad in no way diminishes the achievement. Of course, Iraq will experience violence, that's just the nature of the culture. In the neo-con fantasy world of American policy, circumstances clearly warrant no change.

I cite the statement because it is the underlying premise of American thinking about Iraq and America's war policies. It conveniently ignores the history of the war and its disastrous consequences in favor of a temporary de-escalation of violence in a civil war as the participants conserve and nurture themselves in anticipation of the next round. For BushCheney, the moment allows him to leave office bleating "success" just as Nixon clung to "peace with honor" even as he abandoned South Vietnam to its own devices and American air power in a vain attempt to stave off inevitable defeat.

The trick actually worked for Nixon. at least until Watergate consumed his presidency. Between 1973 and his demise the following year, "peace with honor" took Vietnam off the table for most Americans. When Saigon finally fell to the North Vietnamese, Americans simply shrugged and Nixon was already planning his rehabilitation. CheneyBush will forever claim the rightness of his policies and enough Americans will believe him to give his story eternal life, just like the "we could have won in Vietnam if the hippies/press/Jane Fonda/liberals hadn't betray our soldiers."

If you look past the white noise of "surge success" and "building a democracy in Iraq" the reality is still grim. As always, Juan Cole is the best source for sober reality in the Mid-East. I recommend his "Top 10 Myths About Iraq 2008". He disputes the belief that the 2007 troop surge is the sole reason for the drop in violence.
The major reason for the fall in the death toll, however, was that the Shiites won the war for Baghdad, ethnically cleansing hundreds of thousands of Sunnis from the capital, and turning it into a city with a Shiite majority of 75 to 80 percent.... Now, a Shiite militiaman in Baghdad would have to drive for a while to find a Sunni Arab to kill.

In other words, the bloodbath we were fighting to prevent happened on our watch.

Reality. It will bite you in the ass if you don't pay attention



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