Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Would Someone Please Stop Listening to Michael O'Hanlon?

Just when you think the delusions of wingnuts and their "supposed" critics like Michael O'Hanlon couldn't get any worse, we see this article in today's USA Today:

Most Democrats — in fact, most Americans — believe that the Iraq war has been a huge mistake for this country. Accordingly, it's no real surprise that Democrats will nominate a presidential candidate who sees Iraq as they see it: anguished by the loss of life, deeply upset by the damage done to America's reputation, and angered by the unilateralism and poor war planning of the Bush administration.

These viewpoints are sincere, legitimate and defensible. But they sometimes fail to fold in the reality of how far Iraq has come in the past 12 months under the new surge-based strategy of Gen. David Petraeus. Most Democrats seem to belittle or even deny the progress, despite a 75% reduction in violence and the beginnings of Iraqi political compromise.

First of all, that's an interesting way to move the goalposts and try to slice out the best piece from a horrific pie. See where you can find a "75% reduction" in these statistics:

In January this year 485 civilians were killed, according to the website. It says the number is based on news reports, and that "actual totals for Iraqi deaths are higher than the numbers recorded on this site."

The average month in 2005, before the "surge" was launched, saw 568 civilian deaths. In January 2006, the month before the "surge" began, 590 civilians died.

Many of the killings have taken place in the most well guarded areas of Baghdad. And they have continued this month.

"Two car bombs exploded in Jadriya, killing so many people, the day the American Secretary of Defence (Robert Gates) was visiting Baghdad last week," a captain from the Karrada district police in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS.

"Another car bomb killed eight people and injured 20 Thursday (last week) in the Muraidy market of Sadr City, east of Baghdad, although the Mehdi army (the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr) provides strict protection to the city," the officer said. "There is no security in this country any more."

Unidentified bodies of Iraqis killed by militias continue to appear in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. The Iraqi government has issued instructions to all security and health offices not to give out the body count to the media. Dozens of bodies are found every day across Baghdad, residents say. Morgue officials confirm this.

And then there's this:

BAGHDAD: The number of Iraqis killed in February rose by 33 per cent over January, reversing a six-month trend of reduced violence, in a setback to the US military plan to curb the bloodshed ravaging the country.

The combined figures from the interior, defence and health ministries showed that the total number of Iraqis killed in February was 721, including 636 civilians, compared with 541 dead in January.

I guess when people are under orders NOT to report violent acts, it's pretty easy to claim success. We're still getting some numbers, however, and those numbers point to a rise in violence, if you count bodies not incidents. If O'Hanlon's cheerleading is to be believed, everything is great, unless you're one of the Iraqi citizens still being killed every day. What was the surge about, anyway? I thought it was to reduce the unacceptable level of violence in Iraq so that the government could have the breathing room it needs to achieve political reconciliation.

People in Basra don't see any benefits so far:

As many as 5,000 people demonstrated near the Basra police command headquarters Saturday [March 8], demanding that the police chief, Maj. Gen. Abdul-Jalil Khalaf, and the commander of joint military-police operation, Lt. Gen. Mohan al-Fireji, resign.

Many carried banners, decrying the killing of women, workers, academics and scientists. Dozens of women were slain in Basra by religious extremists last year because of how they dressed, their mutilated bodies found with notes warning against "violating Islamic teachings."

Saturday's protesters, overwhelmingly men, came from several Shiite political movements, including the biggest Shiite party, the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council and its militia wing, known as the Badr Brigade.

Prepare to see more goalposts moved. Basra doesn't "count" because no US troops were sent there. Well, here's a perfect example as to why the surge hasn't worked--all it did was push extremists to another part of Iraq where they could carry out their agenda.

Benchmarks? You wanna ask about benchmarks? Benchmarks? From the Center for American Progress:

Total Benchmarks: 3 of 18 Accomplished
On the one year anniversary of President Bush’s State of the Union address justifying his "New Way Forward" in Iraq, it is clear that the surge has failed to meet its objectives. One year ago, the president pledged that “America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced." Despite the fact that the Iraqi government has only met three of the 18 benchmarks laid out last year, an end to U.S. military and financial commitment is nowhere in sight.

The purpose of the surge was to provide the “breathing space” for political reconciliation to occur. Yet over one year later, political progress has been scant, and what progress has been made is not durable. The Iraqis have not made the difficult political compromises necessary for national reconciliation, and an indefinite U.S. presence in the region will not inspire them to do so. Despite the best efforts of our military men and women in creating a temporary lull in violence, substantial advancement toward a sustainable and independent Iraq has not been made.

In order to motivate Iraq’s political leaders, the United States must set a date certain for withdrawal. Only then will the Iraqis make the difficult political compromises necessary for national reconciliation. While redeploying our forces over the next 10-12 months, the United States must initiate a diplomatic surge to ensure that all of Iraq’s neighbors are involved constructively in Iraq’s future. Only by implementing a Strategic Reset in Iraq will the United States be able to take control of its own national security interests in the country and the greater Middle East.

O'Hanlon then says:

To be sure, it is understandably hard for Democrats and other administration critics to believe that a war fought so badly at first could take a turn for the better. We are not used to such things in the modern era. Arguably, one has to go back to the American Civil War to find a parallel, and even that is a poor analogy because President Lincoln's performance in that war was clearly far better than President Bush's has been in this one, to put it mildly. That said, if Democrats cannot get beyond their viewpoint, they could suffer badly in the fall as a result. Even more important, the nation could suffer as we waste an election campaign refighting the debates of 2002 and 2003 rather than looking to the future.

Lincoln didn't "mismanage" the Civil War; we had never fought a war approaching the scale of the Civil War. There was no precedent for it. There was virtually no Army to stand up and no way to counter the fact that most of the competent, West Point trained military officers were leading the troops of the Confederate States. Here's where Lincoln truly succeeded after a mere 2 and a half years with a 19th Century industrial base, as opposed to the FIVE YEARS that Bush has had with access to manufactured goods never seen before in human history. Once the North provided the right gear--and in sufficient quantities--to its troops, they slaughtered the large and small troop formations of the South and, had the war continued past Appomattox, would have nearly eradicated the male population of the South. By the end of the war, Sherman's Army was outflanking and destroying any formation that dared oppose it. Entire states were being overrun and even overly cautious Northern Generalship was able to trap and pulverize Southern formations.

And have you seen the results from the primaries? Every time Clinton or Obama make noise about ending this unpopular war, they get screams of approval and people beat down the doors to vote for them. McCain? McCain "survived" his way to the nomination and has about as much enthusiastic support as that brain-dead 33% [and dropping!] of the country can muster for him. They can't muster any cash though--the "anti-war" candidates who will cut and run and "suffer badly this Fall" only raised about $85 million to McCain's measly $12 million.

And finally, he tells the biggest whopper of all:

Thankfully, there has been some movement of late in Iraq's politics. Its leaders have passed a pensions law, a de-Baathification law to incorporate former Saddam loyalists into the army, a new budget for 2008, an amnesty law for many detained during the conflict, and a provincial powers act that should help clarify the roles of Iraq's 18 provinces and pave the way for elections this fall. These steps come on top of de facto oil revenue sharing last year, when the central government gave the provinces far more money to spend than ever before.

Yet myriad problems still exist. For example, the de-Baathification law, if badly implemented, could do more harm than good by purging Sunnis from the very security forces that we have worked so hard to include them within. And even the landmark provincial powers act has since been vetoed by Iraq's presidency council, leaving it in limbo.

Where to begin?

Juan Cole gives us these two bits of information:

1. The new law is not the major change that reformers had pushed for. Instead, the law preserves the previous De-Ba'athification system and simply renames Iraq's controversial De-Ba'athification Commission. This is a major change from the draft law that went to parliament in December;

2. Reinstatement rights, pension rights, and the appeals system have been strengthened for many thousands of people, at least on paper. These are welcome improvements - but do not change the fact that the system is still based on guilt by association, not on individual deeds;

3. The new Commission has stronger powers than previously and its reach will now extend across different organizations, including the President's Office, Prime Minister's Office, and the Supreme Judicial Council. Exemptions will be harder to come by. These changes will likely cause political backlash and also severely violates the independence of Iraq's judiciary. These provisions are in addition to the new language that forces all former employees of Ba'ath era security forces to retire, which is already complicating the law's political reception;

4. The new Commission will now have the power to investigate complaints of corruption or criminal activity by former Ba'athists and gather evidence for judicial action. This could be a welcome move towards greater accountability-or a new mechanism to conduct public and high profile witch hunts. Much depends on the Commission's new leadership and the new rules they must establish for the Commission's work. '

Political reconciliation is all but dead in Iraq if the coalitions that gave the Iraqi people al-Maliki cannot hold together:

Al-Hayat reports in Arabic that the Sadr Movement predicts that the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI, led by Abdul Aziz al-Hakim) will lose half its seats on the provincial councils if provincial elections are held October 1. A law of the provinces was passed by parliament but was turned back by the 3-man Presidency Council. It is suspected that Vice President Adil Abdul Mahdi, who belongs to ISCI, led the charge in vetoing the law. ISCI is said to fear losing its political control of a majority of the provinces where Shiites predominate, won in the elections of January, 2005. Not only did the Sadrists denounce the veto, but so did the Da`wa (Islamic Call) Party. Da`wa has the federal prime ministership, and also the governor of Karbala province is a Da`wa member. In the far south in Basra, the Islamic Virtue Party (Fadhila) predicted that the provincial elections would upset the balance among the Shiite parties.

I guess if you're Michael O'Hanlon, you have no choice but to keep lying. I think it works best if you just claim that you "missed" Juan Cole's posts because they don't have Internet where you live.

Whoops! I wonder if O'Hanlon reads Swopa:

The Associated Press reports this evening:

The Democratic chairman and Republican former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee have asked government auditors to determine what Iraq is doing with the billions of dollars in oil revenue it generates.

"We believe that it has been overwhelmingly U.S. taxpayer money that has funded Iraq reconstruction over the last five years, despite Iraq earning billions of dollars in oil revenue over that time period that have ended up in non-Iraqi banks," Sens. Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John Warner, R-Va., said Friday in a letter to the head of the Government Accountability Office.

"At the same time, our conversations with both Iraqis and Americans during our frequent visits to Iraq, as well as official government and unofficial media reports, have convinced us that the Iraqi government is not doing nearly enough to provide essential services and improve the quality of life of its citizens," they said.

The senators estimated that Iraq will realize "at least $100 billion in oil revenues in 2007 and 2008."

There has been speculation among wags in Iraq (which I'm sure I've quoted here at least once in the past) that having built up no popular base of support during their incompetent/corrupt/etc. reign, the former-exile politicians who have dominated the post-U.S. invasion government there will go promptly back into exile as soon as the Americans stop propping them up.

Yes, it would be a bit expensive to relocate to Ibiza or Malibu without first looting a country.


More from the Holy Shit! File--h/t to Spencer Ackerman:
Sadrists Rebel Against Sadr for Being Too Pro-American!
It’s a real shame IraqSlogger is subscription-only. They’ve got something incredible: an anti-Sadr rally. Practically in Sadr City!

In an act described by witnesses as verging on the "unthinkable," scores of Iraqis staged a protest against the Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday inside a region known as a stronghold of the Mahdi Army militia.

On Monday, in the Kasra wa Atash area, in the Eastern part of the capitol near Sadr City, assembled protesters chanted anti-Sadr slogans, and voiced objections to the recent trends in Sadr’s leadership of the Sadrist Current, the Shi’a religious tendency named after his father and his father-in-law.

The marchers chanted in Arabic: "The traitor is a soldier and we have discharged him" (i.e. from his military service). When a Slogger source asked to confirm who the "soldier" was referred to in the chant, marchers indicated that the "dismissal" was indeed directed to Muqtada al-Sadr, using the nickname "Qaddu," an Arabic nickname for the young cleric that derives from his first name.

But why are they opposing Sadr? Because he’s a demagogic religious thug? Because they’re sick of the violence? Because they want reconciliation with the Sunnis and occupation by the Americans? Nope.

Some marchers reportedly accused the Sadrist leadership of reaching a quiet agreement with U.S. forces in order to pacify the capital, but said they opposed such an agreement, preferring that the Sadrist current offer resistance to the American presence.

One thing that O'Hanlon would never be honest enough to admit is that EVERYTHING, and I do mean, every-last-friggin-thing, collapse in Iraq if Sadr loses control of his followers and the go back to killing Americans. EVERYTHING.

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