Sunday, August 26, 2007

It is long past the time for sobering assessments

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a cofounder of the House Out of Iraq Caucus, went on one of those dog-and-pony juggernauts to Iraq over the August recess. The outspoken anti-war liberal pledged to "listen and learn," and keep her own opinions to herself while there.

That proved a challenge at times. Like when Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told her "There's not going to be political reconciliation by this September; there's not going to be political reconciliation by next September." Or when General Petraeus told her that for a stable Iraq to emerge, it would require another decade of occupation.

But the military presentations left her stunned. Schakowsky said she jotted down Petraeus's words in a small white notebook she had brought along to record her impressions. Her neat, looping handwriting filled page after page, and she flipped through to find the Petraeus section. " 'We will be in Iraq in some way for nine to 10 years,' " Schakowsky read carefully. She had added her own translation: "Keep the train running for a few months, and then stretch it out. Just enough progress to justify more time."

"I felt that was a stretch and really part of a PR strategy -- just like the PR strategy that initially led up to the war in the first place," Schakowsky said. Petraeus, she said, "acknowledged that if the policymakers decide that we need to withdraw, that, you know, that's what he would have to do. But he felt that in order to win, we'd have to be there nine or 10 years."

Schakowsky got an advance screening of the sales pitch that will be hard-peddled in about three weeks time when Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus come to Washington to present the White House-written report on *progress* in Iraq.

Of course, by any metric you choose, the troop buildup is a failure. The express purpose of the exercise in futility and human sacrifice was to give the Iraqi government "breathing space" to achieve political progress. Instead, the government went ahead and stepped up it's disintegration, and calls for Maliki to be replaced are practically commonplace.

The humanitarian crisis is staggering. The number of internally displaced refugees, Iraqis forced from their homes but lacking the resources to flee the war-torn nation, is soaring. Syria and Jordan are overwhelmed. The only beneficiary of the refugee crisis is the Syrian sex trade.

Speaking of the humanitarian crisis created by aWol's vanity war, Petraeus was ready with the spin. "If you don't like the humanitarian crisis, the refugees and the internally displaced people, you can't draw down. If you are concerned about these people, the humanitarian crisis, you should be for our staying here." Schakowsky did not respond to Petraeus; instead she let it pass. "I was not arguing," she said. "I wanted to see what his take was."

Of course he is going to say that. But it's bullshit. The fact is, if the US were out of the way, the neighboring states that are directly affected by the refugees that strain their housing supply, schools and healthcare systems could be involved in helping what is left of Iraq achieve something resembling stability. But seriously - why the hell would Syria get involved when the troublemaker on the block refuses to talk to them, and has even made hostile threatening gestures in their direction?

Why in the name of all that is sacred and holy would we even consider a decade-long occupation of a hostile land when even those who support it admit that the solution is going to be political, not military? It is not at all like Germany, Japan or Korea. We are not occupiers in those nations, we are allies, and we are there at the invitation of the functioning, elected governments of those nations, and the citizens of those nations aren't trying to kill our G.I.'s.

It is time to bring on the diplomats. I don't care if it takes six months to decide on the style of chairs that will surround the peace table. Start fucking talking because this blowing shit up and having our Soldiers and Marines treating the residents of neighborhoods like common criminals is not cutting it, and can not be a successful strategy.

It is long past time to start dealing with reality, because reality certainly has no qualms or reservations about dealing with the young men and women who are thrown into the mix.

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