The Surge Is Not A Success

blast-wall.jpgUrban renewal project in beautiful downtown Baghdad

Chris Matthews‘ substitute host, McCain enthusiast Mike Barnicle, reacted incredulously Wednesday to a comment by Iraq war vet Jon Soltz, co-founder and chairman of, that the so-called “surge” has not been a success.  Pressed by Barnicle, who reflects the corporatist media’s official narrative of the surge, Soltz made a number of arguments:

America is less secure as a result of our invasion of Iraq, the surge being just the latest chapter in a failed war and occupation.

Al Qaeda, identified by many including the Obama campaign as America’s top national security threat, is more powerful than any time since 9/11, having reconstituted itself in the Afghan-Pakistan hinterlands. (Lest we forget, AQ didn’t even exist in Iraq before the invasion.)

The US military, tied up on two war fronts, is overstretched and at the breaking point.

The ostensible goal of the surge, Iraqi political reconciliation, is nowhere near a reality, especially in the Kurdish regions.

An overall oil law and revenue sharing law still hasn’t been passed, highlighted by the intensifying ethnic fighting over oil-rich Kirkuk.

Soltz concludes that the problem isn’t overall troop levels but “regional strategic diplomacy,” one of those nuanced Obama concepts that escapes our corporatist media’s obsession with dumbed down narratives for the infantilized American voter. (For which we can thank an educational system that substitutes  dubious testing paradigms for critical thinking skills.)

Additionally, there are a number of other arguments that Soltz didn’t (presumably have time to) make.

Iran has been dramatically strengthened rather than weakened as the region’s presumptive hegemon.

The Turkish military has intensified its incursions into Iraqi sovereign territory.

Regional elections have once again been delayed.

A national oil law has not been signed.

There’s the huge problem of what to do about the 4 million Iraqis that have been forced from their homes, including the vast majority of the educated classes vital to rebuilding the country.

The decision by the political and military wings of Baghdad’s Shia (Mahdi) militias to lay low. Surprising what a couple of hundred high explosive missiles and bombs can accomplish when targeted at your military and civilian base.

The ethnic cleansing of Baghdad, courtesy of US financed death squads, for which former Iraq Ambassador John Negroponte of El Salvadoran death squads fame probably deserves some credit. That and the installation of 12 ‘ concrete blast walls has turned the city into a fortified warren of sectarian enclaves.

The decision by the Sunnis, made many months before the surge was even announced, to vanquish foreign fighters from their midst, the so-called Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Comes a time when the “enemies of my enemies” strategy becomes more a liability than an asset. Especially when our mutual enemy offers to put you on the dole of the American taxpayer, a perverse permutation of what we call in my neck of the woods– protection money.

Analogy wise, I live in Los Angeles where we have as many heavily armed gang members as the US has troops in Iraq.

There are neighborhoods in South Central where the roof tops are patrolled by walkie-talkie toting gang bangers, where the police will not do foot patrols for fear for their lives. I’m sure that LA Police Chief Bratton would claim that he could reduce violence there with a “surge” of 30,00 heavily armed tactical police and a bunch of concrete walls.

While I’m a little rusty on my Sun Tzu, it wouldn’t surprise me if he didn’t warn something along the lines of: Don’t mistake your enemy’s silence for “victory.” He might just be reloading. As Dr. Vali Nasr of the Council on Foreign Relations put it:

“People wrote the requiem for sectarian conflict and AQI too rapidly. In the absence of a final settlement, the country is always vulnerable to regression, and we still may end up back where we were.”

Case in point: reports that last Monday alone, there was some 87 killed and 288 wounded, primarily the work of four female suicide bombers.While violence against Iraqi civilians is down from what Prof Juan Cole calls apocalyptic to merely horrific levels, Cole points out that “success” can be just another word for no one left to kill:

“The troop escalation, which actually allowed the ethnic cleansing of the Sunnis of Baghdad and the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from the country, has largely been pushed as propaganda by the White House and the AEI.”

When Is A Surge Is Not A Surge, Mr. McSame?

The last of the five “combat brigades” that accompanied the surge are reported to have left Iraq at the end of May. Yet there is still at least 10k more troops in Iraq than before the surge began. Which means that it wasn’t a surge at all, but a covert escalation, a mere shuffling of one kind of troops for another.

John McSame likes to take credit for the surge as his idea. He premises much of his presidential campaign on it’s “success”, using it to prove that he “knows how to win wars, my friends.” Unfortunately, he’s as confused about the surge’s details as he is about so many other things, like his oft repeated assertion that Iran is training Al Qaeda (its sworn enemy).

Like Vonnegut’s Billy Pilgrim, Captain McSame has become unstuck in time. He claims, for instance, that the Sunni Awakening in Anbar Province was a result of the surge, overlooking the fact that it occurred some 10 months before the surge was even announced.

Does anybody else get the impression that McSame is trying, consciously or unconsciously, to uncreate the legacy of the failed Vietnam War; that he wants some bloody payback for five years as an abused POW? Is that why the Pentagon refuses to release its 600 page after-captivity report that concluded there’s was just no way that this guy should be promoted and given the command responsibilities of an admiral, like his daddy and granddaddy before him?

McSame’s predictive abilities are further proof of his unfitness for command. Recall that among other things we would be greeted as liberators, that our casualties would be minimal, that Iraqi oil would pay for the operation.

While I’m in no way fond of Pat Buchanan, he was spot on when he warned:

McCain will make Cheney look like Ghandi.”

In other words, beware the sequel- Surge 2.0. Coming to a ‘theater’ near you.

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