Considering Victory in Iraq

While voters demand an end to the war, Bush, Cheney and their Republican facilitators continue to push for victory in Iraq. The president has long called for victory in Iraq, as recently as July claiming, “we will prevail.” Defined in 2003 and updated in November 2005 by the National Security Council, Bush’s “National Strategy for Victory in Iraq” explains his goals.

While every administration puts a rosy picture on public pronouncements, the victory strategy, given the current conditions in Iraq, reads more like an Alice in Wonderland fantasy than a realistic assessment. Consider that Iraq is part of “the long war against the ideology that breeds international terrorism” and victory will not come from “an enemy’s surrender” or “a single particular event.”

Defined as short, medium and long term, victory means “making steady progress” in fighting terrorists and insurgents, maintaining “security” and “tackling key economic reforms,” with an end of “defeating terrorists and insurgents,” to create an elected government in Iraq that serves as “an inspiring example to reformers in the region.”

Finally, the US will have “defeated the terrorists and insurgents,” and Iraq will become “a peaceful, stable, democratic, and secure” state “a partner in the global war on terror.” Victory is vital to the US “war on terrorism,” and defeat would destabilize “a vital region” and expand the fight “to our own shores.” A major goal involves dismantling the former “planned economy” and, reading between the lines, establishing a free-market economy similar to that in the US. Oddly, there’s no mention of oil or Israel, two issues often cited for the invasion of Iraq, nor the fact that the invasion itself destabilized the region.

Bush declared victory in May 2003, when he landed on an aircraft carrier displaying a White House mandated “Mission Accomplished” banner. Since then victory has become elusive: just around the corner, after another “turning point,” and we only need “to stay the course” until we win. Given today’s White House logic, perhaps victory means something different from winning, for Bush and Cheney emphasize a struggle of epic proportions, similar to the cold war, intended to revitalize America’s national purpose.

After four and a half years, the goals of victory stretch into the future like an alcoholic’s promise to quit drinking. A year ago, 100 leading American foreign policy and military experts judged the “War on Terrorism” a failure. Iraq was “a perfect training ground” for Islamic terrorists and they predicted “future repercussions” for the US.

In July, 16 US intelligence agencies reported Iraq polarized in “a self-sustaining sectarian struggle” with the Iraqi government in “its initial stages.” Failing to call strife in Iraq a civil war, the report declares that leaders have irreconcilable “differences,” oil output remains below pre-invasion levels, and electricity supply has fallen. Despite Bush’s recent claims of a stronger Al-Qaeda, the report found it is not a major player, although the conflict is spreading ethno-sectarian strife to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

By any measure Iraq is a mess with 4,300 American dead, 30,000 wounded (including mercenaries), $500 billion in tax dollars, increased anti-Americanism around the globe, and Bush’s ratings matching those of “Tricky Dick” Nixon. Foreign Policy magazine found Iraq deteriorating for the third year in a row in “social, economic, political and military” terms.

The “coalition of the willing” has fallen by half, the 350,000 strong Iraq army leaves US troops to fight 90 percent of the battles, and attacks increased 20 percent in the last year to 4,200 a month. A spring poll of Iraqis found that 21 percent believe US forces improve security, while 60 percent say they make security worse. The Associated Press reports that US troops in Baghdad are now fighting Iraqi police and mortar attacks are “nearly a daily occurrence” in the heavily fortified “Green Zone.”

Despite the loss of midterm elections, considered “a referendum” on the war, Bush refuses to admit the mess he, Cheney, the neocons and the GOP have made of Iraq. As Congress attempts to rein in Bush’s unpopular war and strategists point out that it will take 3,000 huge convoys over 10 months to withdraw, Bush continues to argue for “executive privilege” to conduct the war. Fearful of being “weak on defense” major Democratic presidential candidates pledge to withdraw troops to the 106 US military bases in Iraq, as if that will stop attacks on them.

None of this addresses the mess at home where a cowering, credit-card addicted electorate accepts huge tax cuts for the rich, abrogation of the Geneva Conventions, suspension of habeas corpus, torture, mass secret spying, data mining of their most private information, and a Supreme Court that promises to return to the age of Ulysses S. Grant.

General Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of the US invasion forces recently said the US can forget about “winning the war,” and only hope to salvage a stalemate to “starve off defeat.” More appropriately, how will the US accept a failed military adventure and begin the slow, long process of reclaiming our country from this corrupt administration?

DON MONKERUD is an California-based writer who follows cultural, social and political issues. He can be reached at