The news of recent weeks emanating from Washington and Baghdad point to one clear, if not final, conclusion: The Bush administration’s adventures in Iraq have been a complete failure.
What the media have eagerly dubbed as the Republican Revolt is now reinforced by two of the most distinguished Republican senators: John Warner of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana. Before the Democrats’ takeover of the two positions in Congress, Warner was the chairman of the Armed Services Committee whereas Lugar presided over the Foreign Relations Committee. Their significance in the party in national security and foreign policy issues is simply uncontested.
Both senators proposed a measure requiring troop redeployment from frontline combat as early as January 1, 2008. The measure, unveiled on July 13, 2007, would require the White House to come up with a plan for realignment by October 16, 2007.
One only needs to consider the timing of that proposed realignment to appreciate the seriousness of the proposal. The head of the US forces in Iraq, General David Petraeus, along with US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, are expected to furnish a report to the Congress assessing how the war has progressed and whether the Iraqi government of prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki has lived up to the conditions imposed by the Congress and signed by Bush. If Al-Maliki and his circle, which many see as sectarian-based, fail to show competence, there will be an aid cut.
Democrats, whether genuinely or knowing that the Iraq fiasco is their winning card in their strife with the embattled president, are fuming. In their view, even the momentous initiative by Warner and Lugar seems, at best, insufficient. Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, chastised the plan for not insisting on any implementation. He insists, however, on an alternative legislation that would require troop withdrawal by the spring of 2008. Many Democrats are also following Reid’s line; however, they don’t represent the needed majority to override a presidential veto.
Bush, on the other hand, maintains that his strategy necessitates more time. He is no longer demanding but “imploring.” In fact, the latter word was the precise term used in a Washington Post article on July 14, 2007, reporting on the White House’s response to the Republicans’ rebellion. “Bush implored Congress to wait for Petraeus’s assessment before trying to change strategy,” Shailagh Murray wrote.
By expecting a redeployment strategy to be drummed up by mid October 2007, the senators’ proposal would expect the White House to start preparing the document almost immediately; by doing so, they render Petraeus and Crocker’s recommendations to be of no consequence in advance. And why wait if Petraeus’s views are already well known?
Petraeus spoke to the BBC’s John Simpson, in Baquba, Iraq, only a few days before the development on Capital Hill. “Northern Ireland, I think, taught you that very well. My counterparts in your [British] forces really understand this kind of operation… It took a long time, decades,” he said.
Petraeus is not pessimistic to the point of eliminating the possibility of a military victory altogether, but he is talking of a long and arduous war. “I don’t know whether this will be decades, but the average counter insurgency is somewhere around a nine or a 10 year endeavor.” Considering these views, one can only predict that the Petraeus’s report in September 2007, which is likely to celebrate a few achievements here and there, will accentuate the duration of the anticipated war. An additional 10 years to suppress an “insurgency” is too long for a nation that is already growing weary from war and its costs; to say nothing of the Iraqi people who have paid the ultimate price.
The Bush administration’s failure to rally the Congress, and increasingly its own Republican Party members there, is being paralleled by another political storm; this time emanating from the Iraqi government itself: Al-Maliki is alleging that the Iraqi government forces are capable of keeping security in the country when US forces leave “anytime they want.” A top aide of his, Hassan Al-Suneid, has lashed out at the US for turning his country into an “experiment in an American laboratory.”
Al-Suneid made his comments in protest of the Bush administration’s benchmarks, but also of the US military tactics, including coordination with Sunni militant groups – “gangs of killers” according to Al-Suneid – to ostracize and destroy Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Al-Maliki is dealing with the unsolvable crisis and widening division within the ranks of the Shiite political parties, and between the latter and the Sunni and Kurds. His coalition crisis is a much grimmer version of Bush’s Congressional ordeal, although it is fueled mostly by Washington’s policies and expectations.
While Pentagon reports continue to talk of some success here and there in justification of the 30,000 troop surge, the situation on the ground tells of a different reality. Suicide bombers, car bombs, endless US military raids, and shells whizzing everywhere carry on unhindered. The fact that Iraqis are dying by the hundreds makes all the Pentagon reports of measurable progress simply ink on paper.
Back in the US, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll, conducted 9-11 July, 2007, shows that the American public approval of the Congress performance is as low as it was in June 2006 before Democrats took over both the House and the Senate. With their approval of the Congress performance at 24 percent, Americans are losing faith in both parties, after a temporary surge of hope that the Democrat’s ascension will help move the country into a new direction. President Bush’s approval rating remained at an equally devastating 33 percent.
It’s too obvious that the US policies in Iraq have failed beyond repair. That failure wouldn’t be of too much consequence if it were not for the fact that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have paid the price. Many more will likely die if the Congress doesn’t act forcefully to carry out the wishes of the American people and respect the sanctity of the lives of Iraqis and their own.
RAMZY BAROUD teaches mass communication at Curtin University of Technology and is the author of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle. He is also the editor-in-chief of PalestineChronicle.com. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org