Finally, some good news from Iraq.
“We are winning,” declared former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee…Former Sen. Fred Thompson of Tennessee said the U.S. “must prevail” in the war, and added, “… I believe that we are.”
…Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani … said that the goal in Iraq should be a “victory for America.”
The phrase was striking because Bush himself, who often touted the U.S. strategy for victory, recently dropped the word “victory” from his lexicon as part of an administration effort to avoid appearing to overstate progress.
Excuse me, but I think this is where I came in.
Mission accomplished? Victory? Hardly.
Who’s kidding whom?
At best, we have a temporary respite from escalating numbers of deaths and attacks in Iraq since the so-called surge began.
On Sunday, 23 civilian deaths were reported. On Saturday, 26. On Friday, 32. The worst day last week was Wednesday, with 45 killed. The weekly total: 202. Those are conservative numbers from a reliable source.
Thirty-seven US service members died in Iraq last month, the lowest monthly total since March 2006.
Lest anyone confuse those numbers with “victory,” consider this sobering assessment:
BAGHDAD — The U.S. troop buildup in Iraq was meant to freeze the country’s civil war so political leaders could rebuild their fractured nation. Ten months later, the country’s bloodshed has dropped, but the military strategy has failed to reverse Iraq’s disintegration into areas dominated by militias, tribes and parties, with a weak central government struggling to assert its influence.
In the south, Shiite Muslim militias are at war over the lucrative oil resources in the Basra region. To the west, in Anbar province, Sunni Arab tribes that once fought U.S. forces now help police the streets and control the highways to Jordan and Syria. In the north, Arabs, Kurds and Turkmens are locked in a battle for the regions around Kirkuk and Mosul. In Baghdad, blast walls partition neighborhoods policed by Sunni paramilitary groups and Shiite militias.
“Iraq is moving in the direction of a failed state, a highly decentralized situation — totally unplanned, of course — with competing centers of power run by warlords and militias,” said Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group. “The central government has no political control whatsoever beyond Baghdad, maybe not even beyond the Green Zone.”
The key word in the first paragraph of that story is “failed.”
And that’s the situation with US troop levels at their peak. A relative handful — 5,000 of the 162,000 US forces — are on their way home this month.
By next summer, 25,000 more are to come home under the plan put forward by Gen. David Patraeus. That would merely bring troop levels back to where they were before the surge — and Patraeus has kept open the option of changing his mind, depending upon the security situation in Iraq.
At the absolute best, that leaves 130,000 US troops in Iraq next July.
There are plenty of words to describe the situation in Iraq, but victory is not one of them.
We’ve got to keep the pressure on, or we’ll be hearing Hillary & Co. talking about “victory” in their next debate.
A real victory would consist of ending the war and bringing our troops home. That is not even up for discussion by the Republican candidates, except Ron Paul, and gets very little traction with the leading Demomcrats, either.
It’s time to turn up the heat. Iraq Moratorium #4 on December 21 is a good place to start, but don’t stop there. We’ve got to not only turn up the heat, but keep it on.
Or we should consider the solution proposed by Sen. George Aiken, a Vermont Republican, during the Vietnam war: Just declare victory and being the troops home.
That’s the kind of victory we could all get behind.