As touched on in today’s Four at Four, there are two very different stories coming from Iraq in today’s (October 27) U.S. papers. I think these two different stories, one from Baghdad and one from Ramadi, help explain a lot to why the United States’ occupation in Iraq continues, why the U.S. Congress remains divided on what to do, and why the issue of the Iraq occupation may be slowly fading as the primary issue in the 2008 elections.
The first story comes from Joshua Partlow of the Washington Post who reports Members of one U.S. unit are tired, bitter and skeptical after 14 months in a Baghdad district torn by mounting sectarian violence.
“Their line of tan Humvees and Bradley Fighting Vehicles creeps through another Baghdad afternoon… A bomb crater blocks one lane, so they cross to the other side, where houses are blackened by fire, shops crumbled into bricks. The remains of a car bomb serve as hideous public art. Sgt. Victor Alarcon’s Humvee rolls into a vast pool of knee-high brown sewage water…”
Asked if the American endeavor here was worth their sacrifice — 20 soldiers from the battalion have been killed in Baghdad — Alarcon said no: “ enter I don’t think this place is worth another soldier’s life.“
The second story is from Tina Susman of the Los Angeles Times with Marines declare war on garbage. The U.S. Marines see “trash pickup as the key to maintaining security in Ramadi, where a decision last year by Sunni Arab tribal leaders to turn against insurgents has brought calm to the once-violent capital of Anbar province… The desire for clean streets and pleasant surroundings has overtaken security concerns in Ramadi, where the population has declined by 100,000 residents since the war began four years ago.”
“This is the fight — sewage, water and trash,” Lt. James Colvin said as he showed the landfill to a visitor. “I was a poor math major in college. I come here and they tell me: ‘OK, fix the sewage system!’ ” said Colvin, remembering how shocked he was to return to Ramadi and find that he could walk down streets that he once dreaded crossing in an armored vehicle. “ accutane and side effects But there’s no enemy to hunt down now, so this is our line of attack.“
So in Baghdad, troops are dying. While in Ramadi, troops are bored. There is news for those who want to end the occupation and there is news for those who believe the occupation is working. So should we stay or should we go? Congress cannot make up its mind. There are not enough Democrats to force a decision and, as the Los Angeles Times reported last week, Republicans who now oppose the war are being punished by their party and their war-loving constituents.
Most Americans, if recent polls this year are to be believed, want the U.S. troops out Iraq and think the war was a bad idea. But, as the Financial Times reported earlier in the week, Iraq is fading as a hot political issue. “A well-placed bomb in Baghdad’s Green Zone could change everything but, for the time being, the war in Iraq has ceased to be the US’s hot political issue.”
So who benefits with Iraq as a cold political issue? Likely politicians who supported the Iraq war and occupation. Candidates who have advocated troop redeployment or complete withdrawal may seem less relevant to American voters and other concerns may surface in importance — such as health care, immigration, or terrorism. (I have little hope my prime concern, the climate and the environment, will be a significant issue in the 2008 presidential race.) Or, perhaps Americans have learned to live with ongoing war? Since, for the most part, the pain of war is borne by a very small few. Or, perhaps Americans are focused on the next war the Bush administration and Congress is selling?
But certainly, what these mixed news stories do is work against a clear argument for leaving Iraq. This helps the Bush administration’s goal of prolonging the war until George W. Bush leaves the White House.
As Iraq fades from the headlines, the status quo prevails with the United States losing about 2 soldiers a day and is borrowing and sending to keep the occupation going. In the more than four years of Iraq war and occupation, 3,838 soldiers haved died so far and 28,171 wounded. $463,420,000,000 already borrowed and spent and more being borrowed and spent every day.
America is in a war we cannot afford anymore. When a friend or loved one goes so far down a path of self-destruction, those who care for that person try to intervene. My fellow Americans seem hellbent on destruction — in the Middle East and with our planet’s climate — and if trends continue, neither will be of primary significance in 2008. If Americans prove incapable of even admitting we have a problem, let alone working on solutions, in the coming months, then America might be in need of an intervention.
Cross-posted from the European Tribune.