Less Than Complete Victory
An open letter to Congressman Ed Case
October 20, 2005
Honorable Congressman Case,
Man, did you see President George W. Bush's speech the other night on Iraq and terrorism? What am I saying, of course you did. Anyway, it scared the hell out of me, sitting there Oct. 6, watching our president for another three years talking about the war in Iraq as though it's an episode of Band of Brothers:
"[W]e must recognize Iraq as the central front in our war on terror," Bush said. "We will never back down, never give in and never accept anything less than complete victory."
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. He explicitly compared the radical Islamic terrorism we're "fighting" to Communism five times. And that "In Iraq, there is no peace without victory" line was straight out of Douglas MacArthur's corncob pipe.
At first, I just dismissed it as the ramblings of an out-of-touch hick influenced far too much by neoconservative suits unschooled in the world's complexities. But then I remembered that what Bush was saying was almost exactly what you—an intelligent, well-spoken Democrat—have been saying.
"After a series of meetings with top government and military leaders from the U.S. and Middle East countries and troop visits throughout Iraq," was how your office's Sept. 6, 2005 press release put it after you got back from visiting our boys and girls in uniform, "Case said there is relative stability in most of Iraq, but an adequate continued U.S. presence is unavoidable in order to fully transition government, military, police and reconstruction responsibility to the Iraqi people and defeat an insurgency clearly receiving support from al-Qaeda and other external entities."
Iraq has "relative stability" but still requires a "continued U.S. presence" to "defeat an insurgency." Sounds like the president to me!
I know you toured the country. I know you talked with our top generals. I know you visited our troops. But seriously, what the hell are you talking about?
I don't have to visit Iraq to see it's a mess. The Kurds in the north have all but declared their "Kurdistan" to be a separate nation. They've essentially been their own nation since we slapped a no-fly zone over Northern Iraq in the early 1990s. And why shouldn't they leave? All Saddam ever did was gas and slaughter them, and besides, they've got plenty of oil and would be quite prosperous as an independent nation.
How serious are they? In January, 2005 two million Kurds went to the polls—1.96 million of them voted for independence. What does that tell you about Iraq's long-term chances for cohesion?
As far as the rest of Iraq is concerned, the two top Shiite parties in the ruling government coalition are strengthening their ties to Iran. They are busying themselves building not a democracy but an Islamic state. Somehow, I don't recall seeing that in the President's speech or your press release.
As far as the Sunni terrorists are concerned, they're targeting a lot more Shiites than Americans these days. Theirs is largely a sectarian war, killing Shiite merchants and workers in a bid to inflame civil war passions. The fact that dozens of innocent Iraqis die for every American seems to indicate our relative ineffectiveness at stemming this violence.
As Peter Galbraith has pointed out in an excellent series of New York Review of Books essays, the Sunni terrorists can't win. Despite Bush's rhetorical nonsense that an American pullout would leave "Zarqawi and bin Laden in control of Iraq," at most, just 20 percent of the Iraqi population agrees with them.
Why do you think Sunni terrorists are hitting the Shiites so hard? Because the Shiites are in charge now, and they have an awakened population free of Baathist control behind them.
Too bad we seem to be doing little to help out the Shiites hold onto their power. In his speech Bush had the temerity to say, "Today there are more than 80 Iraqi army battalions fighting the insurgency alongside our forces."
Yeah, "alongside." That's because U.S. CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid and General George Casey, who commands all U.S. forces in Iraq, told Congress on Sept. 29, 2005 that just one Iraqi battalion is at full strength and capable of operating independently. One. A few months ago they were insisting that three battalions were at full strength.
In the long term, this is probably irrelevant. Once we leave—and we will leave with something less than a Jeffersonian Democracy in place—Iran will move in and then the real Sunni-Shiite war can begin.
Congressman, with all due respect, you were there. You had to have heard these assessments. Yet I've yet to hear any public comment from you on any of this.
Look, if present trends continue—and all our top generals are unanimous in saying they will—then the number of American troops killed in Iraq will pass the 2,000 mark sometime in November. How many more servicemen and women are you and Bush prepared to "sacrifice" before you realize that our war just isn't working? MTW
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