Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Iraq & The Forever War: To Everything There Is a Season: Burn, Burn, Burn

Conservatives, as absent minded as their president when it comes to the lessons of history, are forgetting a significant cyclical aspect of the history of the Iraq war in their hearty hosannas over the "success" of the surge.
In each of the first four years of the war, there has been a spike in violence as temperatures cool down, summer wanes and Ramadan approaches.
I pray that this year is different. But in a scary confluence of events, Ramadan begins on September 13 this year, two days after the sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that President Bush insists were launched by insurgents in Iraq and two days before General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker go up to Capitol Hill to deliver the most anticipated progress report since the Bush twins got their braces off.

Brigadier General Richard Sherlock, deputy director for operational planning for the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that insurgents are likely to attempt to make use of these events to launch “sensational” attacks.
In past years, frequent targets have been women, often with children in tow, who are queuing for cooking fuel to use throughout the holy Muslim month, as well as Christian churches and other civilian targets.
In August 2006, the Baghdad government reported that 2,966 Iraqis were killed. In September 2006, that number spiked at 3,539.


"In November of 1967, the Administration launched an extensive 'public relations' campaign. It was designed to convince Congress, the press, and the public that there was "progress" in Vietnam and that the war was being 'won.' [President] Johnson was advised to '[E]mphasize light at the end of the tunnel instead of battles, deaths, and danger.' 'There are ways,' Johnson was told, 'of guiding the press to show light at the end of the tunnel.' To head this effort, Johnson brought General William Westmoreland, commander of American forces in Vietnam, to Washington. Westmoreland addressed the National Press Club saying that the U.S. had reached the point 'where the end comes into view.' "

Yes, this is one strange war, and no aspect may be stranger than the role that Washington, D.C., consultants and lobbyists are playing far from the field of battle.
Take one-time and perhaps future Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.

Allawi, a Shiite and former Baathist, has always been about foreign support and has no real domestic political base to speak of. And so he has hired a powerful D.C. lobbying firm to pitch his comeback campaign.

The firm, Barbour Griffith, is to receive $300,000 over six months, but Allawi hastens to add that:
"These figures are really much less than the figures that are being paid by others, our adversaries."
Marc Lynch over at Abu Aardvark has Allawi's number, writing that:
"Allawi would not solve any of America's problems in Iraq, and . . . he'd have a rough time getting a change of government through Parliament or taking control of an Iraqi state thoroughly penetrated and controlled by pro-Iranian Shia factions. But he represents an easy out for those who want to blame Maliki for problems which really flow from the nature of the Iraqi state, and an excuse to kick the can down the road for another year. What makes Allawi plausible is the absence of any other serious contenders to rule Iraq - which is, perhaps, the real indictment of the Iraqi political system."
More here.


It is obvious that there is big money to be made in purchasing and delivering weapons and other material to American and Iraqi forces.

The New York Times reports that several federal agencies are investigating a slew of fraud and kickbackcases involving billions of dollars of ill-gotten gains, including a logistics operation set up by a senior American officer, Lieutenant Colonel Levonda Joey Selph, who worked closely with General Petraeus when he was in charge of training and supplying Iraqi forces in 2004 and 2005.

Although Selph's neck seems to be in a noose, there is no indication that investigators have uncovered any wrongdoing by Petraeus.

The Times said that the logistics operation:
"Moved everything from AK-47s, armored vehicles and plastic explosives to boots and Army uniforms, according to officials who were involved in it. Her former colleagues recall Colonel Selph as a courageous officer who was willing to take substantial personal risks to carry out her mission and was unfailingly loyal to General Petraeus and his directives to move quickly in setting up the logistics operation."
More here.

When U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky made her first trip to Iraq this month, the outspoken antiwar liberal resolved to keep her opinions to herself. "I would listen and learn," she decided.
At times that proved a challenge, as when Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih told her congressional delegation, "There's not going to be political reconciliation by this September; there's not going to be political reconciliation by next September." Schakowsky gulped -- wasn't that the whole idea of President Bush's troop increase, to buy time for that political progress?
But the real test came over a lunch with General Petraeus, who used charts and a laser pointer to show how security conditions were gradually improving -- evidence, he argued, that the surge is doing some good.

Still, the U.S. commander cautioned, it could take another decade before real stability is at hand.

Schakowsky said she gasped:
"I come from an environment where people talk nine to 10 months. And here he was talking nine to 10 years."
Well, while Schakowky doesn't get it, Senator Lindsay Graham and blogger Ed Morrissey sure do.

Graham, a South Carolina Republican who happens to be the only congressperson to serve his reserve duty in Iraq, is back from the Big Dusty and is now all gung-ho for the surge.

Explains Captain Ed at Captains Quarters:
"Graham still remains critical of Nouri al-Maliki's leadership, but argues that he's become almost irrelevant to the reforms. . . . The changes on the ground have provided momentum for the reforms necessary, and Graham says that all Maliki needs to do is get out of their way.

" . . . The opportunity comes at a curious but providential juxtaposition of events. General David Petraeus had finally implemented the correct counterintelligence strategy at almost the precise moment that al-Qaeda overplayed its shari'a enforcement. The final straw for most Iraqis was a ban on smoking on top of all the brutality they had already endured from the terrorists. Even the nationalist insurgents saw the American troops as preferable to the radical Islamists at that point.

"Graham believes that we already have the momentum for real reform and stability, although it will take a while to get the Sunnis to buy into democracy. All we need to do is keep clearing ground while the Iraqis stabilize from the ground up."
In like nine to 10 years, eh?

More here.

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