Created on Wednesday, 11 April 2007 08:50
Written by Robert Parry
'Surging' Toward Failure in Iraq
by Robert Parry
The Washington pundits and the press are all atwitter wondering how successful George W. Bushâ€™s Iraq â€œsurgeâ€ strategy will be and how fast the Democrats will crumble in a showdown with the steely-eyed President over his demand for $100 billion more for the war with no strings attached.
But the underlying military reality is that the United States has long since â€œlostâ€ the war in Iraq. As many military and intelligence analysts recognize, it is not winnable in any normal sense of the word. The â€œsurgeâ€ of sending tens of thousands more U.S. troops into Iraq only guarantees that the final body count will be higher and the piles of IOUs bigger.
To get a sense of the inevitable disaster ahead, just envision
the conditions for U.S. troops stuck in police stations around Baghdad
when the summer temperatures rise to over 100 degrees and tempers turn
just as hot. By then, too, Iraqi insurgents will have adjusted their
tactics to take advantage of isolated American soldiers.
U.S. death toll in and around Baghdad is already increasing though the
â€œsurgeâ€ is only partially complete. In the months ahead, as more U.S.
troops are exposed in less protected positions, the likelihood is that
the casualty rates will grow only worse.
As The New York Times
reported on April 9, â€œFor American troops, Baghdad has become a
deadlier battleground as they have poured into the capital to confront
Sunni and Shiite militias on their home streets. The rate of American
deaths in the city over the first seven weeks of the security plan has
nearly doubled from the previous period.â€
But the basic reason
that Bushâ€™s â€œsurgeâ€ plan is doomed to failure is that it never was a
distinctly new military strategy. It was a repackaged version of â€œstay
the courseâ€ slapped together in December and January when Bush was
under pressure from the bipartisan Iraq Study Group and the newly
elected Democratic congressional majorities.
The Iraq Study
Group, headed by longtime Bush family counselor James Baker, called the
situation in Iraq â€œgrave and deterioratingâ€ and proposed a phased
withdrawal of U.S. combat forces combined with more training of Iraqi
troops and a diplomatic offensive to reduce tensions in the region.
correctly read between the lines, interpreting the report as a
repudiation of his open-ended war and a recommendation for a gradual
â€œThis business about graceful exit just simply has no
realism to it whatsoever,â€ Bush fumed, vowing that U.S. forces would
â€œstay in Iraq to get the job done.â€
Accepting the Iraq Study
Groupâ€™s findings also would have meant admitting his failure as the
â€œwar president,â€ which Bush would not do. So, he adopted a plan,
favored by his neoconservative advisers, that was less a military
strategy than a political device.
â€œsurgeâ€ was a way to buy time for Bushâ€™s legacy â€“ to palm off
inevitable defeat on his successor â€“ even at the cost of many more
American and Iraqi lives. It was like the riff by Comedy Centralâ€™s
Lewis Black about â€œkeeping false hope alive.â€ That has been Bushâ€™s
pattern for the past four years.
At every key juncture of the
Iraq War, Bush has pointed to a new mirage of expected success as the
United States staggers deeper and deeper into the desert. First, there
was the expectation of victory after Saddam Husseinâ€™s sons were killed
and the dictator was captured. Later, there was the writing of a
constitution and return of â€œsovereignty.â€
In fall 2004, as Bush
needed to get past the U.S. elections, there was the promise of
upcoming Iraqi elections that would mark another corner turned. If
anything, the heralded elections only deepened the violent divisions
between Shiites and Sunnis.
Turning-point after turning-point,
conditions only got worse. Even Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld
reached the conclusion that the Iraq War was pretty much a lost cause,
sending Bush a menu of options on Nov. 6, 2006, that focused on
disengagement similar to ideas promoted by Democratic Rep. John Murtha.
options included â€œan accelerated drawdown of U.S. basesâ€ from 55 to
five by July 2007 with remaining U.S. forces only committed to Iraqi
areas that requested them. â€œUnless they [local Iraqi governments]
cooperate fully, U.S. forces would leave their province,â€ Rumsfeld
The Defense Secretary suggested that the commanders
â€œwithdraw U.S. forces from vulnerable positions â€“ cities, patrolling,
etc. â€“ and move U.S. forces to a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) status,
operating from within Iraq and Kuwait, to be available when Iraqi
security forces need assistance.â€
And in what could be read as
an implicit criticism of Bushâ€™s lofty rhetoric about transforming Iraq
and the Middle East, Rumsfeld said the administration should â€œrecast
the U.S. military mission and the U.S. goals (how we talk about them) â€“
Bushâ€™s reaction was to fire Rumsfeld two days
after receiving this â€œgoing wobblyâ€ memo. Bush replaced the headstrong
Rumsfeld with the accommodating Robert Gates.
As the New Year
dawned, however, Bush understood that he needed to give the American
people some reason to expect improvement in Iraq, even if the generals
who had the most direct experience â€“ John Abizaid and George Casey â€“
were against the â€œsurge,â€ as were the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
needed to â€œkeep false hope aliveâ€ if he was to fend off anti-war
legislation. So was born the â€œsurge,â€ less a new military strategy than
a political tactic. The American people were pointed toward another
What is now underway in Washington is the playing out of a macabre fantasy.
Republicans seek to sustain the fiction of progress. See, for instance,
Sen. John McCainâ€™s â€œstrollâ€ through a Baghdad market surrounded by 100
soldiers and protected by helicopter gun ships.
When the happy
talk brings derision â€“ as occurred with McCainâ€™s â€œstrollâ€ â€“ Bushâ€™s
backers turn to a reverse of â€œkeeping false hope alive.â€ They predict
an apocalyptic future â€“ al-Qaeda governing a â€œcaliphateâ€ from Spain to
Indonesia â€“ if U.S. troops leave Iraq. Yet the fear is no more
realistic than the hope.
Democrats have their own fictions,
other plans for success, albeit by setting benchmarks for the Iraqi
government and gradually withdrawing U.S. combat forces, a kind of de
facto recognition of the grim reality.
It remains easier for
Washington politicians â€“ and pundits â€“ to maintain the pretense of
future success in Iraq than to risk accusations that they are
â€œdefeatistsâ€ or that they have lost faith in â€œthe troops.â€
no one wants to tell the American people the hard truth: that the Iraq
War has been one of the worst national security debacles in U.S.
history; it is now beyond salvaging; probably the best that Washington
can hope to do is to limit the damage by withdrawing its forces as
expeditiously as possible and by starting to rebuild its diplomatic
relations with nations in the region.
Yet, in the marble halls
and the dinner parties of Washington, it makes more sense, career-wise,
to â€œkeep an open mindâ€ about Bushâ€™s new strategy and to handicap the
chances for the President prevailing over the Democrats in getting
another Iraq War â€œblank check.â€
But Bushâ€™s â€œsurgeâ€ and
Washingtonâ€™s political calculations make far less sense on the bloody
streets of Baghdad or in the tear-filled homes of Gold Star mothers.
some of Robert Parryâ€™s earlier writings about the Iraq War, see â€œBay of
Pigs Meets Black Hawk Down
â€ in March 2003; â€œSinking in Deeper
February 2005; and â€œBush/Cheney Still Lie with Abandon
â€ in April 2007.]
broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the
Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy &
Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be
ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com,
as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press &