Friday, September 07, 2007

Bush Should Get His Ass Kicked

Let's see if we can sort out some fact from some fiction on the President's recent visit to Iraq.

Fiction: "We're kicking ass" in Iraq. This is what Bush reportedly told Australian Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile on his visit to the island continent immediately after visiting Iraq. This should rank right up there with "mission accomplished." (By the way, who do you mean "we" kemosabe?)

Fiction: "Progress toward a more secure Iraq has now reached a point where the President of the United States and his Secretaries of State and Defense can make a visit to Anbar Province and meet with Sunni tribal chieftains once allied with al Queda." That's the Wall Street Journal in today's lead editorial.

Fact: The security situation in Iraq remains so grave that the President, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense are forced to make secret, surprise visits to the country.

Fact: When entering Iraqi airspace, their planes are forced to make elaborate evasive maneuvers before making a hair-raising plunge for a landing.

Fact: The President did not go meet any tribal chieftains in their towns or villages in Anbar. Instead, the President--this is the guy who evaded Vietnam service, remember--spent ALL of his time in Anbar at the enormous (17 miles in circumference) Al Asad Air Base, which houses more than 10,000 U.S. troops. He was in as much danger as if he was at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, D.C.

Fact: Al Asad Air Base is called "Camp Cupcake" by soldiers there because of the relative cushiness of its facilities.

Fact: Camp Cupcake is nowhere near any Iraqi population center, and no Iraqi is allowed within miles of the base.

Fact: Camp Cupcake is the largest Marine base in Iraq.

Fact: While Bush declares progress with security in Baghdad, he went nowhere near Baghdad on this trip. At least John McCain walked around a market in Baghdad, even if it was while surrounded by 100 plus troops with helicopters thundering overhead.

Fact: The Sunni tribal leaders that Bush met with were carefully screened and then brought to Camp Cupcake for their photo-op.

Now, to be sure, we have made some "progress" in Iraq. Of course we have! We sent in an additional 30,000 troops and concentrated them in Baghdad, so we ought to expect at least some difference. Nonetheless, while the level of violence is "down," it's still extraordinarily high. The U.S. military can't be everywhere, and wherever it isn't, there's still an incredible amount of sectarian violence.

Nor can we keep it up. Next year, we will begin troop drawdowns regardless of what either Bush, or Congress, wants to do. We'll have to because we simply cannot sustain the current level of troop rotations. Everyone acknowledges that.

The plain fact is that as soon as we start drawing our troops down, the violence will increase again. Iraqi "security" forces--goons who want to carry out ethnic cleaning and promote rival militias--are never going to be able to do what American troops are doing. So all we're doing now is playing an expensive, deadly (to hundreds of U.S. soldiers) holding game.


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