Monday, August 28, 2006

Atmosphere of Reconciliation: Day Two

From the Washington Post:
BAGHDAD, Aug. 28 -- The death toll mounted in Iraq Monday as clashes between Shiite militiamen and U.S.-backed Iraqi forces in a southern city killed at least 23 and injured 70 while a suicide bombing in the capital killed 15, including 8 policemen.

In Diwaniyah, about 80 miles south of Baghdad, clashes broke out between the Mahdi Army militia of radical, anti-U.S. cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and U.S.-backed Iraqi army soldiers following a raid by Iraqi soldiers in three neighborhoods to root out extremists, news wires reported.


U.S. forces, meanwhile, have lost nine soldiers since Saturday, the military said in press releases, making it a lethal weekends for them as well. Eight of the soldiers were killed by roadside bomb attacks and one by gunfire, according to the brief military statements.

In all, it was one of the deadliest 24 hours in Iraq in recent weeks and comes amid assertions by the Iraqi government and U.S. military that they are prevailing over extremists fueling the sectarian violence that's gripping the capital . On Sunday, gunmen and bombers claimed at least 69 lives.

"The violence is in decrease and our security ability is increasing," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said on CNN's "Late Edition" program Sunday. Multinational forces have created an atmosphere of "reconciliation" in the country, Maliki said, and "Iraq will never be in a civil war."

The LA Times says the United States military has been able to get a handle on some of the violence in Baghdad by pulling troops out of other hotspots in Iraq and sending them into some Baghdad neighborhoods in force. The problem is, while "similar sweeps in Baghdad and elsewhere since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003 have reduced violence...the bloodshed would increase when U.S. forces moved on," and currently the United States does not have enough troops in Iraq to be able to continue the Baghdad security plan for any extended period of time. And the Times says that Iraqi security forces, rife with corruption and infiltrated by militiamen, make security matters worse in the country, not better.

The Bush administration has not provided enough troops for the military to complete this mission in Iraq. History shows that when they send extra troops into areas with high levels of violence, the violence decreases while the Americans are there. If the Bush administration truly wanted to get a handle on the worsening security, they would send in enough troops to do the job. The Bushies are very good at pointing fingers and calling war opponents "cut-and-runners" and "defeatists." They are very good at creating photo-ops for the preznit like the "Mission Accomplished" speech and the Thanksgiving Dinner the preznit enjoyed w/ troops in the Green Zone. But they aren't very good at providing the tools necessary for the military to get a handle on insurgent and sectarian violence in Iraq.

UPDATE: Take a look at this email that a marine in Baghdad sent David Weigel (sitting in for a vacation Andrew Sullivan) that underscores my point: more troop numbers in Baghdad helped the U.S. military get control of some neighborhoods. The marine writes:

I don't want to paint any overly rosy picture of things here as I never have indulged in that practice before, but we have control everywhere now (up to a point). They are still capable of launching small attacks against our forces, still able to blow up Iraqi Police in large numbers sometimes, and yes, they can still murder each other in Baghdad in sectarian violence. But, we are waging our war right now almost completely on our terms.
Obviously the wheels came off over the weekend as violence again surged and the U.S. military lost 9 soldiers to the insurgency. But this marine's email says to me once again that more troops have been needed in Iraq since the beginning. They should have been there right after the fall of Baghdad when Iraqis were looting the weapons dumps and infrastructure, they should have been there when the insurgency was first getting off the ground in the spring and summer of 2003 and they should have been there to deal with hotspots like Fallujua, Tikrit, Tal Afar and of course, Baghdad, as it each flared up and the U.S. military was forced to pull soldiers from somewhere else to deal with the violence.

But the administration ignored the realistic troop assessments they got from knowledgeable people like General Shinseki and decided to occupy the country with a light, Rumsfeldian force. Even when it became clear that more troops could and would make a difference in the sectarian and insurgent violence, the administration has not seriously thought about adding the numbers of troops truly needed to make a difference.

They should either fight the war right or get the fuck out. Half-assing the war isn't working and people are dying, both Americans and Iraqis, as a result. I was never for this war and I have always thought it was a mistake. But I have also said over and over, if you are going to fight it, fight it right. Or don't fight it at all. One or the other.

But instead the administration half-asses it and calls critics of their efforts "defeatists."

Gee, who's really leading us toward defeat?

As much as I like your call to arms, I can't help but to think you are being sarcastic. Am I wrong?

I keep thinking about Vietnam and the failed policy of sending half a million at one point.

Come on man, come clean. :-)
I think 100,000 to 200,000 more troops back in 2003-2004 would have kept the Sunni insurgency from gaining traaction and Zarqawi from inflaming sectarian violence. Even now, more troops would obviously help with security - the army and administration officials admit as much off the record.

But overall, I'm just calling attention to the fact that while Bush, Cheney, Lieberman et al. like to make believe they are tough warriors with the guts to take it to the terrorists and win the war on terror, they really are cowards who don't have the courage to take a step that many war supporters like McCain and Kristol think is necessary to complete the mission of establishing a free and stable democracy in Iraq - which is send enough troops to the war zone, even if it means instituting a military draft.
I read a critique on the Australian army which suggested the emphasis was put on big ticket equipment over troops.
I guess they all bought the idea of future wars being more robotic. Guess they were all wrong!
That's a great point, cartledge. I believe Rumsfeld's plan to fight wars with a streamlined military has not worked and a reliance on fighting a more robotic war wouldn't work either. In an occupation (which is what this war is now), there is no substitute for overwhelming military force, human intelligence on the enemy, and a historical understanding of the conditions. How many of those criteria have we had in Iraq?
So moderate sarcasm mixed with a call to put their money where their mouths are. That is about what I figured.

Nice angle.

Cartledge is right. They figured the shock and awe campaign would usher in a new era of swollen military contracts.

It is always about the money.
I hate the hypocrisy of it all - especially the swaggering of the chickenhawks like Bush, Cheney, Rove and Mehlman calling guys like Murtha and Kerry cowards and defeatists. But it bothers me most that the guys calling others "coward" are themselves too cowardly to admit they botched the occupation or too cowardly to fix the mistakes they've made by sending in the number of troops actually needed to occupy a country the size of Iraq and ensure security.
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