Sunday, November 25, 2007

Some Perspective on the Surge

The administration is launching a full-scale PR campaign now to hail the latest statistics in Baghdad. Citing a 55 percent reduction in violence over 2006, when the sectarian violence began escalating out of control, the war proponents have quieted many critics by claiming the "surge" has been a success.

Successes in Iraq have been few and far between, and while conservatives claim critics simply can't stop looking at Iraq as a glass half empty, some parts of this story simply don't add up.

For the moment, put aside all the questions that have been raised about the accuracy of the military's reporting of casualties, and let's accept that violence is down. Various sources, including some administration critics, seem to agree that significant progress has been made since summer in reducing both levels of sectarian violence and attacks in U.S. forces.

When the surge was first being discussed, the military brass went on the record against the surge, in part because the strategy lacked a clear and achievable objective. But the surge is working, right? How could they have been so wrong?

Well, something seems to have quelled the insurgency, but it probably wasn't the increase in troops, which were widely considered too little too late. What apparently has been effective are the bribes that Patreus has sprinkled on Sunni militias.

A report by independent filmmaker Rick Rowley noted that tossing around large sums of cold, hard cash had an immediate impact on violence in the Anbar province.

The U.S. is funding Sunni militias. They already funded the Shia militias. They're now funding all sides of this sectarian war......

Anbar is their big success story. They don't think that anyone who comes up there is going to go to the refugee camps and see the other side of it, or going to speak enough Arabic, which David Enders and Hiba Dawood do, to figure out what's going on. I think they were desperate to get people up there. It was all good news to them. And it was truly amazing. We were able to walk in the street and take our flack jackets off in a neighborhood, which just six months ago had been one of the most dangerous places in the country, where tanks couldn't even go. And that image is the image they wanted to circulate. Of course that's only possible because the people who were shooting at them six months ago are now on the payroll.

Anbar Province then became the model for Baghdad. Having staked future funding of the war on showing some "progress," and knowing that the number of troops deployed during the surge were never going to be sufficient to have a meaningful impact on the outcome, our war strategists simply bought the enemy off.

Well, if that's what it takes.....

Now that we know the key to peace in Iraq is giving bribes directly to the insurgents and bypassing all the bureaucratic middlemen, can we bring the troops home? After all, how many soldiers does it take to drop off bags of money?

Of course, there is a question as to whether this peace can hold, especially with the administration admitting that political progress in Iraq remains as elusive as ever. It also raises the issue as to how the Shia will respond to being two-timed.

.....Shiite "special groups" were believed responsible for a series of rocket and mortar attacks against American bases in eastern Baghdad on Nov. 18.

In addition to those attacks, an estimated 10 rockets or mortars fired from Shiite areas slammed into the Green Zone last Thursday in the biggest attack on the U.S.-protected area in weeks. U.S. officials said the barrage wounded an undisclosed number of people but caused no deaths.

Baghdad was generally calm Saturday, with no major incidents reported by police. But the recent uptick in attacks raised questions whether anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, head of the Mahdi Army militia, would call off the six-month truce he ordered last August.

U.S. officials have said the truce was generally holding and partly responsible for a 55 percent decline in attacks nationwide since June.

It may not be a long term solution, but so far it has been used effectively to quell critics of the war and the administration's incompetency. And every time the intensity of criticism against Bush's war eases, he buys a little more time in his goal toward long-term occupation.

When considering the U.S. shift in alliances from Shia to Sunni, keep in mind the goal of this war is to secure the oil rights. As the debate over the oil law drags on with no resolution in sight, the administration rhetoric against the Maliki government is picking up. Perhaps there is more than a little threat implied in the latest U.S. actions. A strong, united Iraqi government would almost certainly not support the oil law being pushed on them by U.S. corporate interests. But by backing Sunni militias, many experts think the U.S. may be weakening the long-term chances for Iraqi political stability. Maybe such an outcome isn't unintended. If the U.S. can't get Iraq's parliament to bend to its will and let Exxon Mobil and company plunder Iraq's oil fields, maybe a weaker government is seen as desirable. There are many levels of intrigue at play in Iraq, and the official scenario surely doesn't begin to explain it.

In the meantime, violence may keep falling, or go back up. The Iraqis may come together in a consensus government, or more likely splinter even further. Whatever happens, the events will be woven into the rationale for keeping troops stationed in Iraq indefinitely. And we will all continue to pay the price.

No comments: