Thursday, August 30, 2007

Iraq: Where do we go from here?

Eight months ago, when Bush announced his surge, I surprised the hell out of myself by supporting it. The reasons were many and complex – go see my entry of January 14 for a complete rundown. And I gave it less than a 50-50 chance of succeeding. Now the surge is roughly eight months old, and in two weeks General Petraeus is scheduled to brief Congress on its status. I think things are clear enough right now that I don’t need to wait for Petraeus. I know what we must do.

It’s time to start pulling out of Iraq.

And the reasons are pretty simple. Our surge has been successful in bringing down the level of violence in Baghdad. But the Iraqi leaders have failed their country completely, having done nothing to build a working government and quell the violence. The militias (a fancy name for heavily armed street thugs) aren’t anywhere near ready to lay down their arms. Iraq is just another failed state like Somalia, and it’s time to recognize that.

The American soldier has (as usual) done an unbelievable job carrying out impossible orders. Read the blog An Army of Dude for insight into what it’s like on the ground. See the August 18 entry for a discussion about our “allies” against Al Qaeda in Iraq – they’re just working with us until AQI is gone, and then they’ll start killing our soldiers. And see his March 25 entry for a description of what ground combat is really like.

Now read the Time Magazine article titled “An Ambush in Karbala” from July 26, which describes an attack on U.S. forces, aided and abetted by the very police forces that the U.S. forces were there to train.

Today a GAO report was leaked that said the Iraqi government had failed on 13 of 18 benchmarks. The report was leaked in order to prevent the Bush administration from watering it down.

Earlier this month, the New York Times and Washington Post reported that the Pentagon can’t account for over 190,000 AK47’s and automatic pistols that it gave the Iraqi security forces. That’s a bit over 30% of the total given.

The U.S. shipped $23 BILLION in cash to Iraq soon after the war. At least $9 BILLION of that disappeared completely. Anyone want to guess how much of the remaining $14B actually accomplished anything?

Speaking of cash, we're spending $3 BILLION a week on Iraq. Think of what we could buy for that money. Medical insurance for every single person in the USA, for one thing ... legal or illegal.

I could go on, but I won’t. The bottom line is clear: Iraq is a quagmire (to use Dick Cheney’s own term), with an incompetent/corrupt “government”, run by thugs who have no interest in establishing peace. It’s sucking the life out of our country (figuratively) and our soldiers (literally). And there’s no end in sight.

It’s been credibly reported by current and retired American military logistics planners that a complete US withdrawal would take two years, even moving at high speed, simply because we have so many people and so much stuff over there. That’s two more years for the Iraqi government to use our forces as a fig leaf and try to get their act together.

But I think we need to start now. Get our troops, our friends (the translators and others who’ve trusted us), and our equipment out of Iraq. Let the al-Sadr’s and their ilk finish ripping their own country to shreds. Whenever they’re ready for peace, we can help them. But until then, we need to get out and stay out.

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