|The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
|Eightieth Time Lucky
Wednesday, December 6th, 2006
|The Nossiter Net is cast to snare some of the riper rascalities of the day. Comments? firstname.lastname@example.org|
|The report of the Iraq Study Group, released today, was carefully timed for after, though not too suspiciously soon after, the mid-term election. The Republicans didn’t want an official condemnation of their conduct of the war to hurt their chances at the ballot box. They lost anyway, though only Karl Rove knows how many more congressional seats an earlier release might have cost them.
The report* makes fascinating reading, but only if you enjoy written confirmation of what you already knew. Iraq is a mess, everything Bush does there makes the situation worse, and we need to get out as soon as we can. If we change our mission from busting down Iraqi doors to training Iraqi soldiers and police, engage Syrian and Iranian help, and, oh yes, solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we can accomplish this last with minimal loss of face.
Like the 9/11 Commission report, the ISG devotes no space to the lies, delusions, blunders, arrogance, and greed that led us to the present pass. This is a bipartisan effort, the production of equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans, and such an analysis, though essential to our understanding of the present state of play, would have been unseemly. Indeed, as Mr. Bush remarked this morning, Americans are tired of partisan bickering over Iraq. That his own fierce partisanship is largely responsible for that weariness, illustrated again today by his use of the derogatory ‘Democrat’ rather than ‘Democratic’ party, apparently wasn’t worth mentioning.
Plainly stating the obvious, “Current U.S. policy is not working” in Iraq says the ISG, noting that one hundred Americans die each month, at a monthly cost to American taxpayers of eight billion dollars, against a backdrop of ever-escalating violence. Newspaper readers have known this for some time, but it’s nice that the White House is finally getting the news. The president was photographed holding his very own copy of the ISG report, and presumably someone can be found to read it to him. The Pentagon had this information all the time. In a recently publicized memo, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld calls for a “major adjustment” in U.S. Iraq policy, because what we’re doing right now is not “working well enough.” Too bad he’s been fired and won’t get a chance to do the adjusting himself. Or maybe not. Right up until his dismissal, Rumsfeld was insisting to anyone who’d listen that the war was going nicely, thanks.
The ISG report does contain some hidden gems. On page 94, we’re told flatly that “there is significant underreporting of the violence in Iraq.” The murder of an Iraqi isn’t counted in the violence tally. Sectarian attacks whose perpetrators are unknown are similarly left off the rolls. Bombings that don’t injure U.S. personnel aren’t noted. As a result, the report finds that on one July day in 2006, there was an official count of 93 attacks throughout Iraq. The truth is that 1,100 acts of violence took place that day. How bad is Iraq? A dozen times worse than we thought.
Ancient Chinese general and philosopher of war Sun Tzu wrote that if you know yourself and your enemy you’ll likely win; know only yourself and you’ll notch a defeat for every victory gained; know neither yourself nor your enemy, and you’ll lose every time. To the extent that nobody seems to know what we’re really doing in Iraq, it’s not clear that we know ourselves too well. There’s no doubt about the state of our knowledge of the enemy. The ISG report states baldly that the U.S. government “still does not understand very well either the insurgency in Iraq or the role of the militias.” We’ve got a quarter of a million U.S. personnel in Iraq, counting all the contractors, and we’ve been there for three and a half years, and we still don’t have a clue about the people we’re fighting. Fewer than ten Defense Department analysts have more than two years experience with Iraqi intelligence. Fewer still really know the language or the history. Sun Tzu, from the perspective of the 5th century BC, could have forecast our current plight based on those facts alone.
Prune-faced pundit Bill O’Reilly, the ornament of Murdoch’s Fox News, has taken to confronting critics by demanding “Do you want to win in Iraq?” As far as we know, nobody’s yet answered “we already won, prune-boy. Saddam’s in jail and condemned to death. Victory was ours over three years ago.” The ISG advances seventy-nine recommendations to get this tar baby off our hands. All of them require more death and destruction in the service of a colossal blunder. Here’s the eightieth recommendation, the one they left out, and the only one guaranteed to work: Declare victory, and leave Iraq. Today will do, but yesterday would have been better.
©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2006
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