Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

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Monday, July 30, 2007

"Mr. Coreleone prefers to get bad news as soon as possible."

What's the bad news? The surge is working. Who's it bad for? The Democrats in congress caving into the moonbat antiwar nutters. And who says it's working? Well, for starters, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, and brother the Left is pulling out the knives on this one. Dean Barnett tracked the Left's reaction today, and as moonbats naturally do, they're eating their young that disagree with their opinions. They are decrying both men as being nuts, and it's not not just prominent liberal bloggers. No, even the mainstream moonbats are weighing in.

These people are accusing both men of lying. As if they had a reason or motive to lie? Both men are on the record as opposing the invasion and war in Iraq. They admit that. But the simple fact remains that neither man is going to deny that it's working. The signs are there. Violence is down. AQ fighters and leaders are being caught or killed on a fairly regular basis.

Would the Left like more proof? Your honor, I present defense exhibit "B:" New York Times Baghdad chief, John Burns,/li> with an interview conducted last Friday with Hugh Hewitt, and aired Monday afternoon. Here are some excerpts:

On Petreus's credibility and honesty in his report --

HH: Now when General Petraeus returns in September to make his report, do you expect Petraeus to be completely candid with the American people about the good news and the bad news in Iraq?

JB: I think there’s no doubt that he’ll be candid. As a matter of fact, every time I’ve spoken to him about it, he talks about the need to be forthright, and as he puts it, he said we’re not going to be putting lipstick on a pig. I think that’s a fairly, that’s military jargon which most Americans will understand. David Petraeus is a man who’s had a remarkably distinguished military career, and he is very clear that he thinks his responsibilities lie not to the White House alone, but to the White House and the Congress conjointly, and through them to the American people. I don’t think that this is just a profession, a claim. I think he really intends that, and he’s been very careful not to make commitments at the moment as to what he’s going to say, though we may guess it. And I think he’s going to say that the surge is having its effects, it hasn’t turned the tide of the war, there’s been too little time for it, and I think he and Ambassador Crocker, who will be his partner in that September report, are going to say one thing very clearly, and that is a quick, early withdrawal of American troops of the kind that is being argued by Nancy Pelosi, for example, would very likely lead to catastrophic levels of violence here. And in that, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker will be saying something which is pretty broadly shared by people who live and work here, I have to say. The removal of American troops would very likely, we believe from all indications, lead to much higher, and indeed potentially cataclysmic levels of violence, beyond anything we’ve seen to date.

Realism on the ground by those there --

HH: Speaking more broadly now, in the American higher command, is there optimism that the surge, given enough time, will bring the kind of stability to Iraq that we all hope it achieves?

JB: You know, optimism is a word which is rarely used around here. The word they would use is realism. You have to look at what the plan is. The plan is that with the surge, aimed primarily at al Qaeda, who are responsible for most of the spectacular attacks, the major suicide bombings, for example, that have driven the sectarian warfare here, the belief is, or the hope is, that with the surge, they can knock al Qaeda back, they can clear areas which have been virtually sanctuaries for al Qaeda, northeast, south, west and northwest of Baghdad, and in Baghdad itself, and then have Iraqi troops move in behind them. The problem here is time. How much time does the U.S. military have now, according to the American political timetable, to accomplish this? I think most generals would say, indeed have said, most serving current generals here have said that a drawdown, which took American troops from the 160,00 level they’re at now quickly down to 100,000 or 80,000 over the next, shall we say, year to eighteen months, that’s too fast. If you do that, I think they would say, though they don’t put it quite this frankly, that this war will be lost for sure. Given a little bit more time, they think that it is realistic to think that the Iraqi forces can move in behind them, and can take over the principal responsibilities for the war. The problem is, of course, that American generals have been saying this now for four years, and as we know, the Congress is beginning to run out of patience with that. But I think that they have a good plan now, at least if there is any plan that could save the situation here, any plan that could bring a reasonably successful end to the American enterprise here, it’s probably the plan they have right now.

On Sunni/Shia relations, with relation to the surge --

HH: When we spoke in February, you told us about the killing that had been underway in Adamiya, one of the places where sectarian violence in Baghdad had really flared in October. What’s your assessment of the Shiia on Sunni violence level in Baghdad six months into the surge?

JB: It is reduced, and it’s reduced primarily, as far as we can see, because of the increment, and I’m talking here of a virtual doubling of American troop strength in Baghdad, to speak only the neighborhood in which the New York Times operates here, the Rusafa neighborhood on the east side of the Tigris River, we here now have American troops quartered about a half a mile away from us for the first time in three years. So when you put American boots on the ground, you definitely have an inhibiting effect on this, and we’ve seen that in falling levels of sectarian violence. Where you don’t have American boots on the ground inside Baghdad, you see higher levels of sectarian violence. So I would that on the whole, the situation is somewhat better than it was, which is exactly what you would have expected by introducing a significant increase of American combat troops.

HH: John Burns, that means it’s down, but is there any kind of movement that you can see that would suggest that when, that the Iraqis are coming to their own conclusion that they’ve go to work through other means than violence, is there a lowering of the hatred level there in Baghdad?

JB: Well, of course, that would be what the American military would call the most crucial metric of all. If we could see that, then we would begin to see the end of the war. Now the fact is that the Iraqi people are, of course, exhausted with the violence. The question is at what point does that begin to translate into the kind of stepping up that would make a change in the warfare, specifically the flow of intelligence to the Iraqi and American militaries here, which would enable them to go after the people who are primarily responsible, whether it’s Shiite death squads or its suicide bombers, mostly Sunni suicide bombers. The intelligence flow, we’re told, is a good deal better, very much better than it was. This is an intelligence driven war, but the American military will tell you that they still don’t have enough of it. They have quite a good flow of intelligence, which has allowed them to have some spectacular successes, including one just last night in Karbala, southwest of Baghdad, the holy city where they went after a Shiite militia death squad leader. And this happens virtually every night, usually special forces operations, American led. They’ve have some success with that. So that’s really the key metric. When the Iraqi people’s exhaustion with this war begins to express itself in a full flow of intelligence to the Iraqi and American military, then you will see real progress in the war. Up until now, it’s much better, but it’s still, according to the American military, still not nearly enough to make it a crucial difference.

On arguing for withdrawal --

HH: One of the arguments for those favoring a timeline for withdrawal that’s written in stone is that it will oblige the Iraqi political class to get serious about such things as the oil revenue division. Do you believe that’s an accurate argument?

JB: Well, you would think it would be so, wouldn’t you, that the threat of withdrawal of American troops, and the risk of a slide into catastrophic levels of violence, much higher than we’ve already seen, would impel the Iraqi leadership to move forward. But there’s a conundrum here. There’s a paradox. That’s to say the more that the Democrats in the Congress lead the push for an early withdrawal, the more Iraqi political leaders, particularly the Shiite political leaders, but the Sunnis as well, and the Kurds, are inclined to think that this is going to be settled, eventually, in an outright civil war, in consequence of which they are very, very unlikely or reluctant, at present, to make major concessions. They’re much more inclined to kind of hunker down. So in effect, the threats from Washington about a withdrawal, which we might have hoped would have brought about greater political cooperation in face of the threat that would ensue from that to the entire political establishment here, has had, as best we can gauge it, much more the opposite effect, of an effect that persuading people well, if the Americans are going, there’s absolutely no…and we’re going to have to settle this by a civil war, why should we make concessions on that matter right now? For example, to give you only one isolated exception, why should the Shiite leadership, in their view, make major concessions about widening the entry point for former Baathists into the government, into the senior levels of the military leadership, that’s to say bringing in high ranking Sunnis into the government and the army and the police, who themselves, the Sunnis, are in the main former stalwarts of Saddam’s regime. Why would the Shiites do that if they believe that in the end, they’re going to have to fight a civil war? This is not to reprove people in the Congress who think that the United States has spent enough blood and treasure here. It’s just a reality that that’s the way this debate seems to be being read by many Iraqi politicians.

On whether the war is lost, and what sort of violence would be expected in the wake of a withdrawal --

HH: Do you believe that, John Burns, that the war is lost?

JB: No, I don’t, actually. I think the war is close to lost, but I don’t think that all hope is extinguished, and I do think, as do many of my colleagues in the media here, that an accelerated early withdrawal, something which reduced American troops, even if they were placed in large bases out in the desert to, say, something like 60-80,000 over a period of six to nine months, and in effect, leaving the fighting in the cities and the approaches to the cities to the Iraqis, I think the result of that would, in effect, be a rapid, a rapid progress towards an all-out civil war. And the people who are urging that kind of a drawdown, I think, have to take that into account. That’s not to say, I have to say, that that should be enough to inhibit those politicians who make that argument, because they could very well ask if that’s true, can those who argue for a continued high level of American military involvement here assure us that we wouldn’t come to the same point three or four years, and perhaps four or five thousand American soldiers killed later? In other words, we might only be putting off the evil day. It seems to me that’s where this discussion really has to focus. Can those who argue for staying here, can they offer any reasonable hope that three, two, three, four years out, the risk of a decline into cataclysmic civil war would be any less? If the answer is no they can’t, then it seems to me that strengthens the argument of those who say well, we might as well withdraw fairly quickly now.

HH: Now you’ve reported some very tough places, Sarajevo, Afghanistan under the Taliban, and after the liberation from the Taliban, and you’ve won Pulitzers for that. When you say cataclysmic civil war, what do you mean in terms of what you’ve seen before? What kind of violence do you imagine would break out after precipitous withdrawal?

JB: Well, let’s look at what’s happened already as a benchmark. Nobody really knows how many people have died here, but I would guess that in terms of the civilian population, it’s probably not less than 100-150,000, and it could be higher than that. I don’t think it’s as high as the 700,000 that some estimates have suggested, but I think it’s, and I know for a fact, that the sort of figures that were being discussed amongst senior American officials here, as a potential, should there be an early withdrawal and a progress to an all-out civil war, they’re talking about the possibility of as many as a million Iraqis dying. Now of course, that is suppositional. It’s entirely hypothetical. How could we possibly know? But I think you couldn’t rule out that possibility. And the question then arises, catastrophic as the effect on Iraq and the region would be, you know, what would be the effect on American credibility in the world, American power in the world, and America’s sense of itself? These are extremely difficult issues to resolve, and I can’t say, sitting here in Baghdad, that I have any particular wisdom about what the right course would be. And fortunately, as a reporter, I’m not paid money to offer that kind of wisdom, only to observe what I see. And there are days when I thank God that I’m not sitting in the United States Senate or the United States House of Representatives, with the responsibility of putting the ballot in the box on this.

John Burns, again, is the Baghdad bureau chief for the New York times. He's been there for almost four years watching and covering the war as it started, and as it continues. He, like the Brookings duo, also noted the morale of the troops, and how it has changed drastically since General Petreus's arrival in Baghdad. In the general, the troops see a commander who believes this mission is right, and it's goals are attainable. All he asks is that we have a little more patience with him and the troops. Read the whole interview, or listen to all three hours here. It's well worth it for anyone who wants to hear what's happening in Iraq. This interview, and the story filed by O'Hanlon and Pollack, should be just as important as a Michael Yon dispatch, or a Bill Roggio report, or a Michael Totten briefing.

These people are there. They're seeing it work. Who's the bad news for? Not just the Left in Congress, but the moonbat fever swampers, too. For them it's the worst news they could have handed to them. Game over. Checkmate. We ARE winning. The surge IS working. So, for all the moonbats out there that took pride in beating on all three men today, enjoy the peace while it lasts. Your colleagues in the know are still laughing their @$$es off at how obtuse they are, and how idiotic they look as knee-jerk reactionaries.

Publius II

ADDENDUM: At 5:00 a.m. (according to the timestamp on the piece) the editors of National Review posted up a symposium which included Frank Gaffney, John McCain, Michael Yon, Victor Davis Hanson, Clifford May, Mackrubin Owens, James Robbins, Peter Rodman, and Joseph Skelly. Within this piece are their opinions regardig the war, and they discuss not only the Brookings piece for the New York Times, but the surge in and of itself. Here's an example from Michael Yon:

I am in broad agreement with most of the article by O’Hanlon and Pollack and, in fact, have been reporting in writing, on national radio, and most recently on Good Morning America that I have been seeing remarkable positive changes in Iraq.

I asked General Petraeus last night for his opinion of the current situation. General Petraeus responded with: “Our assessment at this point is that we have begun to achieve a degree of momentum on the ground in going after AQI sanctuaries and in disrupting the activities of some of the militia extremists; however, AQI continues to try to reignite ethno-sectarian violence and clearly still has the capability to carry out sensational attacks that cause substantial civilian loss of life. And the militia elements certainly continue to pursue sectarian displacement in certain fault-line areas and to cause trouble in some Shia provinces as well. So there’s clearly considerable work to be done by Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces. Beyond that, the spread of Sunni Arab rejection of AQI is very important and is a development on which we are still trying to capitalize beyond Anbar Province, where the effects are already very clear.”

In fact, I have had the feeling for more than a month that top U.S. leadership in Iraq has been being cautious not to show too much optimism at this time. However, I have seen changes with my own eyes in Nineveh, Anbar, and Diyala that are more fundamental than just winning battles. In Nineveh, the enemies of a united Iraq are still strong and vibrant, but the Iraqi army and police in Nineveh clearly are improving faster than the enemy is improving. In other words, the Iraqi Security Forces are winning that particular race. Out in Anbar, the shift actually began to occur last year while Special Forces and other less-than-visible operators, along with conventional forces such as the Marines, began harnessing the mood-shift of the tribes. Whereas in Nineveh the fight has been more like a race and test of endurance, in Anbar the outcome was more like an avalanche. Parts of Diyala, such as Baqubah, witnessed avalanche-like positive changes beginning on June 19 with Operation Arrowhead Ripper. I witnessed the operation and was given full access. However, other areas in Diyala remain serious problems. I have seen firsthand many sectarian issues. There remains civil war in parts of Diyala (largely thanks to AQI). Down in Basra, a completely different problem-set faces the British who themselves are facing tough choices.

Skipping past the blow-by-blow and getting to the bottom line: I sense there has been a fundamental shift in Iraq. One officer called it a “change in the seas,” and I believe his words were accurate. Something has changed. The change is fundamental, and for once seems positive. And so, back to the O’Hanlon-Pollack story in the New York Times, “A War We Just Might Win,” I agree.

See? Mr. Yon is someone that we read carefully and often. He's there, unlike the occasional "envoys" from Congress that go, stay for a week, and come home. He's there. He goes out with the troops. He sees the good and the bad, which he fully recognizes in this brief piece. It's a given that there will be problems along the way, but as we can see from these men, the duo from the Brookings Institute, and from John Burns that significant, tangible progress is being made over there.

We're not saying that by September General Petreus is going to declare victory, and roll up AQ in Iraq. His progress, hopefully, will be measured honestly by Congress. He's not going to lie to them. He's yet to do that with anyone. John Burns (who I was unable to cite more thoroughly due to the length of the interview itself; that is why there are links to the transcript and audio) stated he had spoken with General Petreus. The general, he says, goes out of his way to clear time for reporters to speak with him, in a candid fashion, and as yet, he strikes no one as the sort to BS them.

Those in Congress need to give the surge time to really work. And those in Congress need to tune out the cacophony of voices from activists that have nothing better to do than to whine, complain, and cite skewed information for the betterment of their arguments. This is a war, and the US can ill afford a defeat. Such a situation would be a disaster not only for our nation, but for Iraq, as well. We've said it before and it's worth repeating: It's time for the adults to seize back the reins of power from the kids int he party. The kids are going to get us killed. At the very least, they are going to get us hurt in a way that will make 11 September look like child's play.

Our enemy isn't stupid. General Petreus himself said that they have seen just how quickly AQ can adapt at any given moment. And given that they're receiving aid from nations like Iran and Syria, this would be the wrong time to play round-heel, and get the Hell out of Dodge. We urge readers to call their representatives in Congress, and tell them to stand fast. Hold the lines, and make sure we don't leave precipitously, leaving behind a nation that will most certainly turn on itself in civil war, and one that will definitely be ravaged by the enemies within their own borders. I was three when we left Vietnam, and hundreds of thousands were slaughtered by the invading Communists. Marcie wasn't even born yet. I'd hate to see it happen all over again with a defeatist withdrawal from Iraq.

Publius II


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