Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

Who are we? We're a married couple who has a passion for politics and current events. That's what this site is about. If you read us, you know what we stand for.

Friday, September 7, 2007

NYT spins the surge; takes GAO route without substance

I hope no bloggers covering the surge and the reports coming out of Iraq thought their job was done. The GAO report hyped by Congress was the first of many salvos coming as a precursor to the report Gen. Petreus and Ambassador Crocker will be giving on 11 & 12 September. Today the New York Times fires the next salvo:

Seven months after the American-led troop “surge” began, Baghdad has experienced modest security gains that have neither reversed the city’s underlying sectarian dynamic nor created a unified and trusted national government. ...

... But the overall impact of those developments, so far, has been limited. And in some cases the good news is a consequence of bad news: people in neighborhoods have been “takhalasu” — an Iraqi word for purged, meaning killed or driven away. More than 35,000 Iraqis have left their homes in Baghdad since the American troop buildup began, aid groups reported.

The hulking blast walls that the Americans have set up around many neighborhoods have only intensified the city’s sense of balkanization. Merchants must now hire a different driver for individual areas, lest gunmen kill a stranger from another sect to steal a truckload of T-shirts.

what the times calls "balkanization" is a necessity for the initial stages of the surge. One of the goals, as stated by Gen. Petreus, was to stop the sectarian violence. I'll cite this piece by Michael R. Gordon where he informs the reader of a Sunni sheik working with US troops that was caught by Shia-dominated Iraqi Police where the sheik -- Ali is what he was referred to -- was nearly turned over to the Mahdi army; a fate even Mr. Gordon acknowledged would have meant his death. No one said the sectarian problems were gone. to the contrary, they are still there, but instead of the Shias tracking down and killing Sunnis, the Sunnis are now working hand-in-hand with US and Iraqi forces to protect themselves and to drive out al Qaeda.

They found that the additional troops had slowed, but far from stopped, Iraq’s still-burning civil war. Baghdad remains a city where sectarian violence can flare at any moment, and where the central government is becoming less reliable and relevant as Shiite or Sunni vigilantes demand submission to their own brand of law. “These improvements in the face of the general devastation look small and insignificant because the devastation is so much bigger,” said Haidar Minathar, an Iraqi author, actor and director. He added that the security gains “have no great influence.”

The troop increase was meant to create conditions that could lead from improved security in Baghdad to national reconciliation to a strong central government to American military withdrawal. In recent weeks, President Bush and his commanders have shifted their emphasis to new alliances with tribal leaders that have improved security in Diyala Province, the Sunni Triangle and other Sunni areas, most notably Anbar Province.

That area, not Baghdad, was the one Mr. Bush conspicuously chose to visit this week.

Anbar was chosen for two reasons. First, to show the province that everyone -- military commanders and advisers alike -- had declared it untenable, and lost for good. Now that situation has changed drastically. It's not perfect, but it's better than what it was. The Sunnis in Anbar have fought hard to drive al Qaeda from their area of Iraq, and in doing so they have done the one thing they were unable and seemingly unwilling to do prior to the surge's beginning: They were willing to fight for their nation.

The Shias have enjoyed a great deal of power with the installation of Maliki, and in the process of celebrating them, the Sunnis felt slighted; worse, thanks to the extra-special treatment bestowed to al-Sadr's thugs, the Sunnis felt hunted -- nearly enemies in their own country. But, on the heels of Petreus's strategy and Maliki's inroads to the Sunni tribes, things have begun to change.

Throughout this entire piece, the Times highlights what many critics continue to cite -- the political process still hasn't improved. No offense, but as I've explained, as others have explained, the political process can't step up until things are secured. There is enough of an improvement on the political side, especially at the local level, that the national politicians now have the "cover" they need to move Iraq forward. That was the first step that had to be taken.

Now that there is a level of workable security, now that al Qaeda is on the run and has few places left in Iraq to roost, the national government can begin moving forward. There aren't enough Iraqi brigades trained and ready for service yet to provide overall security, but they can begin protecting the necessary infrastructure in Iraq while coalition forces can continue to provide security from not only al Qaeda, but also sectarian forces. In this respect, the only problem that still seems to elude a solution is the Iraqi police. Their ranks are filled of majority Shia people. But, on the flip side, the ISF has worked well with BOTH Sunnis and Shias in their ranks.

So to say it's impossible to rectify that problem is a fallacy. It can be done, but as with all aspects of the surge, it takes time. There's no quick fix to any of this, but we are trying to work with all sides involved. For the Times to present such a bleak picture is intellectually dishonest. (But what are we to expect from the Times -- a paper that was against the invasion and the surge altogether.) The only person working for the Times who seems to think there has been a level of measured success in Iraq is John Burns, the New York times Baghdad bureau chief. He has lived in Iraq for over four years, and seen the violence. He's also seen the accomplishments made int he surge; so much so that he has stated that while things aren't the greatest, this war is far from lost.

This piece by the Times is simply another attempt to spin good news into bad news. As I said before no one is saying that Iraq is perfect. But things have incrementally improved to the point where life is returning to normal in many places. The people in Iraq have turned on the dogs running loose in their nation, and those dogs now know the fear they spread themselves.

Are we done in Iraq? Far from it. This is the "courtship" period, and it seems like the Iraqi people have gone from being openly hostile to us as "occupiers," and instead now look to us as a necessity until they are ready to stand on their own. One thing that should be taken into account is that in 2009, new elections will occur in Iraq. And it's almost assured that if the people are as dissatisfied with the government as many claim, there will be changes. But it won't be a "flip-flop" of sorts; the Sunnis will not be the ones in power in an attempt to oust the Shias. It will likely be a more balanced government. The Sunnis now see they have a future in Iraq, and an ally they once didn't trust in both US and coalition forces, and in the Maliki government. Time will tell if the surge plays out as it should, and stabilize the country for a civilized, democratic government to flourish.

Publius II


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