Thursday, September 13, 2007


Could at least one general tell the unvarnished truth about Iraq?

Army General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared before Congressional committees and gave their long awaited testifimony about “progress” in Iraq on September 10th and 11th. General Petraeus’ upcoming testimony had been touted by the Bush Administration for months as the reason for Congress to hold off making its determination regarding the need for legislation forcing the President to begin the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq.

“Wait for the Petraeus report” was the refrain heard over and over, from the White House, from Congressional Republicans, and from the right wing political pundits. And, to their everlasting shame, the Democrats in Congress did wait, and while they waited, from February 1, 2007, through September 10, 2007, another 690 Americans and 39 British soldiers were killed. Thousands were wounded. Meanwhile, the situation in Iraq descended further down into the cesspool of chaos, anarchy, and civil war, with American military deaths in Iraq totaling 739 for the first eight months of 2007, compared to 439 for the same period in 2006. Iraqi civilian deaths are in the tens of thousands, and one set of grim statistics from the central morgue in Baghdad reveals the effect of the American military invasion: in July and August of 2002- the year before our invasion, deaths from murder totaled 21 and 10, respectively. In July and August of 2007- post surge, with thousands of American troops “stabilizing security” in Baghdad, deaths from murder in July and August were 1,417 (an all time record) and 1,091, respectively.

Over the last four and a half years, one after another, otherwise intelligent, objective, and dedicated public servants- starting with Secretary of State Colin Powell through the latest, General Petraeus, have, stretched, tortured, and outright evaded the truth as they spoke publicly about the need for America’s military actions in Iraq. It is astonishing that soldiers who would not hesitate for a moment to sacrifice their lives for their comrades somehow lack the courage to tell the unvarnished, unspun truth to the Congress and the American people- a truth which would save countless lives and billions of dollars from our treasury. Here’s how it might have sounded if Ambassador Ryan Crocker and General Petraeus had honored their consciences, the American soldiers serving in Iraq, and told the truth to the American people:

“The invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a disaster for America, for our military, for our efforts to reduce conflict in the Middle East, and for our efforts to defuse the threat of Islamic terrorists. Our military has no defined military mission in Iraq. We should not use the word “war” because we are not fighting a "war" there and it is misleading to call it a war. We did briefly fight a war in Iraq when we invaded on March 20,2003, forced the surrender of their army, occupied their capital, and removed the ruling government from power. That took several weeks and ended in late April of 2003. The number of American deaths during that period were 140. If the Bush Administration had been even minimally competent, America would have quickly handed over peacekeeping and rebuilding responsibilities to the United Nations and got out as soon as possible, which would have saved well over 3,000 American lives and over $500 billion.

Instead, within months after our occupation of Iraq in 2003, violent opposition to the occupation began as a result of the disastrous post war policies of the Bush Administration. The Bush Administration provided both the manpower and materials which fueled the insurgency when it disbanded the Iraqi army and the civil government, put hundreds of thousands of unemployed heavily armed soldiers into the streets, and failed to secure weapons caches and munitions dumps which provided the raw materials for improvised explosive devices.

Our military did not invade Iraq to fight Al Qaida or punish those responsible for the 9-11 attacks, because no Iraqis were on the planes on 9-11 and all credible evidence shows that Iraq had no connection to Al Qaida’s terrorist acts. We did not invade Iraq to fight the organization called “Al Qaida in Iraq,” which is not the same organization that attacked us on 9-11, because it did not exist when we invaded 2003. We created the conditions for the birth of the insurgency, including Shia, Sunni, Al Qaida in Iraq, and dozens of splinter groups, when we allowed the destruction of the central and local governments, built huge permanent American military bases, garrisoned the country with American troops, outraged Iraqi citizens by arbitrarily imprisoning thousands of innocent Iraqis, tortured Iraqis at Abu Ghraib, caused the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, and made the country so insecure that no citizen may safely attend religious services, travel the streets or even live in their homes without fear of assault, robbery, or murder.

In any event, Al Qaida in Iraq is not even close to being a primary threat to the formation of a stable government in Iraq. The Sunni-Shia religious split and tribal power struggles have far more to do with the instability of the country. Al Qaida in Iraq is barely two percent of the insurgency in Anbar province, and it has virtually no presence in the majority Shia population. When American troops finally leave, it is likely that the locals will deal with them handily and quickly.

As much as the President and Congressional Republicans try to conflate and confuse Americans with references to “9-11,” “terrorism,” and “Iraq,” we are not fighting global terrorism in Iraq. The vast majority of insurgents- over 99 percent- are locals. None of them had an active part in any terrorist acts before we invaded and traumatized the country’s population and destroyed its government. It is equally false to say that we must stay in Iraq because if we leave “the terrorists will follow us home.” That suggestion is absurd and laughable. However, responsible intelligence analysts have concluded that our continued military presence in Iraq has incited acts of global terrorism and has provided Osama Bin Laden the greatest possible service in recruiting adherents to his movement.

There is no effective central government in Iraq, and it is ridiculous to blame President al Maliki or the Iraqi Parliament ,for lack of progress in political reconciliation, economic rebuilding, or security. They exercise no power or authority outside of areas controlled by the American military.

Although we can cause a temporary reduction in violence in any area of Iraq where we put in more troops, the cumulative, long term effect of our troops being in Iraq is to increase the overall terrorism threat globally because of the extraordinarily provocative impact of having English speaking, mostly Christian troops occupying an Arabic speaking, Muslim country, and because we are viewed as torturers and murderers by the Muslim world.

The one issue on which we have managed to unite Iraqis of every religion and region is opposition to a continued American military occupation. More than half of Iraqis polled approve of attacks on American forces and more than 80 percent want American troops out of the country.”

If only General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker had enough courage to have told the truth- it would have provided Democrats and Republicans the cover they needed to bring the troops home.


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