There have been at least three concerted obfuscations of what has been going on with U.S. policy in Iraq since the "surge" was announced in January, 2007. It is useful to examine them as we discuss the future of our Iraq policy, and the choice for President in November offers a stark contrast on this policy.
First, the goal of the "surge" was to reduce violence so that political reconciliation could take place. Here are The Executive's own words.
Yet over time, we can expect to see Iraqi troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents. When this happens, daily life will improve, Iraqis will gain confidence in their leaders, and the government will have the breathing space it needs to make progress in other critical areas. Most of Iraq's Sunni and Shia want to live together in peace -- and reducing the violence in Baghdad will help make reconciliation possible.The point of the surge was not to reduce violence, it was to reduce violence so that political reconciliation could take place. This simply has not happened. And we come to the first mischaracterization of the surge, switching the goal of the surge from reconciliation, to the reduction of violence itself.
A successful strategy for Iraq goes beyond military operations. Ordinary Iraqi citizens must see that military operations are accompanied by visible improvements in their neighborhoods and communities. So America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced. - President's Address to the Nation, January 2007
More than seven months later, the Bush’s predictions have flopped. Political reconciliation has not occurred, and its prospects look bleak. As a result, the White House is now in the process of moving the goal posts, dropping its prior demands that Iraqi leaders meet certain political benchmarks in order to sustain the escalation.This is like saying the goal of pouring more water in a can is to have a higher flow of water into the can. The water has to be for something, otherwise, it's just a waste of water, or, in this case, American lives.
In a press briefing today, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe disingenuously claimed that the purpose of the surge was simply “to help bring security to Iraq.” - Think Progress
Second, we were told that the "surge" would allow the U.S. to bring more troops home later. This was an outright misdirection from the start. The surge itself caused its own drawdown. Leesburg Tomorrow predicted this in September.
President Bush will be taking credit for withdrawing troops from Iraq in the next four to six months. He will claim that it is because "the surge is working." Putting aside for the moment the fact that a surge which lasts longer than six months is probably more accurately referred to as an escalation, we must all remember exactly why those troops will be coming home by next April.And right on time, five months later.
They will be coming home because their return is part of a regularly scheduled rotation. - Leesburg Tomorrow, September 7, 2007
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he hopes to be able to continue to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq over the next 10 months, even as he and his military commanders lean toward a pause in troop cuts in July. - The International Business TimesLet us reiterate the point. The reduction in troop levels going on right now is not the result of the U.S. achieving the "goals of the surge," it is the result of a mandated, necessary troop rotation that is standard procedure for military deployments.
Finally, the third Iraq policy falsehood is that the "surge" would be temporary, to differentiate it from a politically unacceptable "escalation." We are now over a year into the "surge." That is a year of more troops in Iraq, with only desultory progress on political reconciliation, instability and lawlessness in Iraqi-controlled areas, and an invasion from the north by a U.S. ally, because the increase in U.S. troops has not provided border security and safe havens for Kurdish terrorists abound in northern Iraq. And now we have news that the troop reductions proposed will not actually bring Iraq theater troop levels down to the levels they were at before the surge. In reality, there will be 8,000 more troops in Iraq after the surge drawdown than there were before the surge. So, in reality, we will have escalated our presence in Iraq by at least 8,000 troops after the surge is, technically, over.
Sen. John McCain was the chief political advocate of the surge strategy. And yet McCain's Iraq strategy has not achieved its goals, and only by redefining progress into things that had already happened or were scheduled to happen anyway can any kind of good news be reported.
It would be nice to put aside questions of global war and peace for more local, parochial concerns. But to discount Iraq as an issue is to do a grave disservice to our soldiers and our children. It is our soldiers who are bearing the cost of the bait-and-switch debate on Iraq today, and it is our children who will pay higher taxes to pay off the debt incurred from this misadventure. So as we discuss issues that are important to us, and consider who to vote for in November, please remember Iraq, remember the lies and misdirection, and vote for change.
(With a tip-o-the-hat to georgia10 at DailyKos.)