Accomplished" and combat operations were over in Iraq. President Obama has announced
the removal of the last "combat" troops from Iraq, leaving a mere 50,000 Americans behind.
Do you see a difference? Is President Obama's action much different than President Bush's?
Did we accomplish the mission in Iraq? Did we win?
According to many analysts, we did win. Under the leadership of General David Petraeus,
we "surged" to victory. You remember the surge, thousands of extra troops added to calm
the country down and allow the Iraqis to form a government, decide how to divide oil revenues,
and reduce the influence of Iran. The "surge" was to give the Iraqi Parliament "breathing"
room to figure out what to do with the Kurds in the north who want independence and control
of the oil-rich region near Kirkuk. Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds would have time to learn to work
together and share power.
The "surge" reduced violence. However, it did not accomplish any of the other goals. The
Iraqi people elected a new Parliament in March. There is still no government. Prime Minister
al-Maliki was defeated, but won't let go. Iran's influence appears to be strengthening. The
Kurds are still demanding autonomy and there is no oil revenue legislation. Violence is on
the rise again as Shiite and Sunni seem to be preparing to have at it again. Does any of this
smell like victory to you? Does any of this justify as many as five thousand dead and 250,000
hurt and wounded Americans and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis?
The Iraqi government cannot provide basic services to it's people. Electricity is spotty
at best. Clean water is a scarce commodity. The Iraqi police force and army cannot provide
basic security needs. Our troops have left for Kuwait. How many will be stationed there ready
to return if things go south politically?
There has never been a clear definition of what victory in Iraq would look like. It's
probably better that way because Iraq in its current state certainly isn't a success story. Colin
Powell said we shouldn't use American military force unless we have a clean exit strategy. His
doctrine was ignored in Iraq and continues to be ignored in Afghanistan.
The architect of the "surge" now says we may have to stay in Afghanistan long after the
summer of 2011 (the date Obama promised to start drawing down troops after his version of
the "surge"). I told you, in a piece a few months ago, that General Petraeus would start to hint
that withdrawal is not a good idea. Well, he isn't hinting anymore. He's just saying it outright.
In the New York Times and on Meet the Press, Petraeus cut Obama's knees out saying he
might oppose the President's desire to reduce the number of troops next summer. Petraeus
says we finally have the resources in place to accomplish our "goals".
Which "goals" is he talking about? Will the additional troops reduce the corruption and
unpopularity of the Karzai government? Will more troops stop Pakistan from aiding the
Taliban? How will additional troops prevent Karzai from dissolving anti-corruption squads
in order to protect his own family and allies? Will more troops change the Afghan police from
organized thugs into a real police force? Will more troops give us the same kind of "victory"
Petraeus achieved in Iraq?
Americans are dying at an ever faster rate in Afghanistan. The New York Times says
Petraeus is worried about his legacy. He "won" in Iraq and now must "win" in Afghanistan.
Seeing how well Iraq is going these days, I just can't wait to see what "victory" looks like in
Afghanistan. How do you think General Petraeus would answer Cindy Sheehan's question
about what her son or the sons and daughters of America are dying for these days...the ego
of a "victorious" general or the re-election of a president? What do you think? I welcome
your comments and rebuttals. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org