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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Liberal Rhetoric on Iraq Continues to Piss Me Off

posted by on February 15 at 11:35 AM

Of course, I acknowledge, it’s completely silly to expect political discourse to adhere to facts and defer to reason. But it’s seriously disappointing to me that liberals and Democrats—my party! I’m deeply partisan! Ask anyone on the Stranger Election Control Board!—talk in such idiotic generalities about the Iraq war.

I was against the invasion. It was an enormous mistake. And no matter what kind of mealymouthed excuses John Edwards comes up with, any evidence that Saddam Hussein was in possession of WMDs and was on the verge of using them against the U.S. or its allies was utterly, transparently flimsy. No one should have trusted Colin Powell’s presentation at the U.N. It was structured as propaganda, and anyone with half a brain could see that. Indistinct satellite photos? Please. Aluminum tubes? Pathetic. Some terrorist receiving medical treatment in a major city? Even if you accepted all these allegations as true (and practically anyone outside the borders of the United States voiced some skepticism), they proved nothing. Everyone in Congress who voted to authorize the war has some serious explaining to do.

Nonetheless, I completely deplore the logic that says, in essence, “We destabilized a country, removing its government and disbanding its army. Shockingly, sectarian violence exploded over who would fill the power vacuum. So… screw ‘em, let’s leave!”

Despicable rhetorical flourish number one: The phrase “civil war.” Yes, Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. What are you, deaf and blind?

But witness the way this ridiculous rhetoric works. (This example is actually from a Republican—North Carolina Representative Howard Coble—providing the chilly comfort that Ds don’t have a monopoly on stupidity.)

“I’m personally very high on President Bush, but on the matter of troop escalation, I am not in agreement…. [The Iraqis] rejected freedom and chose civil war and the longer we maintain a presence there, the more they will rely upon us. The time has come, in my opinion, for the baton to be handed to the Iraqis.”

Look, bleeding heart liberals. Listen. WE STARTED THE CIVIL WAR! The United States’ flawed, miserable policies in Iraq led directly and inexorably to a state of civil war. It’s our fault. It’s all well and good to say that no more American lives should be lost in this conflict, but how many Iraqis will have to die because we ignited a violent power grab, failed to provide security, and then blamed the resulting chaos on the unwitting citizens?

Every day in the news there are clear signs of the quick, brutal deterioration that would happen if the U.S. were to withdraw troops. Here’s NPR’s excellent Anne Garrels on a Ft. Lewis Stryker squadron in the mixed neighborhood of Dora:

When the squadron commander Lt. Col. Jeff Peterson took over South Dora, he could not trust the predominantly Shiite police battalion. Evidence linking them to Shiite militias was overwhelming. And his troops had to watch their own backs.

“In many cases, we felt like the national police were targeting us,” he said.

Peterson arrested seven police officers he suspected of being behind murders and kidnappings, particularly of Sunnis. They likely weren’t the only ones involved, but he thinks the arrests did send a strong message.

“The (Iraqi) commander and I had some difficult times. After these officers were arrested, I basically went to him, and told him that we would continue to monitor the activities of his battalion. That my desire to partner with him, my desire was to make this battalion as good as I possibly could make it, but at the same time, we were going to be watching.”

His officers have to be careful about what information they give the police, especially when going after Shiite militias with whom the police have close ties.

“We had to conduct operations in such a way that we maintained security until the very last minute,” Peterson said. “We had to be very careful about disclosing the targets, and our routes to the targets. So, I mean, it’s a tough, tough circumstance to be in.”

Peterson has banned the Iraqi police from carrying cell phones on operations so they can’t make calls that could compromise a mission.

Relations between the Shiite police force and the Sunni population were so bad that Peterson decided to lock the police out of a key Sunni neighborhood.

“I thought, given the situation where there was so much distrust, we just had to separate them for a while.”

The results were immediate.

“Murders went down, mosque attacks went down,” Peterson said. “So, immediately, there was a sense of relief amongst the population — that they were no longer going to be subjected to national police running around, and essentially, terrorizing the people.”

Now, when the police are in Sunni neighborhoods, they are always accompanied or monitored by U.S. forces.

Col. Peterson says the increase in U.S. troops made a huge difference. They are able to cover much more territory, get better information on both Sunni and Shiite threats, and monitor the police more closely. But Lt. Steve Harnsberger says it means his soldiers are doing a double job.

You want to hand control of Iraq over to a police force that shows all signs of being infiltrated by Shiite militias and has a nasty habit of terrorizing Sunni neighborhoods? Oh, that sounds like a fantastic fucking idea. That sounds like it will definitely save precious lives—just not the lives of innocent Iraqis.

Want more? Try today’s New York Times story about a sweep of Shiite neighborhoods by American troops and a handful of Iraqi security forces. All you kneejerk liberals who think Iraqis can’t wait for us to get out? Try listening to this guy:

“If the Americans keep doing it, they can make a difference,” said Ali Muhammad, 37, an ice cream shop owner who lives in Ur. “But they have to stay. Otherwise it will never work.”

Or this guy:

Mustafa Jasim, 27, a Sunni, said that the idea of bases in the neighborhood convinced him that the Americans would not leave immediately. “With them here, now I can feel safe,” he said.

Despicable rhetorical flourish number two: “Escalation” versus “surge.”

Sure, my colleagues are just as guilty as the rest of the liberals in this stupid country. But the word “escalation” is flat-out misleading. As Fnarf pointed out in the comments in the above link, an escalation implies permanency. Bush’s “surge” is meant to be temporary. (Note: I think making it temporary is stupid too.) And “escalation,” if used, should always be used in the context “troop escalation.” It’s not an escalation of the war—it’s supposed to contain violence, not inflame it. This is just a pathetic scuffle over words, not ideas. And certainly not strategy.

I am a die-hard Democrat. But I have to say, I hate the Democrats right now.

RSS icon Comments



Posted by Dan Savage | February 15, 2007 11:51 AM

So, why exactly do you hate the Democrats right now?

Which Democrat has said "screw 'em, let's leave?"

And your preferred strategy is...?

Posted by pablocjr | February 15, 2007 11:53 AM

I appreciate your frustration with a situation that is utterly fucked. However, you are still thinking like somebody who hasn't lost. Losers don't get to dictate terms. The U.S. has lost. It is only a question of how long we choose to delay before declaring victory and pulling out.

Seriously, what positive outcome do you think will be accomplished by leaving troops there indefinitely? How long until the situation "stabilizes?"

Posted by flamingbanjo | February 15, 2007 12:02 PM

And...what exactly does the desire to withdraw from Iraq have to do with being a liberal?

Posted by pablocjr | February 15, 2007 12:04 PM

i agree here. we went and fucked up the country. if we leave now, things will get worse. i have NO idea what we should do that would create some sort of permanent solution, but the US troops being there keeps it at a low boil.

i certainly didn't want the US to go in the first place, but we have to figure out a responsible thing to do now that we are there.

Posted by konstantconsumer | February 15, 2007 12:07 PM

I read the “If the Americans keep doing it, they can make a difference..." quote this morning as well, and it did give me pause.

The military efforts alone can do some good. With some proper diplomatic effort involving both Sunni and Shiite leadership in the region, these small gains might be consolidated into something far better. I'm not sure this administration is capable of such an effort, particularly since it would involve talking to Iran.

Posted by golob | February 15, 2007 12:09 PM

Annie, I think you're a little confused about at least one thing. The vast majority of the rhetoric along the lines of "we gave them freedom, they chose civil war" is coming from the right. In fact, Charles Krauthammer had a WaPo piece just a few days ago in which he said almost that exact line. Liberals are more likely to acknowledge that our actions caused the civil war and that we have a responsibility to pick up the pieces as best we can. But if Dems are skeptical of the surge, it's because it's considered by many to be too little, too late. And many are frustrated because they see no good option, despite feeling that we have an obligation to restore security. I think you're kicking out at the wrong people.

Posted by Gabriel | February 15, 2007 12:10 PM

Annie, yes we did start a civil war. It is clear we have immense guilt in this regard.

This, however, has no connection—none whatsoever—to whether or not we have an ability to *solve the problem we created*. We Americans are inculcated from birth with Can-Do Americanism, the idea that we can solve any problem. Unfortunately, we can’t.

The examples you provide are illustrative: handing over the country to a police force heavily composes of Shiites? Guess who created that police force? WE DID! Quoting a Republican to attack the supposed position of liberals hardly bolsters your case.

You say the attitude of liberals is “screw ‘em.” But isn’t saying we can’t solve the problem humility? You still inhabit the universe of George W. Bush, of an omnipotent America. It is a fantasy world.

Posted by BB | February 15, 2007 12:15 PM

A technical question: Are you no longer doing "jumps" for longer posts?

Oh, and my uninformed vote is for 3 states: Shiite, Sunni and Kurd. And then getting the heck out of there.

Posted by Levislade | February 15, 2007 12:17 PM


According to your logic, we should still be in Vietnam.

We need to get over our national delusion that the military and massive killing and violence can solve all of our problems.

We need to get out of Iraq now, if for no other reason than our great grandchildren are still going to be paying for it since it’s bankrupting our country. Wasting more American soldiers’ lives is not going to solve anything. You seem more than willing to ask more young men and women to die for Bush’s lies.

We also have to admit that we failed due to poor planning and incompetence, that we were lied to, swindled by the Republicans’ crony corporations, and that those that got us into this war should be held accountable and prosecuted.

We need to forget our delusion that we’re omnipotent.

None of this is going to happen, of course, but I’m just sayin’.

Posted by Original Andrew | February 15, 2007 12:17 PM

I confess I don't know if I should hope the Sunni's or the Shia (sp?) win the civil war. It seems like they all hate us.

Posted by elswinger | February 15, 2007 12:18 PM

As Fnarf pointed out in the comments in the above link, an escalation implies permanency.

What nonsense.

Posted by rodrigo | February 15, 2007 12:32 PM

Okay, perhaps I shouldn't have used a Republican quote. But I think we all know that Coble's language is just a less coy version of what Ds are saying. Some quick examples from the high-profile debate currently going on in the House:

"The president's plan to send more of our best and bravest to die refereeing a civil war in Iraq is wrong. It's time for a new direction in Iraq." - Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Pa., an Iraq war veteran.
"We have to get out now, not two years from now, after a new president takes office. We're killing them and they're killing us and nothing is getting better and the reasons we started this turned out to be false. The American people know this and today they are watching our debate. They will judge us by our actions." - Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash.

I really need to be getting back to my other responsibilities, but I do want to say, w/r/t Vietnam: I wasn't alive then, but I'm pretty sure I would have been vociferously in favor of a immediate withdrawal from Vietnam at this stage in the game. In Vietnam, the U.S. was fighting a coordinated, united enemy, and withdrawal did not produce a yawning power vacuum. The North Vietnamese took over fairly quickly, and the country was stabilized. Communist, sure, but stable. That's simply not going to happen in Iraq.

Posted by annie | February 15, 2007 12:43 PM

It pisses me off that some of the same people who voted for the war seemed shocked that it's going so badly. Didn't we all know this was coming? This is why I was against the war from the beginning. Everything we see here was inevitable from the moment the Congress gave Bush the authority to launch our little (translation: giant and FUBAR) desert adventure. It is EXTREMELY frustrating that the folks who authorized and supported this war don't have the stomach to see it through.

Of course, that's not what we're talking about. What we're talking about now is what course of action makes the most sense from this moment. Using previous positions to discredit current claims is pure ad hominem tu quoque - it's a false line of reason. We need to evaluate the claim at hand on its own merits.

So, there are a couple of values at stake here. First is the value of American troops being flushed down the great toilet of Iraq. Yes, we've lost over 3,000 troops. Yes, we're spending recklessly, pouring money into a vain hope that we can remake the Iraqi culture into a functioning democracy, with a modern economy and cultural values, overnight.

This is clearly a loosing proposition. We cannot win this war in the next two, or even five years.

The second value at steak is the the Iraqi lives that our actions have ended and continue to put in peril.

Estimates of Iraqi deaths range from 30,000 to well over 200,000, depending on who's counting. We're responsible for starting the chain reaction that lead to those deaths. More deaths have occurred in Iraw under our watch that were ended by all the years of Saddam's regime.

If we leave Iraq now, we'll be looking at an immediate 3-way civil war. We'll be looking at at least 1,000,000 Iraqis dead over the next three years. We'll be looking at a crumbled state with no central government, a prime breeding ground for terrorist activities.

Pulling out now will greatly increase the danger we've created for ourselves. Staying in means staying in for five more years, at least - probably ten or more.

It's all about values. Ar the American lives and money we'd save by pulling out worth 1,000,000 Iraqi lives? Are they worth completely fucking over the Middle East?

Now, we could engage Iran and Syria and Saudia Arabia. We could try and build a new international coalition to make this work - but we've burned a lot of bridges over the last four years.

What now? Hell if I know. But I tend to believe that we're on the hook for the damage we've done, and it's clear that leaving before we've built Iraq up will lead to a catastrophic increase in those damages.

Posted by JAK | February 15, 2007 12:50 PM

If I can defend myself, what I actually said was more complex than that. "Escalation" does imply a degree of permanence, but more importantly it implies "more". The current "surge" ISN'T more; after it's complete we'll have fewer troops in Iraq than we did a year ago. The whole discussion of current deployments is all about political theater and semantic bullshit ON ALL SIDES.

I agree with Annie that we have a responsibility to the country that we destroyed. We will suffer for it. We should suffer. We should ALL suffer for what we've done there.

There is a great deal of "we're doing this all wrong, if we want to succeed we need to do THIS instead" going on, almost always with a stated or implied "you morons" appended to it. The truth is THERE IS NO GOOD OPTION here. There is no correct option. There is no option that will produce a good, or even an acceptable, or tolerable result. We're fucked either way, and it's our fault. Trying to decide "what to do about Iraq" now is like standing outside your burned-down house and trying to decide how to put out the fire. Should I turn off the stove? Should I shut off the power? Should I buy batteries for my smoke detectors? None of that matters: the fire has taken everything, and we have no insurance. We're fucked. It's going to take us decades to recover from this stupidity.

As for the WMD issue, I think it's very telling that at the time we invaded Iraq, every soldier and every commander believed that it was true. They went to great lengths to use their chem suits when doing so hindered them greatly. Interestingly, most Iraqi troops and commanders believed it too. Our intelligence was cooked, but in the run-up to war the climate was perfect for it.

The sectarian aspect of the violence is I believe overstated, at least when it's reduced to "Sunni v. Shiite". Every time people think they've figured it out, their compartments fracture again. A large part of the violence now is Shia v. Shia.

The problem with Ms. Wagner's prescription, which is absolutely correct as far as it goes, is this: when do we stop? At some point, whether it's tomorrow or twenty years from now, we have to let the Iraqis take control. And that means putting police power back in the hands of the same Shi'ite militias that are brutalizing the country now. So the question is, when? Our training efforts have so far been a joke; we haven't trained anybody. All we've done is taken the old clapped-out weapons they used to have and given them shiny new ones, which immediately disappear into the militias. The billions we've spent there mostly never even got there; it went straight into the pockets of the Halliburton contractors. So: carry on, surge, whatever you want to call it, and you will make things a little better; but you still have to leave eventually. Chaos and death now, or later? Those are your choices. We created this holocaust.

The real challenge is keeping it from taking over the rest of the world. Which is the opposite of what we've been accomplishing.

Posted by Fnarf | February 15, 2007 12:54 PM

Well, when the Iraq leadership, the leadership we the United States endorse and not the leadership of the various armed factions, ask that the United States should now go home, perhaps we the United States should listen. Because of that and that most of the citizens of the US would like us to leave should be the decision we make.

Posted by Phenics | February 15, 2007 1:03 PM

Why should *we* remain militarily in Iraq? Wouldn't a multi-national force be vastly better suited to the task ahead?

That would take a massive diplomatic effort and the radical step of putting US soldiers at least partially under foreign control.

Posted by golob | February 15, 2007 1:09 PM

We aren't peace-keepers in Iraq, we are power brokers, and in that capacity we are an will continue to be one of the chief causes of the sectarian violence that plagues Iraq. The civil war underway in Iraq is not simply a feud. It's a contest for power, and it's one that we make worse by our policy of favoring factions with very little popular support just because they will cooperate with us. American withdrawl is a necessary condition of a political solution in Iraq.
The theory that our military presence makes the situation in Iraq somehow better is just a theory, and a theory that is just about as probable as young earth paleontology.
I do agree that the democratic rhetoric falls short, but not because it's somehow wrong headed to demand withdrawl, but becuase they are too gutless even now, to acknowledge the premises that would make sense of these demands. How bad do things have to get before the democrats will feel confident that they can take a firm anti-war stance and not lose the next elections. Cowards, the lot of them.

Posted by kinaidos | February 15, 2007 1:12 PM

Annie, we may like the same movies, but as someone who's actually done counter-terrorism ops, you don't grok Iraq. Best thing is to leave - period. Sooner is better.

Posted by Will in Seattle | February 15, 2007 1:20 PM

@18: Oooh, I have to jump on that one. Young earth paleontology is, emphatically, not a theory, which is a well-substantiated explanation that unites a variety of observed phenomena.

Okay, now you can go back to ignoring the news stories I cited supporting my contention.

Posted by annie | February 15, 2007 1:21 PM

I wasn't alive then, but I'm pretty sure I would have been vociferously in favor of a immediate withdrawal from Vietnam at this stage in the game. In Vietnam, the U.S. was fighting a coordinated, united enemy, and withdrawal did not produce a yawning power vacuum.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that we had to fear the Domino Effect (the spread of Communism through SE Asia), much as chaos across the Middle East is now forecast. Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia might just decide they can't afford chaos, with diplomatic assistance from the West, Russia and China.

Annie, with all due respect for your geopolitical expertise, If you'd been alive then you probably would have been for withdrawal on the grounds that young men you knew were in Viet Nam, killed in action, or waiting to be sent over there.

I haven't seen any assertions by anyone that the US has the troop strength to secure the country sufficiently to rebuild infrastructure, etc. Temporary escalations can tidy up neighborhoods temporarily, but there's no reason to believe that we're now able to do something we couldn't do three years ago.

Posted by rodrigo | February 15, 2007 1:21 PM

@golob: you'll probably have to wait for a new president to achieve that. A diplomat Bush ain't.

Of course, everyone regrets having gone in in the first place, having danced to the war drumbeat. Bush's horrid post-war planning really helped put us in this position. If we stay, more US troops get killed. If we go, bloody anarchy will envelop the region for a short period of time. Think Rwanda.

Phenics has a good point: stay until they ask us to go. Then go. The one caveat is that if we stay, we should have power to enforce peace. The current Iraqi PM tried tying our hands vis-a-vis Shiite militias. That didn't work, and only when we forced him to allow us to crack down on militias has some modicum of progress been made. But this war has seen 100 seemingly great ideas crash in flames, so really nobody f'ing has the one right answer.

Posted by him | February 15, 2007 1:24 PM

Yeah, him, my question seems naive to even me, mere minutes later.

What a total mess.

There is one other way to deal with the chaos we've caused: allow refugees to emigrate. It would be the honorable way to help those who risked everything for us.

Posted by golob | February 15, 2007 1:32 PM

i think the key is going to be a new president. honestly, all politics aside, a democrat would be best because (s)he could just say, "look, the last guy really screwed up. i'm very sorry that he did all this stuff. since we are now stuck in this, i am calling on other nations to help us out, since it is better for everyone that iraq be fixed."

Posted by konstantconsumer | February 15, 2007 1:56 PM

I believe you are getting the Korean War and Vietnam mixed-up. North Korea after WWII was a unified force with its own government and military. The split of the Korean peninsula by a treaty created by the WWII Asian-front victors created two countries and two governments. The war was because the Korean people really wanted one government. They still do, but are content not to press the issue to bloodshed.

North Vietnam was a handy moniker for THE ENEMY more then it referred to folks living across a contrived border. It gave the American something to shoot at, in theory. For most of the conflict "North Vietnam" meant communist, or in the abstract, a person not wearing a South Vietnam uniform, but the North was not a unified communist government like the ones which formed in post-revolution Russia and China or North Korea. During the 50's and 60's the political structure was one of rival communist guerilla factions (analogous to today's Muslim guerilla faction in Iraq). A North/South spilt was a failed geopolitical policy intended to contain the situation, but once again, the western governments didn't really ask the Vietnamese at the time if they wanted one government of their choosing (they could have chosen COMMIE!!) or two. The US was operating on a domino theory based in part of how rapidly many Eastern European governments aligned them selves with the Soviet government. The US felt it had a moral obligation to prevent any communism. Loyalty of the Vietnamese communists ranged from groups looking to Soviet aid, aid from China, aid from other South East Asian groups. These groups did not confine themselves to a single north/south border, good guys on one side of the front, bad guys on the other side, despite the splitting of there country by the international community. Vietnam was fought with guerilla jungle warfare, similar in nature to the guerilla urban warfare underway in Iraq. The communist factions of Vietnam fought each other for power just as much as they fought to expel the imperialistic French, then Japanese, France again, then finally the Americans. Again, this is analogous of Iraqi Muslim groups looking outside of the Iraq borders for aid to expel foreign influence (the US first, then Sunni or Shiite or Christian, or Baath, or whomever to follow).

The analogy between Vietnam and Iraq can be projected out to a future situation fairly accurately. What will happen in Iraq when the US leaves will be the similar that happened in Saigon and rural Vietnam. With the American military no longer in country the guerilla forces were then free to concentrate fire and the struggle to gain political power over each other. The MAJOR difference between 1970's Vietnam and 21st century Iraq is that the 70's superpowers, the US and USSR, pretty much agreed that Vietnam was a Southeast Asian problem and so they would not interfere any longer. China was going through their Cultural Revolution and was in no real position to give aid, even though cheesing off the Soviets would have been favorable to Mao, he didn’t because after Nixon open relations it was in China’s geopolitical favor not to press the issue.

There is absolutely no facts that show that middle east countries would allow for Iraq to take its own course, ala Vietnam circa 1980’; using their borders to land lock the conflict from spreading throughout the region. There is also no evidence that when US and Coalition Forces are 100% gone, gone, gone that those respective governments would not send aid into Iraq to fund the faction of choice. Leaving is not a pretty option, but war is not pretty. Leaving or staying is not a neat and tidy situation. Death will continue to happen, but why should it American deaths when those deaths are appreciated for the sacrifice only by America and not for the Iraq government or the foreign citizenry it was laid down for?

It sounds like you are in favor of leaving troops in Iraq until all possibility of guerilla warfare amongst the Iraqi populous has been removed. A very noble position, given the lessons learned through Vietnam. Might I add, Annie, before you and everyone else of the same position keeps on insisting that the military stay, join the military and be of service to your noble cause. Why would you want to take a position to put the lives of those who serve this country in uniform in danger when you will not join and fight the fight you want them to fight? Or maybe you are a vet and know what it means to serve in the military. Either way, you are a civilian working at the Stranger who is very quick to have others do tomorrow what you are not doing today. Or, are you of the cheesy ilk that you will serve once the government sends you a letter inviting you to serve or go to prison if you turn down the invitation?

Posted by Phenics | February 15, 2007 2:23 PM

I still maintain that Iraq does not easily compare to Vietnam.

This history of the Philippine-American war is a far closer model.

The last time we successfully defeated a guerrilla army it took a level of ruthlessness that is probably unpalatable. Torture, concentration camps, shooting of war prisoners, burning whole villages...

Posted by golob | February 15, 2007 2:35 PM

In Vietnam we took over from the French. That part of SE Asia had been their colony. In Vietnam the people began an insurgency against the colonial government. The French wanted out. We came in. We were fighting against S. Viet guerillas, and N. Viet regulars. The only commonality with Iraq is that the enemy behind our lines could not be seen - they were the PEOPLE. Iraq is a wholly fractured society now, due to this country. Oh yes, the other commonaldity - our genocideal zeal. We had to withdraw from our war in Vietnam; we need to stay in Iraq at some level to make reparations. And that probably will involve partitioning of the "country."

Posted by c marius | February 15, 2007 3:21 PM

I'm a little bit baffled by the argument that keeping American troops in Iraq is necessary because it will prevent civil war.

If that's the case, then why aren't American troops preventing civil war now?

And if peaceful stability is somehow achieved through the presence of American troops, well, then won't those troops be a key component of that stability? And wouldn't that mean that pulling them out would result in... civil war?

It seems to me that if you're arguing for continuing the occupation until we're sure we'll leave behind a peaceful nation when we depart, then as a practical matter, you're arguing for permanent occupation.

Posted by robotslave | February 15, 2007 3:35 PM

Escalation=permanence? Where does that come from?

This escalation is just to solve a problem, but other escalations aren't to solve the problem and get it done with, but to remain in the process of solving them indefinitely?

And, as pointed out earlier, it's not the left who says "we gave them freedom and they squandered it." It's the right.

You're a little confused, Annie.

Posted by GOB says COME ON! | February 15, 2007 4:53 PM

The USA can not stabilize Iraq because it does not want to. I think it is the USA and British soldiers that are stoking the sectarian rift as much as they can.
We do not have the troops to stabilize Iraq, and I am grateful for that. I am so happy most young people are not willing to sacrifice their lives for a fascist fucking oil grab/make Israel safe campaign(read Securing the Realm online), despite all the best efforts of the national media to cloth the slaughter in Iraq with humanitarian rhetoric. I remember the Stranger ran an article a few years ago on the need for a compulsory military service for young people like Israel has.
I wish Annie and Dan Savage and the rest of the Liberal Hawks would join the military, instead of offering America's young up for bomb fodder with humanitarian rhetoric, and destroying our economic future with million dollar missiles.
What is wrong with this picture?: All the poles show most Iraqis want the USA out, and most American soldiers want to leave Iraq, and yet we have people like Annie speaking with authority on why we need to continue our military involvement in Iraq.

Posted by Gary | February 15, 2007 6:04 PM

@30: I don't do conspiracy theories. It's in no one's interest to pit Sunnis and Shiites against each other, including Iran's. Furthermore, I do support a draft for both men and women, a la Israel. We never would have gotten into this mess had a draft been in place in 2002-2003. However, volunteering for the army now would not serve that or, frankly, any purpose.

@29 et al: The left says it too, just differently. Listen harder.

From Postman's transcript of Jim McDermott's speech on the floor of the House:

Chaos, not democracy, has taken root in Iraq. And chaos will continue to take U.S. lives until we act in our best interest and order our people out of harm's way.

This is the exact same refrain. Our people out of harm's way, their people left to chaos and ruin.

@"escalation": I didn't say it means permanence. I said "implies." Rhetorically, the D's term removes the temporary connotation of "surge" and replaces it with a scary, indefinite ring. That is a misleading substitution, and it's a backhanded way of convincing people of an argument they're perfectly capable of considering on its merits. As you all are doing.

Posted by annie | February 15, 2007 6:42 PM

@"escalation": I didn't say it means permanence. I said "implies." Rhetorically, the D's term removes the temporary connotation of "surge" and replaces it with a scary, indefinite ring.

Still bullshit. Escalation can be short or long, and the word implies neither, except that moving more men and materiel into a war zone mans lengthens the time required to exit the war zone. Rumsfeld and the preznit have, of course, stated that we'll be in Iraq for years. "Surge" is used by the pubbies as a euphemism for escalation, which they don't like because of its association with Viet Nam (where escalation was, obviously, not permanent.)

The Stranger, Seattle's Only Republican Rag

Posted by rodrigo | February 15, 2007 7:11 PM

Sorry for the paste error:

Should read: "and the word implies neither, except that moving more men and materiel into a war zone lengthens the time...

Posted by rodrigo | February 15, 2007 7:14 PM

The argument that we need to get American troops out of harm's way, while callous (at least at first glance), is far different than the argument that the Iraqis chose civil war. You are conflating two vastly different sentiments ("We can't make it better and are suffering great losses, so let's get out" vs. "Those Iraqis didn't do anything good with the freedom we gave them"). The former assumes that we never really gave them a chance. The latter irrationally blames them while keeping America on its high horse.

As for the connotations on "surge" vs "escalation", that is the first I had heard of your interpretation. As Rodrigo pointed out, they're just trying to avoid a little 'Nam flashback. But if you buy that surge-is-different shit, then you're dumb as a rock--and you're a wet dream for Karl Rove. I suppose intelligent design is better than creationism, huh, Annie?

Posted by wrong again, annie | February 15, 2007 9:16 PM

Thanks Annie for bravely posting such a different point of view from that assumed to be true on Slog (and in Seattle generally). Even if I cannot agree with it all, it's refreshing to hear a novel thought every so often.

Posted by golob | February 15, 2007 9:30 PM

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Fuck the Iraqis. Their fate really is in their hands, and I care more about my country and my countrymen than I do about theirs. Let them figure out their shit, and get my countrymen back here. Let them rebuild their own country and we'll rebuild ours.

If we make a decision that means another million Iraqis die in their civil war, but results in budget surpluses for the next ten years and not another American casualty, I'll be perfectly satisfied.

It's just utterly wooly headed to think that we're going to stop their civil war. Even Syria couldn't pacify Lebanon til they'd fought for fifteen years.

Posted by Gitai | February 15, 2007 10:42 PM

Annie, Annie, Annie, you little liberal fascist. The problem is not that we did not have enough troops to begin with, the problem is that we invaded Iraq. The problem is the War. You are so utterly what is wrong with America, and you do not even see it, and never will.
Every time you post a Mcdrermott quote you make me proud I voted for a Democrat, which is quite the feat, to bad most of his ilk are covertly and desperately trying to save our precious occupation, our illegal war, to bad for them that is why they were elected to office. What are they going to do?
Yes, Israel does have compulsory service in the military, but little good it has done them. Their gentrification program with tanks and M-16's has lasted over half a century, and you know, they still might loose.
Fear, Fear, Fear, that is what you are trying to peddle, who is to say Iraq will loose another million people if we pull out?
You want to know who benefits from Sunnis fighting Shittes? Read “Securing the Realm,” an Israel policy paper that describes to a T what is happening in Iraq, and our intentions for the whole middle east.

Posted by Gary | February 16, 2007 12:26 AM

"We should ALL suffer for what we've done there."

I earnestly disagree. Those of us (like myself) that opposed the idiocy of this war from the beginning (before it started) should NOT be held responsible for what we could not stop.

I did my very best to keep the war from happening, because I saw a twinkling of how foolish a move it was, why should I suffer?

Now that said (I was against the war before it started)

1) We never had the troops to do it properly to begin with

2) No one else (barring China) has the troops to help us now

3) Waiting for the gov't that we prop up to ask to leave doesn't seem right to me

4) The American people don't have the stomach for the length of time it would take to do it right (about a generation) even if anyone had the troops to do so (and no one does)

5) So many mistakes have been made and things have been fucked up so badly that even if the best politicians, diplomats and generals took over RIGHT NOW we wouldn't be able to do much with the mess that is Iraq now.

6) The US military is broken, it can't keep this up for very much longer at all. The Active Duty soldiers that normally make up the backbone of the Reserves are getting out if they can. The Reserves are being sent into the breach over and over. AND we are literally going to run out of trucks and maybe tanks in a few years at the rate we are going.

In theory I agree with the concept 'you break it - you fix it'
In reality, there is no way we can fix it, and the amount of good we are doing over there is temporary, one way or another the US is going to pull out before the job could have been done IF we had the troops to begin with and IF a lot of mistakes hadn't been made.

Since we are going to pull out anyway, why waste more American lives trying to put band aids on a train wreck?

Posted by K X One | February 16, 2007 3:05 AM

@34 et al: Sorry I'm doing this so piecemeal, but here's a clear example of the Ds claiming "we gave them freedom, they squandered it on civil war." From Durbin's Democratic response to Bush's Iraq speech several weeks ago:

The president's response to the challenge of Iraq is to send more American soldiers into the crossfire of the civil war that has engulfed that nation...

And we have given the Iraqis so much. We have deposed their dictator. We dug him out of a hole in the ground and forced him to face the courts of his own people. We've given the Iraqi people a chance to draft their own constitution, hold their own free elections and establish their own government.

We Americans, and a few allies, have protected Iraq when no one else would.

Now, in the fourth year of this war, it is time for the Iraqis to stand and defend their own nation.

Granted, it's more diplomatic than Rep Coble's version. But it's saying the exact same thing. And it's seriously embarrassing. What we gave the Iraqis is chaos and civil war.

Re:"escalation." I understand that it's an echo of Vietnam, but honestly that's not what I'm annoyed by. The point that the new troop levels will not exceed previous highs is well taken, and I don't think "escalation" acknowledges that either.

Posted by annie | February 16, 2007 9:52 AM


Yes, you are a die-hard Democrat just like me but I know deep inside you don't really mean you hate them now. You're pissed or upset but you don't hate them.

What's the alternative?

Is it as bad as watching Pigboy and Coulter as president and vice-president on that stupid new Fox show?

That you can hate but please don't hate the Democrats. They need you.

Tomorrow is another day.

Get away from it all for awhile.

It will be here when you get back.

Posted by truthseeker | February 16, 2007 8:09 PM


First off, grow up. Who cares if liberal rhetoric pisses you off? That is not an argument, that is just whining. Nobody except your mommie cares that liberal points of view make you mad. What are you going to do next, hold your breath if liberals don't shut up? Nobody cares!

Next off, go figure out how to think critically. Two guys saying the US should stay in Iraq does not make a nation in favor of our presence. There is a concept known as polling that tells you how a population thinks about a particular subject, and polling tell us that 80% of Iraqis want us to leave. And unless you think Iraqis absolutely need white people to tell them how to solve their problems, we have to listen to what they want.

Next, you and Dick Cheney both are wrong that our presence there is making a positive difference. Rather than pointing to how bad things would be if we left, all signs are pointing to how bad things are getting with our continued presence. We are not going to stop the civil war by military engagement. Dick Cheney has his own agenda for why he wants the troops to stay. Why you think we can fight our way out of this is anyone's guess, let's all hope its not just plain stupidity.

Finally, as for the rhetoric you hate so much, get over it. I don't like your rhetoric either, such as "escalation implies permanence". Bullshit! A veteran Republican speech writer couldn't have put it better. They don't want their Iraq strategies compared to the failed ones of Vietnam. If you have to tie yourself in semantic knots just for that then your strategy is crap before it even hits the ground.

If we followed your ideas, we'd never leave. Escalation of the shooting war will not make them stop fighting, particularly if it is temporary. The best we can do now is get our troops out so we can be an honest broker between the factions, and then help them find a diplomatic and political solution to this mess.

Posted by Jonnie | February 23, 2007 11:25 AM

You could say that we started the Iraqi civil war, but it makes more sense to say that we allowed it to start. Iraq, like Yugoslavia, was a collection of often antipathetical peoples jammed together for convenience or profit. For much of their histories, both nations had to be held together by strength, by president-for-life Tito and dictator Saddam. After Tito died and the USSR weakened, the Yugoslav states went at each other in a series of bloody conflicts that gave us the term "ethnic cleansing."

Similarly, once we removed Saddam, the Iraq civil war and a new era of ethnic cleansing became inevitable. The proof that U.S. military might could not (and cannot) stop the civil war is the fact that the U.S. military, already in Iraq, failed to stop it! On the contrary, we have unleashed forces greater than our own. We have prepared the battleground for a Sunni-Shiite war, part of a conflict that after 1400 years has lasted six times longer than our own nation's history. Annie, do you seriously think that we -- Westerners -- can put that genie back in the bottle? We have become bystanders in a cataclysm of our own creation. Of course we owe it to the Iraqis to seek peace, but it's too late for a military solution. We must work to pursue a political solution. That solution may or may not mean a Balkan-like partition.

Military action, including our occupation, will provide as little security in the future as it has done in the past. Annie quotes an ice cream vendor from Ur and a positive NPR interview. Those are heartwarming, and I’m sure you can find other such stories, but they’re just anecdotes. You didn’t refer to the instances (also anecdotal) in which coalition forces, alerted by Iraqi sources to "insurgents" and "terrorists," respond with a raid that amounts to the next act in a vendetta. I'm sure a minority of Iraqis would like us to stay; Jefferson Davis might have welcomed a foreign occupation of the U.S. after Gettysburg, to delay the inevitable. But the majority of Iraqis, both Sunnis and Shiites (the vast majority of Shiites), want us out, and to me this outweighs all the anecdotes. And more than that, the Iraqi government itself wants us to go, and the majority of the American people, and even the majority of American troops!

Posted by Paul Schafer | February 26, 2007 8:33 PM

Annie, the most important thing to understand about the decision is this: the presence of US forces exacerbates overall violence. This was clearly demonstrated by the surge in violence as Operation Together Forward was undertaken. Employing the Fallujah solution and destroying Sunni Baghdad will not pacify Iraq.

For a "liberal" solution that might stand a chance of working, you need look no further than Prof. Juan Cole's proposal:

Bringing the United Nations Back In

The United Nations Strategy as a Resolution of the Iraq Crisis

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