Friday, February 4, 2011

Did You Think Iraq was Done?

Notwithstanding his earlier claims that the US has already "won" in Iraq, John McCain is serving notice to Mr. Obama that if things go wrong, and Iraq begins to spiral down, the American people will know whom to blame.

 “It would have been unthinkable even two years ago to say that we would reach a point at which most Americans and, indeed, some people in Washington, would increasingly be forgetting about Iraq,” Sen. John McCain (R) of Arizona, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Thursday. “But that point has largely come. And as much as it reflects the dividends of success, especially the success of the surge, we disregard Iraq at great peril. . . .”

If, God forbid, Iraq’s progress should unravel and the moment of opportunity is squandered,” he reminded his fellow senators, “no one should think that the American people will be forgiving in holding their leaders accountable for that failure.”

What McCain seems not to understand is that if the Surge had been truly successful, Iraq would be stable now; an efficient, effective, cohesive, undivided Iraq government would be sitting in Baghdad and making great strides in rebuilding the country; and its armed forces would be strong and secure enough to prevent "al-Qaeda" from rearing its head.

What McCain seems not to remember is that the stated goal of the Surge was not just to calm things down, but to create space for a stable and effective political system to emerge.  Only if that had happened would the Surge have been truly a success.


  • Iraq's Sunni Arabs have been shut out from any semblance of real power in the new government;
  • most of the Sunni Awakening "Sons of Iraq" militia who fought in tandem with US forces during the Surge have been left by the Shiite-dominant government of Nuri al-Maliki to languish with jobs or prospects (or, for that matter, electricity);
  • Sunni Arabs and Kurds are still at odds in the region north of Baghdad;
  • there's not yet a much-needed oil law to settle who has which rights to which oil and its revenues . . . .

All of which creates a lot of space for al-Qaeda to keep messing things up by bombing Shiite pilgrimages to Karbala and funerals in Baghdad - or government police stations and officials in Iraq's Anbar governorate.

The Surge was no victory, Mr. McCain.  It was a tourniquet that temporarily slowed the bloodletting.  So now you insist that US troops must remain in Iraq, past the end-of-2011 date mandated in the Status of Forces Agreement, so that Iraq won't be lost. And you insist on that despite the fact that Iraq's prime minister has stated repeatedly that the issue of American soldiers staying on is a non-starter, and one of his most important political props - Muqtada al-Sadr, who just happens to have a well-armed militia ready to be called out - has insisted that Us troops will not stay in his country (hey, John, that's right - HIS country, not ours) one day longer than the deadline, and has publicly told his supporters that they should resist US soldiers even now.

No, Mr. McCain, the deadline is set; the Iraqis will never get their act together as long as we're around; any Iraqi leader seen to have to still rely on a US military presence will have no legitimacy; and at any rate, with billions of dollars being thrown into the black-hole of Afghanistan, our national treasury can't sustain continued involvement in Iraq.  Mr. Obama knows it, as do the majority of the American people. 

So, as the US ends its involvement in Iraq, if Iraq begins to swirl the bowl, please don't think that you can pin the blame for that on Mr. Obama.  The blame is entirely on you, for supporting and spurring on his predecessor's grand Mesopotamian adventure in the first place.

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