Sending The Wrong Message
July 11, 2005 - 12:44pm ET
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You just have to love those leaky Brits. Yesterday, The Mail On Sunday , a London newspaper, disclosed the contents of yet another secret British memo. This one, however, has been leaked in real time: the memo discusses British and American plans to draw down coaltion forces in Iraq next year by more than half.
The irony of such planning is that is emerges hot on the heels of Bush's speech at Fort Bragg two weeks ago. There, the commander in chief declared, "Some contend that we should set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces. Let me explain why that would be a serious mistake."
But the irony is not so much that he has been caught in another lie. It is that this statement was one of the few times in the formulation of Iraq policy that the president made the proper case in public while secretly planning to do the wrong thing on the ground. So, let's just show what's wrong here, in case the president did not get a chance to hear his own speech.
"Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done."
There are two issues here. One is that the security forces will not be up to standard in time, as there are only 5,000 Iraqis in units that can operate independently. To provide the same police-citizen ratio as New York City, Iraq needs 125,000. The other is the political timeline. Juan Cole examines just how much of a long shot is the current August 15th constitutional drafting committee's deadline. The committee, just seated last week, cannot agree on the opening sentence, as it deals with the fundamental nature of the new Iraq: Will it be federal or unitary? That means an automatic six-month delay, followed by a three-month wait for the referendum, and then new elections months after that.
Clearly, the job won't be done.
"It would send the wrong message to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve."
George Bush has never been serious about completing this mission. The great tragedy of Bush's invasion of Iraq is that he had every opportunity to deal properly with the strategic mess of Iraq and has squandered it. He had the willingness of the international community to send in an aggressive and extremely capable inspections team, that would have undermined Hussein's domestic credibility when it discovered there were no weapons. When he invaded, the U.S. government and the international community knew how to manage a successful post-conflict transition, but he chose instead to turn Iraq into a neocon petri dish. Then, upon realizing the occupation was in trouble, instead of bringing in the professionals in political transitions, he flew in the goon squad from Guantanamo to Abu Ghraib.
Clearly, the president has never been serious about completing the job.
"And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is to wait us out."
This one is silly. Right now the enemy is the insurgents, who are predominently Iraqi. Insurgents always have the option of waiting out the occupier. They live there. In addition, they don't rotate in and out on six-to-12 month tours of duty, so they constantly have a tactical edge on the occupation forces. All this president has done is send the wrong messages to the enemy. Take Fallujah. Abu Ghraib. Halliburton. These are the messages that the Iraqis understand. Elections? With literally no history of democracy, elections merely cloak the powerful in a thin veil of legitimacy.
Clearly, the wrong message has already been sent.
The current Bush administration strategy was not up to the task before this leaked British memo. Now, the Bush administration has shown it has no intention of doing the right thing in Iraq. That glaring failure is a sad but critical opportunity for progressives to stand up for a credible success strategy in Iraq. Such a strategy will have to be both comprehensive and implementable. The time for catchy, empty slogans is over.
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