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September 24, 2006

Facing Facts on Iraq

While Iraq is a central issue in this year’s election campaigns, there is very little clear talk about what to do, beyond vague recommendations for staying the course or long-term timetables for withdrawal. That is because politicians running for election want to deliver good news, and there is nothing about Iraq — including withdrawal scenarios — that is anything but ominous.

In the real Iraq, armed Shiite and Kurdish parties have divided up the eastern two-thirds of the country, leaving Sunni insurgents and American marines to fight over the rest. Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and his “national unity cabinet” stretch out their arms to like-thinking allies like Iran and Hezbollah, but barely lift a finger to rein in the sectarian militias and death squads spreading terror across Baghdad and the Shiite south.

The civilian death toll is now running at roughly 100 a day, with many of the victims gruesomely tortured with power tools or acid. Over the summer, more Iraqi civilians died violent deaths each month than the number of Americans lost to terrorism on Sept. 11. Meanwhile, the electricity remains off, oil production depressed, unemployment pervasive and basic services hard to find.

Iraq is today a broken, war-torn country. Outside the relatively stable Kurdish northeast, virtually every family — Sunni or Shiite, rich or poor, powerful or powerless — must cope with fear and physical insecurity on an almost daily basis. The courts, when they function at all, are subject to political interference; street-corner justice is filling the vacuum. Religious courts are asserting their power over family life. Women’s rights are in retreat.

Growing violence, not growing democracy, is the dominant feature of Iraqi life. Every Iraqi knows this. Americans need to know it too.

Beyond the futility of simply staying the course lies the impossibility of keeping the bulk of American ground forces stationed in Iraq indefinitely. They have already been there for 42 months, longer than it took the United States to defeat Hitler. The strain is undermining the long-term strength of the Army and Marines, threatening to divert the National Guard from homeland security and emboldening Iran and North Korea. Yet with the military situation deteriorating, the Pentagon has had to give up any idea of significant withdrawals this year, or for that matter anytime in the foreseeable future.
—excerpt of a New York Times Editorial, published Sunday, September 24, 2006.

Source: New York Times Editorial, Facing Facts on Iraq of Sunday, September 24, 2006

On September 23, 2006, a Washington Post editorial observed, in part:
The president's steadfastness would be much more impressive if it seemed to be attached to a winning strategy. Sadly, the events of the past several weeks suggest otherwise, at least in Iraq. Gen. Abizaid candidly described the progress of a U.S. military campaign in Baghdad, where additional American forces have been concentrated in the hope of stopping rampant sectarian bloodshed, as slight. Asked by reporters if the war could be won, he replied, "Given unlimited time and unlimited support, we're winning the war."

The problem, as both Gen. Abizaid and Mr. Bush well know, is that neither time nor resources are unlimited. Reports in several newspapers yesterday said the continuing heavy deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan had prompted commanders to discuss whether to call up more National Guard units at the expense of breaking rules about how often they are deployed.

The same day Gen. Abizaid spoke, the chairmen of a bipartisan Iraq study group set up by Congress delivered a blunt message to the four-month-old Iraqi coalition government, which has been slow to take desperately needed steps toward national reconciliation. "The government of Iraq needs to show its own citizens soon, and the citizens of the United States, that it is deserving of continuing support," said former representative Lee H. Hamilton, who chairs the group along with former secretary of state James A. Baker III.

Unless that message is heeded, the sacrifice involved in holding U.S. troop levels steady for another six months -- in lives, above all -- is likely to be wasted.
—excerpt of Washington Post editorial published September 23, 2006.

Source: Washington Post editorial The Troops Stay On of September 23, 2006

Posted by niganit at September 24, 2006 3:56 PM
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