Sunday, September 9, 2007

Progress On The Curve

Well, it’s September. The month we’ve all been waiting for. The kids are back in school, the long days of summer are shortening, and the Iraq dog and pony show continues. I am reminded by the changing of the leaves of how often this President has changed the meaning of progress in Iraq. Let’s have a recap of just what exactly progress in Iraq has meant over the last four years, because if you are like me it has been hard to keep track. Under this administration progress has been such an elusive concept to define because every time I think I understand what it means it changes. Here we go I hope you have your scorecards ready.

1) The first use of the term “progress in Iraq” came in June 2003, on June 23rd in a speech President Bush outlined what progress in Iraq would entail.[1]
2) Progress – Free and democratic Iraq with elections.
3) Progress – Restoring Iraq economy and oil revenues.
4) Progress – Iraqi Constitution and Iraqi sovereignty.
5) Progress – Unified central government and reconciliation.
6) Progress – Iraqi government benchmarks.
7) Progress – Secure and stable Baghdad.
8) Progress – Sunni tribal chiefs stop attacking American troops.

So, as you can see progress in Iraq is a very obscure concept, as the years have gone by its meaning has evolved. The question is why has the definition of progress changed? Could it be because every benchmark of progress that this administration has setup has yet to yield any real progress? Let’s look at the record after over four years in Iraq and see how much progress has been achieved.

Free and democratic Iraq with elections: While there were democratic elections, I think anyone would be hard pressed to claim freedom and democracy in Iraq at this time. What the election demonstrated was what the real experts in the region already knew, that the Iraqis would split along sectarian lines in their voting. By voting along these lines instead of unity we have sectarianism, instead of a central government with a popular mandate to govern we have a sectarian government rife with division.

Restoring Iraq economy and oil revenues: The Iraqi economy is in shambles for the Iraqis, however for the American contractors working in Iraq and the corporations doing business in Iraq, it could not be better. Rather than improving the lives of the Iraqis we have improved the lives of our corporations. This is not progress, this is war profiteering. The oil industry is under constant attack and the price and supply of gas in Iraq is outrageous.

Iraqi Constitution and sovereignty: Yes, Iraq does have a Constitution written under our tutelage and representing our values. Does it reflect what the Iraqis want? I happen to believe that it does not and that is why the current government is dysfunctional. We tried to instill western values into their culture rather than conforming our values to their culture, just another display of western arrogance and hegemony towards those heathen Arabs.

Unified central government and national reconciliation: Any thoughts of this being a sign of progress should have been dispelled at the execution of Saddam Hussein. It’s funny how the signs continue to appear that there are problems and yet they continue to be ignored. There has been no national reconciliation, if anything there has been more sectarianism and division. The central government is paralyzed and the local councils feel no loyalty to the central government in Baghdad.
Iraqi government benchmarks: According to the recent GAO report, the Iraqi government has failed to meet 11 of the 18 benchmarks. Remember it was this administration that created and defined these benchmarks, so it is tragic that they are now attempting to back away from these benchmarks as a measuring stick of progress. No matter what your political stripe, I have yet to hear even the wing-nuts proclaim this government as progressing. The PM has stated that he does not feel obligated to meet these arbitrary goals set up by politicians in Washington; he represents the citizens of Iraq.

Secure and stable Baghdad: This of course will depend on who you talk to in order to gauge any progress. If you talk to Senator McCain and his straight talk, you will learn that it is as safe as a market in Indiana. If you talk to the locals, they tend to disagree. Though the deaths of American service personnel have dropped, the ethnic cleansing of neighborhoods, the sectarian violence, and the number of attacks outside of Baghdad have not. The surge has managed to relocate the violence out of Baghdad and into the other parts of Iraq. The security has also been increased in the Green Zone, one of the few safe havens in Iraq.

Sunni tribal chiefs stop attacking American troops: In an effort to generate support President Bush has redefined progress in Iraq to getting the Sunni tribal chiefs to accept our money and our guns in exchange for no longer supporting the insurgents, whom they had come to resent. It seems that this administration has finally come to accept its limits in Iraq. The President seems to be moving away from his grandiose vision of Iraq as the beacon of democracy in the Arab world. Right now it seems he would settle for just a little peace of mind, if he finds it it will be short-lived. The Sunni chieftains have shifting loyalties and no loyalty to the central government; so on the one hand Mr. Bush is becoming cozy with the Sunnis and alienating the government. This truce will not last long.

So based on the data it would appear that in all areas being touted at one time or another by this administration as progress, they have failed miserably. But yet they continue to create newer, lower benchmarks, if this were a school in the “No Child Left Behind” program it would be condemned. My fear is that we as a nation are still not that outraged by what is happening, we are still willing to grade this assignment on a curve. Soon, there will be no curve that can measure complete failure.


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