Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Some Would Rather Switch Than Fight

It would seem that the Iraqization of the war is not going quite as well as planned. After 5 years of training and billions of dollars, the Iraqi Army and police forces are still a long way from standing on their own. There had been rumors and reports that it took the American and British forces to provide much needed support during the Iraqi government’s badly planned, badly executed offensive in Basra against the “criminal element” that had taken over the city and the oil rich port. Many have reported that the offensive was designed and executed by the al-Maliki government to weaken possible rivals in the upcoming elections. The main target appeared to be the Mahdi Army militia, the militia formed by the powerful cleric Moktada al-Sadr.

According to reports, at least 1300 Iraqi police and armed forces refused to fight or deserted during the offensive. This has to be troubling news to the White House, General Petraeus, and the Republican war cheerleader and nominee John McCain. The reason it is troubling is because at some point the American public is going to expect the Iraqis to shoulder more of the responsibility of rebuilding their country and at least providing for its security. There are few things Americans detest more than cowardice. In a country where the national icons are John Wayne and Ronald Reagan there is no place for deserters and cowards, especially among those whose country we are “liberating”. I almost wish that I watched the talking heads and pundits on this one; I would love to hear how they reconcile the exploits of the Iraqis with the John Wayne narrative. Or about how much American blood is being spilled for their liberation.

BAGHDAD — Iraqi officials said Sunday that they had fired about 1,300 soldiers and police officers who refused to fight Shiite Muslim militias during the recent government crackdown, desertions that raise questions about the likely performance of Iraqi forces as U.S. troop levels decrease.

Whatever the reasons, the desertions are a sign of what critics have said were broader problems with the offensive ordered by Prime Minister Nouri Maliki, including overly rapid deployment of shaky troops and lack of planning. Some say this points to weaknesses in Maliki’s leadership and portends ongoing problems as future American troop levels continue to be a focus of debate in Washington.

“There’s a certain bravado to the current [Iraqi] leadership, believing they can come into a difficult situation and just with a show of force make things happen the way they want,” said the American military official, who spoke anonymously because of his critique of the U.S.-backed Iraqi leader.

“There’s so much that it takes to plan a military operation. All that stuff had not been done,” the official said.

For those with eyes to see it is becoming ever more apparent that the reason we must remain in Iraq is not to fight al-Qaeda, but to ensure the survival of whatever puppet regime we install. The wing-nuts have no intention of spending all that coin and expending those lives for the Iraqis to choose their on way of government. We came to spread democracy and damn it that’s what we are going to spread. Could you imagine if after all the lives and material we have expended and we end up creating another Iran what the fall-out to the Republican brand would be? This is no longer about al-Qaeda, oil, or democracy; it is now about the future of government in America. The Republicans can not leave Iraq and have any hope of ever gaining a majority again. They know this and that is why regardless of their personal feelings about this fiasco they will continue to stay in lock-step with their leadership.

The Republicans have staked their long-term political future on the “war on terror” and as long as they are hitched to this issue they will not go quietly into that good night. The war on terror has morphed into just plain terror, no war or enemy to fear just be afraid; be very afraid. With the latest performance of the Iraqi military and government I can see why they are afraid, but why are we afraid? Anyone who still buys the notion that the terrorists will have a victory if we leave Iraq or that they will follow us home seriously needs to have their Thorazine dosage increased. There were no terrorists in Iraq before we got there and there will be none left when we leave. They will not follow us home either, hell I’m a black American citizen and I can barely get back into the country from Mexico. Is this to say there won’t be anymore attacks? Of course not. If someone is willing to die to further their cause there is no defense against that, despite all the Republican wing-nut rhetoric.

However, there is some good news to report from the Basra debacle. It seems that we are actually making progress in training and preparing the Iraqi troops. According to reporters who have been reporting from Iraq since the beginning of hostilities the number of desertions has actually gone down. So at this rate we should be able to field a full cadre of Iraqi forces in another 10 years. Thank God for progress…

There are sure to be more volleys, though a comment last week on the PBS program Charlie Rose added some perspective to the number of desertions — 1,300 — that has provided so much fuel for the debate. Rather than being surprised, Dexter Filkins, a Times correspondent who reported from Iraq between 2003 and 2006, called the desertions “remarkable” for being so limited. Here’s why:

In 2004, when they tried to push the Iraqi army into battle, it disappeared. They all defected.

“Progress has been made,” Mr. Filkins continued. “Whether it’s enough progress” is another question entirely, he added in a joint appearance on the program with John F. Burns of The New York Times.


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