The New York Times, while continuing to shamelessly promote the war at almost every turn, somehow permitted an amazingly truthful op-ed to make the Sunday edition. It was written by seven soldiers in Iraq – actual soldiers, not generals seeking promotion or afraid of early retirement. It is entitled “The War As We Saw It”, and it begins:
VIEWED from Iraq at the tail end of a 15-month deployment, the political debate in Washington is indeed surreal. Counterinsurgency is, by definition, a competition between insurgents and counterinsurgents for the control and support of a population. To believe that Americans, with an occupying force that long ago outlived its reluctant welcome, can win over a recalcitrant local population and win this counterinsurgency is far-fetched. As responsible infantrymen and noncommissioned officers with the 82nd Airborne Division soon heading back home, we are skeptical of recent press coverage portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day. (Obviously, these are our personal views and should not be seen as official within our chain of command.)
The claim that we are increasingly in control of the battlefields in Iraq is an assessment arrived at through a flawed, American-centered framework. Yes, we are militarily superior, but our successes are offset by failures elsewhere. What soldiers call the “battle space” remains the same, with changes only at the margins. It is crowded with actors who do not fit neatly into boxes: Sunni extremists, Al Qaeda terrorists, Shiite militiamen, criminals and armed tribes. This situation is made more complex by the questionable loyalties and Janus-faced role of the Iraqi police and Iraqi Army, which have been trained and armed at United States taxpayers’ expense.
It’s so obvious when you hear the truth, isn’t it? You don’t have to twist your brain into a Mobius strip to understand it. You don’t feel sick to your stomach when you listen to it. The clarity and simplicity are stunning and refreshing, like a cool wind blowing on your face.
Even more remarkable, a group of 108 foreign policy experts, both Republican and Democratic, were recently polled regarding the Iraq war and how the so-called “war on terror” is affecting our national security. Here are some of their opinions:
- Foreign Policy said seven of 10 experts supported the redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq. Experts have increasingly cited the war as the root cause of what they believe to be U.S. failure to win in its war on terrorism.
- Ninety-one percent of those polled said the world has grown more dangerous for Americans and the United States, up 10 percent from February.
- More than 80 percent of the experts said they expected another September 11-scale attack on the United States over the next decade, despite what they described as significant improvements among U.S. security, law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
- A decade from now, the Middle East still will be reeling from the ill-effects of the Iraq war, particularly heightened Sunni-Shi’ite tensions in the region, 58 percent said.
- Thirty-five percent believed Arab dictators will have been discouraged from pursuing political reforms as a result.
- Only 3 percent believed the United States will achieve its goal of rebuilding Iraq into a beacon of democracy within the next 10 years.
I’ve mentioned before that I feel that we will be withdrawing a significant number troops from Iraq before the 2008 election. However, will the one-two punch of this article and this poll convince Bush and the Republicans to start the withdrawal? I really don’t know. After all, the people who have been wrong about everything in Iraq – the neo-cons like Bill Kristol and the modern version of Dick Cheney, for example – still hold sway over Bush’s foreign policy decisions. The Republicans in Congress, with a few exceptions, still seem to be following Bush over a cliff into electoral extinction.
But perhaps the testimony of the real experts will finally be heard in September when Congress comes back into session. Perhaps we can begin extricating ourselves from this tarpit we’ve gotten ourselves into in Iraq. And perhaps in the post-invasion world, neo-conservative pundits like Kristol will be given the credence and respect they deserve: None.