Victory?

Let’s start by saying nice things.
Gary Varvel cartoon
I like the caricatures. No need to label Chris Matthews or David Whatsisname fron MSNBC. They’re recognizable and funny.

The main criticism is valid: indeed, the mainstream media has paid too much attention to the personal life of a 17-year-old girl and a political figure. To be more accurate, through MSNBC Varvel is targeting the “liberal media,” but we’ll let that slide by. I’m feeling generous.

So, really what’s the problem? Let’s see…what could it be?….hmmmmm… Oh, yes!

“U.S. has won a major victory in Iraq.”

We did?! Really? Perhaps Varvel means the recent developments in the Anbar province. The Wall Street Journal is certainly agog with plaudits.

And on Monday, U.S. forces formally handed control of a now largely peaceful Anbar to the Iraqi military. “We are in the last 10 yards of this terrible fight. The goal is very near,” said Major-General John Kelly, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar, in a ceremony with U.S., Iraqi and tribal officials. Very few in the American media even noticed this remarkable victory.

And this from the Christian Broadcast Network:

Time, Tenacity and Toughness — that’s what it took to win the “unwinnable” province of Anbar in Iraq. In a ceremony on September 2 that victory was consummated by handing the reigns back to the people of that province.

Think about that — the United States doesn’t conquer, it liberates. We kick down the rotten door, clean house and then remodel the place — and pay with our national treasure and the blood of our young men. Then, when the house is completely rebuilt and the thieves and thugs thrown out, we hand the keys back to the people who own the property.

See? That’s what the invasion of Iraq was all about. Geopolitical remodeling!

The meme that the U.S. media highlights only the bad news from Iraq when it isn’t obsessed with celebrity/political scandal (babies out of wedlock! cheating! bathroom hi-jinks!) works powerfully through the conservative mindset. Yet there is some truth to the cliché – after all, look at this past week. I would have preferred a deeper analysis of the events in Anbar Province. Go back to the NY Times article:

Indeed it was. Anbar Province, a flat, Wyoming-size desert split by the Euphrates River, became the most intractable region following the toppling of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. More than 1,000 American marines and soldiers have died in Anbar Province — a quarter of the American death toll in the country.

Anbar’s second city, Falluja, was the site of the biggest battle of the war, an invasion by 6,000 marines and soldiers, most of them on foot, to wrest the city from insurgent control. In that battle, nearly 100 Americans died and more than 500 were wounded; the American military estimated that it had killed more than 1,000 insurgents. Bordering on three countries — Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — Anbar was also the primary transit point for foreigners coming to Iraq to join the insurgency.

The fighting devastated much of Anbar. Falluja was razed; whole neighborhoods in Ramadi were likewise flattened. The city and provincial governments, and the local police forces, ceased to function — and in many cases ceased to exist. By the summer of 2006, Anbar’s governor, Mamoon Sami Rashid, had survived 29 attempts on his life. Others were not so lucky: Mr. Rashid’s immediate predecessor, Raja Nawaf, was kidnapped and killed; his deputy, Talib al-Dulaimi, was shot to death; the chairman of the Anbar Provincial Council was also killed; and Mr. Rashid’s personal secretary was beheaded. By then, most of his ministers were in hiding.

In other words, the invasion destabilized border security, let Al Qaeda in as the American occupation alienated the Iraqi people by shooting at demonstrators, raiding their homes, indiscriminately bombing them, appropriating national resources and selling them off to American companies, the whole “de-Baathification” thing, etc. Petraeus’ main job has been to clean up after a tremendous screw up by the BushAdmin; so far, his counter-insurgency tactics seem to have improved security in Iraq. Of course, we’re not accounting for the absence of Muqtada Al-Sadr, currently in Iran preparing to be an ayatollah, and for the disgust with Al-Qaeda’s tactics, which have been more extreme than the occupying forces in alienating the Sunnis and Shias enough to overcome their rivalries.

McCain et al. will crow about Anbar Province as evidence that “the surge is working” and “victory is possible.” Yet they will leave unanswered questions of Original Sin: why were we there in the first place? How were we misled into this war? Who profited most from the destruction and bloodshed? What was the real point of sacrificing so many lives, American and Iraqi, to this fiasco? Moreover, they will ignore the fact that Petraeus and “the surge” are by-and-large damage control. There will be no discussion of what “victory” looks like, what it really means, and whether it’s really the point in the first place when your government has thrown so many bodies, so much money and squandered so much time and good will in pursuit of such an ill-considered distraction.

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