We Are Winning In Iraq
In the predawn stillness of this wintry morning in Western Maryland, I watch snow gather in inexorable drifts outside my window and wonder: should I go outside now and start shoveling? Or let it build for a few hours and deal with it all in one fell swoop?
It's an endless battle, really. I could spend the whole day pulling boots, gloves, my favorite Aussie cowboy hat and leather jacket on, then off again. Trudge in and out my front door, only to repeat the process an hour or two later. Doesn't seem terribly productive, does it? Or I could get on with the rest of my work. Accept that snow will continue to fall onto my driveway as surely as great motivational speakers like Kerry, Dean, and Murtha will continue to carpet bomb our national will back into the stone age with timeless phrases like "We can't win this war", "Our troops are terrorizing children", and "The Army is living hand to mouth".
My mind drifts back to an earlier time of doubt, and the words of another great Democratic leader: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself". Truly, these are the times that try men's souls. At such moments we see of what mettle we are made. Sometimes I fear there isn't a shovel big enough for what lies outside my door.
In one week, the Iraqis will go back to the polls and history will be made once more. The situation on the ground is vastly different than it was a few years ago. But most Americans would never know that from opening their newspapers or turning on their television sets. In the WaPo yesterday there was a remarkable piece. The title alone speaks volumes: In Iraq, Signs of Political Evolution: Parties That Shunned January Vote Are Now Embracing the Process.
Tucked into a bunker-like former headquarters of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, a type of war room unfamiliar in this country buzzed with life Wednesday. Halfway through a 14-hour shift, campaign workers from the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab group that boycotted the country's previous elections in January, munched rice and kebabs, their faces lit by computer screens.
Television and radio airwaves are replete with slick advertisements costing anywhere from $1,250 per minute on al-Sumariya, a Lebanon-based satellite station focused on Iraq, to $5,000 per minute on al-Arabiya, a network based in the United Arab Emirates that is popular across the Arab world.
Most major parties now have interactive Internet sites that provide information about platforms. Several parties employ cell phone text-messaging technology that allows them to send messages to hundreds of potential supporters at once. Funding comes from dues and donations paid by members.
Contrast this with the rain of negativity we hear from Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, and John Murtha. If you read nothing else today, read this one piece. Read it all. And think about the implications. Hopeless, destitute people do not pour $5000 a minute into paid political advertising, or construct interactive Internet sites to facilitate political participation in the future of their nation. The Iraqis are investing in democracy: big-time.
In Afghanistan, a new poll indicates that hope is breaking out all over:
Four years after the fall of the Taliban, Afghans express both vast support for the changes that have shaken their country and remarkable optimism for the future, despite the deep challenges they face in economic opportunity, security and basic services alike.
Poverty is deep, medical care and other basic services lacking, and infrastructure minimal. Nearly six in 10 have no electricity in their homes, and just 3 percent have it around the clock. Seven in 10 Afghan adults have no more than an elementary education; half have no schooling whatsoever. Half have household incomes under $500 a year.
Yet despite these and other deprivations, 77 percent of Afghans say their country is headed in the right direction — compared with 30 percent in the vastly better-off United States. Ninety-one percent prefer the current Afghan government to the Taliban regime, and 87 percent call the U.S.-led overthrow of the Taliban good for their country. Osama bin Laden, for his part, is as unpopular as the Taliban; nine in 10 view him unfavorably.
Progress fuels these views: Despite the country's continued problems, 85 percent of Afghans say living conditions there are better now than they were under the Taliban. Eighty percent cite improved freedom to express political views. And 75 percent say their security from crime and violence has improved as well. After decades of oppression and war, many Afghans see a better life.
Of course I'm sure John Murtha or Joe Biden will soon rush into the breach with some pithy public comment to restore the proper sense of cynicism, lest the American public be tempted into irrational exuberance at these alarming developments.
On the military front, training of the Iraqis is proceeding apace, if not as fast as we would like. A friend writes:
This story goes right in line with what my son tells me. The boys are fiercely proud of their Iraqi Army guys and will stack them up against their own men any day. "They are heart breakers and life takers", he says. These boys believe in the new IA. My son said the same thing Smith says in this article, "Damn it, they run right TO the sound of the guns and know what they're doing when they get there!". Now that is some endorsement from a Grunt! Crying shame the American populace doesn't get it!
And what does Smith say? There is a new breed of fighter in Iraq - the citizen-soldier:
"The new Iraqi soldier is not afraid of his government as was the case in the previous army," Phares says. "Just the opposite, he is backed by his own government. He feels closer to his people and many among them have seen Saddam's bloodshed directly. I believe they display more courage than any other fighter in Iraq, because they operate in the open, against terrorism."
The guerrillas also have a newfound respect for the new Iraqi soldier.
"A year ago, they [the insurgents] freely attacked the Iraqi military, but now the Iraqi troops dominate the killing ground," says Gen. Bolger. "So the hostiles have resorted to remote bombings because they can't stand and fight the Iraqi soldiers anymore. Their worst nightmare is to confront an Iraqi rifleman in the dark, face-to-face. That will only go one way."
Bolger adds, "The new Iraqi military's officers and NCOs lead from the front, and what we see in training translates into combat. I have been on many, many operations with Iraqi forces, to include numerous infantry platoon foot patrols, with Iraqi Marines on guard out on the oil platforms, on mechanized sweeps, and with midnight raids, and the Iraqis have never quit. They get the job done, under fire. They run to the sound of the guns sometimes at cost. They recover their dead and wounded. They seek the enemy. They expect to win their firefights." And they do.
Of course John Murtha just held another press conference. You may be interested to hear some of the things he had to say. My remarks are interjected in italics:
Let me separate terrorism from insurgency. When I was in Iraq in 1991, president -- or King Fahd said to me -- this was an early morning meeting, like two or three o'clock in the morning, when he normally met with people during the air war.
And he said: Get your troops out of Saudi Arabia the minute this war's over. You're on sacred ground. You're destabilizing the whole region. I reported that back to the State Department and, as you know, we didn't get our troops out of there. We left our troops there.
Bin Laden said he attacked the United States because of the troops in Saudi Arabia. That's terrorism. Terrorism was in London. Terrorism was in Spain. Terrorism was, obviously, in the United States.
That's completely separate from what's going on in Iraq. Iraq is an insurgency. At one of the hearings early on, Secretary Rumsfeld denied there was an insurgency. He said it was a gang of something or another. But they wouldn't admit that they were having real problems over there. They kept being unrealistic, illusionary about what was going on in Iraq.Terrorism: "the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion". Check. Insurgency: "a condition of revolt against a government that is less than an organized revolution and that is not recognized as belligerency". First of all, the "insurgents" are "recognized as a belligerancy". That's why we're fighting them. If anything, what we have here is an "insurgency" that is deliberately using terrorist tactics, so Rep. Murtha's characterization is wrong. They are NOT completely separate but intimately intertwined - it is he who is being unrealistic. The "insurgents" are not attacking government or the military. They are terrorizing civilians in an attempt to prevent them from forming a democratic government.
One of the major problems we have in fighting an insurgency is the military and the way they fight. And I adhere to the way they fight. They send in massive force. They use artillery, they use air and mortars. And they kill a lot of people in order to suppress fire and protect our military. I'm for that.So once again Murtha, out of his vast experience, defines the problem for us. It's not the insurgents, you see: it's the military who are causing all the fuss. We should not have been in Saudi Arabia in 1991 because it was destabilizing the entire region and caused Osama to attack the WTC twice. Note that it wasn't Saddam who "destabilized the region" by invading Kuwait, but "our troops" who were "destabilizing the region" by their inflammatory presence in Saudi Arabia. But 15 years later, somehow "redeploying" our troops across the border will now magically stabilize things and NOT annoy al Quada? And killing a lot of people is bad and whacks off the Iraqis but he's all for it? Got it. The relentless rain of 'logic' continues:
But it doesn't make you any friends. That's part of the problem. For instance, in Fallujah, which happened about the same time -- the first Fallujah happened about the same time as Abu Ghraib -- we put 150,000 people outside their homes in Fallujah.Fallujah=Abu Ghuraib. And Iraq=VietNam. It's deja vu all over again. Where is the aptly-named Dick Durbin with that little violin?
If you remember in Jordan, the bomber said that the reason she became a bomber was because two of her relatives were killed in Fallujah. We lost the hearts and minds of the people.Now our Marines caused a homicide bombing. But don't you dare question his patriotism.
Hamre said: You've got three months to win the hearts and minds of the people, to get this under control, to get the looting and so forth under control.Wow. That sounds suspiciously like a timetable. And we'll get the looting under control...how? We can't fight because that doesn't 'win us any friends'. Ah...by redeploying across the border, dropping lollypops and Hershey's Kisses along the way, at which point Human Rights Watch will suddenly discover that tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes have increased threefold amongst the Iraqi populace and America will go on the list of The Worst Global Abusers for 2005.
But lest you have a single shred of optimism left, Rep. Murtha isn't done yet:
The biggest vulnerability we have in Iraq is the convoys. Every convoy is attacked. When I was in Anbar, at Haditha, every single convoy was attacked that goes there to bring the logistics and supplies that they need.Really??? Every single convoy? That's pretty amazing. You'd think something like that would have been on the front pages of the NY Times.
When I said we can't win a military victory, it's because the Iraqis have turned against us. They throw a hand grenade or a rocket into American forces and the people run into the crowd and they -- nobody tells them where they are.Those reporters really need to start getting out more. I am shocked at the lack of press coverage of this sort of thing.
I'm not talking about going back in if there's civil war, because we're in a civil war right now. We're caught in between a civil war right now.A civil war. And not a peep in any of our leading newspapers. Incroyable.
I am convinced we can't win militarily. The military has said we can't win militarily
Yes, this jibes with what I'm hearing from that "broken Army" too:
A short summary of General Abizaid's comments, from contemporaneous notes:
He is amazed as he goes around the country and testifies before the Congress how many of our countrymen do not know or understand what we are doing or how we are doing. There are very few members of Congress who have ever worn the uniform (of our armed forces). He said that the questions he gets from some in Congress convince him that they have the idea that we are about to pushed out of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is no relation between this and the reality on the ground.
As he goes around the region and talks to troops and junior officer he is very impressed by their morale and their achievements. They are confident that they are capable of defeating the enemy. You will never see a headline in this country about a school opening or a power station being built and coming on line, or a community doing well. Only the negative things will get coverage in the media. He told the mid-grade/senior officers to go to their local Lions Clubs when they go home and tell the people what they are doing. If they don't get the word out, the American people will not know what is really happening. The insurgency is in four of 18 provinces in Iraq, not all 18. You do not hear about the 14 provinces where there is no insurgency and where things are going well. The insurgency in Afghanistan is primarily in Kandahar province (home of the Taliban) and in the mountain region on the Pakistani border. The rest of the country is doing well.
He said that we are focused on the things that we (Americans) have done wrong, like Abu Ghraib, and not talking about this enemy. We need to talk about this enemy. Al Qaida is all over the world. Their goal is to get the US out of the region and come to power in the Islamic countries of the region. From there their goal is to establish a Caliphate (under a single Islamic ruler) that goes from the Atlantic in North Africa to Indonesia in the Pacific. Fifty years after this happens their goal is to rule the rest of the world. Since Desert Storm in 1991 US forces have not lost any combat engagement in the region at the platoon level or above. Al Qaida has no beliefs that they can defeat us militarily. They see our center of gravity as being the will of the American People. That is influenced by the media and they are playing to that. They don't need to win any battles. Their plan is keep the casualties in front of the American people in the media for long enough that we become disillusioned...
We are winning but we have got to maintain constant pressure over time with the international community and across the US government agencies. No one is afraid that we can't defeat the enemy. Our troops have the confidence, the courage, and the competence. We need the will of the American people to be sustained for the long haul.
Read it. Read it all. And then decide what you want to believe. Visible evidence that Iraqis are investing in their future, the optimism of the Afghanis, the words of a Grunt in Iraq and an Army General, or the pessimism parade of a bunch of bitter men who repeat back-corridor whispers from unnamed REMFs?
Your decision. I leave you to it.
Meanwhile, I have some shoveling to do.
Crossposted at TigerHawk