Bush’s War Policy: When Time Heals Nothing
By Ramzy Baroud
The news of recent weeks emanating from Washington and Baghdad point to one
clear, if not final, conclusion: The Bush administration’s adventures in
Iraq have been a complete failure.
What the media have eagerly dubbed as the Republican Revolt is now
reinforced by two of the most distinguished Republican senators: John Warner
of Virginia and Richard Lugar of Indiana. Before the Democrats’ takeover of
the two positions in Congress, Warner was the chairman of the Armed Services
Committee whereas Lugar presided over the Foreign Relations Committee. Their
significance in the party in national security and foreign policy issues is
Both senators proposed a measure requiring troop redeployment from frontline
combat as early as January 1, 2008. The measure, unveiled on July 13, 2007,
would require the White House to come up with a plan for realignment by
October 16, 2007.
One only needs to consider the timing of that proposed realignment to
appreciate the seriousness of the proposal. The head of the US forces in
Iraq, General David Petraeus, along with US ambassador to Baghdad, Ryan
Crocker, are expected to furnish a report to the Congress assessing how the
war has progressed and whether the Iraqi government of prime minister Nouri
Al-Maliki has lived up to the conditions imposed by the Congress and signed
by Bush. If Al-Maliki and his circle, which many see as sectarian-based,
fail to show competence, there will be an aid cut.
Democrats, whether genuinely or knowing that the Iraq fiasco is their
winning card in their strife with the embattled president, are fuming. In
their view, even the momentous initiative by Warner and Lugar seems, at
best, insufficient. Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, chastised
the plan for not insisting on any implementation. He insists, however, on an
alternative legislation that would require troop withdrawal by the spring of
2008. Many Democrats are also following Reid’s line; however, they don’t
represent the needed majority to override a presidential veto.
Bush, on the other hand, maintains that his strategy necessitates more time.
He is no longer demanding but “imploring.” In fact, the latter word was the
precise term used in a Washington Post article on July 14, 2007, reporting
on the White House’s response to the Republicans’ rebellion. “Bush implored
Congress to wait for Petraeus’s assessment before trying to change
strategy,” Shailagh Murray wrote.
By expecting a redeployment strategy to be drummed up by mid October 2007,
the senators’ proposal would expect the White House to start preparing the
document almost immediately; by doing so, they render Petraeus and Crocker’s
recommendations to be of no consequence in advance. And why wait if
Petraeus’s views are already well known?
Petraeus spoke to the BBC’s John Simpson, in Baquba, Iraq, only a few days
before the development on Capital Hill. “Northern Ireland, I think, taught
you that very well. My counterparts in your [British] forces really
understand this kind of operation… It took a long time, decades,” he said.
Petraeus is not pessimistic to the point of eliminating the possibility of a
military victory altogether, but he is talking of a long and arduous war. “I
don’t know whether this will be decades, but the average counter insurgency
is somewhere around a nine or a 10 year endeavor.” Considering these views,
one can only predict that the Petraeus’s report in September 2007, which is
likely to celebrate a few achievements here and there, will accentuate the
duration of the anticipated war. An additional 10 years to suppress an
“insurgency” is too long for a nation that is already growing weary from war
and its costs; to say nothing of the Iraqi people who have paid the ultimate
The Bush administration’s failure to rally the Congress, and increasingly
its own Republican Party members there, is being paralleled by another
political storm; this time emanating from the Iraqi government itself:
Al-Maliki is alleging that the Iraqi government forces are capable of
keeping security in the country when US forces leave “anytime they want.” A
top aide of his, Hassan Al-Suneid, has lashed out at the US for turning his
country into an “experiment in an American laboratory.”
Al-Suneid made his comments in protest of the Bush administration’s
benchmarks, but also of the US military tactics, including coordination with
Sunni militant groups — “gangs of killers” according to Al-Suneid — to
ostracize and destroy Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Al-Maliki is dealing with the unsolvable crisis and widening
division within the ranks of the Shiite political parties, and between the
latter and the Sunni and Kurds. His coalition crisis is a much grimmer
version of Bush’s Congressional ordeal, although it is fueled mostly by
Washington’s policies and expectations.
While Pentagon reports continue to talk of some success here and there in
justification of the 30,000 troop surge, the situation on the ground tells
of a different reality. Suicide bombers, car bombs, endless US military
raids, and shells whizzing everywhere carry on unhindered. The fact that
Iraqis are dying by the hundreds makes all the Pentagon reports of
measurable progress simply ink on paper.
Back in the US, an Associated Press-Ipsos poll, conducted 9-11 July, 2007,
shows that the American public approval of the Congress performance is as
low as it was in June 2006 before Democrats took over both the House and the
Senate. With their approval of the Congress performance at 24 percent,
Americans are losing faith in both parties, after a temporary surge of hope
that the Democrat’s ascension will help move the country into a new
direction. President Bush’s approval rating remained at an equally
devastating 33 percent.
It’s too obvious that the US policies in Iraq have failed beyond repair.
That failure wouldn’t be of too much consequence if it were not for the fact
that hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have paid the price. Many more
will likely die if the Congress doesn’t act forcefully to carry out the
wishes of the American people and respect the sanctity of the lives of
Iraqis and their own.
-Ramzy Baroud is a Palestinian-American author and editor of
PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in numerous newspapers
and journals worldwide, including the Washington Post, Japan Times, Al Ahram
Weekly and Lemonde Diplomatique. His latest book is The Second Palestinian
Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle (Pluto Press, London). Read
more about him on his website: ramzybaroud.net