The Real Iraq Progress Report
The parade of political tourists to Iraq in recent weeks, during which easily impressed pundits and members of Congress came to be dazzled by the wonders of the troop surge, probably ensures that this murderous adventure will continue well into the next presidency—even if the Democrats win.
For example, Kenneth Pollack, a top national security adviser in the Clinton administration whose 2002 book, “The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq,” convinced many Democratic politicians to support the war, now finds renewed optimism after the surge. In a July 30 New York Times Op-Ed article, “A War We Just Might Win,” which he coauthored after spending eight days in Iraq, Pollack gushed, “We traveled to the northern cities of Tal Afar and Mosul. This is an ethnically rich area, with large numbers of Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. American troop levels in both cities now number only in the hundreds because the Iraqis have stepped up to the plate. Reliable police officers man the checkpoints in the cities, while Iraqi army troops cover the countryside.”
So much so that a town 40 miles northeast of Tal Afar was the scene, on Aug. 15, of the deadliest attack of the war—a quadruple bombing left more than 500 dead and 1500 wounded, and most of the buildings in ruin. What about those “reliable” police officers and Iraqi army troops whose presence in the area Pollack found so reassuring? If Pollack was asked about that on any of the talk shows that routinely feature him as an expert, I have not found the footage.
Other Democrats brought to Iraq for photo-op visits have similarly descended into total myopia. Take Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., who is suddenly more upbeat about the future U.S. role in the region: “If anything, I’m more willing to find a way forward,” he enthused. Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fla., proclaimed that the U.S. troop surge “has really made a difference and really has gotten al-Qaida on their heels.” Odd, then, that al-Qaida was blamed by the United States for that deadly attack near Tal Afar.
In the past week, two Iraqi governors have been assassinated in incidents attributed to intra-Shiite violence that is dramatically on the rise. But not even this bloodshed stops yet another Democratic lawmaker, Brian Baird, D-Wash., from proclaiming that he will no longer support measures to set a deadline for troop withdrawal, because “We are making real and tangible progress on the ground.”
Contrast the rosy optimism of those day tourists with the assessment of seven active-duty soldiers coming to the end of their 15-month tour of duty on the ground in Iraq. They had an Op-Ed piece in the Aug. 19 New York Times entitled “The War as We Saw It”:
“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 reports portraying the conflict as increasingly manageable and feel it has neglected the mounting civil, political and social unrest we see every day.”More