Yes, this is a liberal moonbat writing, dear war lovers of the Far Reich Wing, but the assessment of Iraq’s security situation does not come from my misguided, ill informed troop hating lips. Quite the contrary. These are words delivered by the commander Bush chose to replace Generalissimo Petreaus in Iraq, Lt. General Ray Odierno. A man who has been as staunch a Bush Doctrine supporter as any in the military. So when he says things are not as hunky dory “over there” as the media over here (and St. Johnny Mac) have been assuming, maybe we ought to pause for a moment and listen. Because what he’s saying doesn’t sound like “victory” to me, my little war porn lovers:

The new US military commander in Iraq, Lt Gen Ray Odierno, has said that recent security gains there are “fragile and reversible”.

He was speaking in Baghdad at a ceremony to replace Gen David Petraeus. […]

[O]n the eve of Gen Petraeus’s departure, a female suicide bomber blew herself up in Diyala province, killing 22 people – a reminder that violence could easily escalate again. […]

In a BBC interview before his departure, Gen Petraeus said he would never declare victory in Iraq and that the US still faced a “long struggle” in the country.

A L-O-N-G S-T-R-U-G-G-L-E? Never declare victory? This admission of failure comes directly from your beloved St. Petraeus, the General who implemented the “consistently overrated “Surge,” the purported “great strategic” success in Iraq which had less to do with all the extra US combat brigades we employed and more to do with the following:

Most people immediately point to the Surge as the sole causal agent for lower levels of violence, but the answer is actually five-fold: (1) the cease-fire called by Mutada al-Sadr, (2) the Sunni Awakening Councils which began fighting against Sunni insurgents, (3) over four million displaced Iraqis, (4) a change in the calculation methodology of civilian deaths in Iraq, and (5) the Surge. […][

#1 – Muqtada al-Sadr’s Cease Fire

In late August of 2007, Muqtada called upon the members of his Mahdi army to stop fighting U.S. and British troops and rival Shiite and Sunni factions in Iraq. He later extended that truce in February of 2008, on the two year anniversary of the bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra which preceded (and also underscores) the profound increase in sectarian tension and conflict. Once labeled by the Pentagon as one of the most destabilizing forces in Iraq, even more than Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the Mahdi Army’s cease-fire has led to dramatic reductions in violence. […]

#2 – The Awakening Councils

The Awakening Councils are, simply, U.S.-funded Sunni groups who have agreed to fight against Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents. A point of contention is that some of the members of these Awakening Councils are former insurgents who had previously been allied with Al-Qaeda and fought against U.S. troops in the past. It’s feared, especially by the al-Maliki government, that these new armed Sunni groups could potentially oppose the Shiite-dominated government. They may also be populated with Al Qaeda sympathizers “intent on infiltrating the Interior Ministry.” The U.S. military, however, decided that the benefits of arming every side of a potentially bloody civil war outweighed the costs of U.S. military deaths. The Sunni Awakening Councils are credited with reducing violence in predominantly Sunni areas where Al Qaeda was able to move freely. […]

#3 – Ethnic Cleansing

In too many ways, ethnic cleansing and displacement remain unconnected to the larger issue of violence. Or more accurately, it is typically stated that violence leads to displacement as people flee their homes due to concern for their personal safety. It is unfortunate, though, that more people do not follow the logic more fully. Once certain ethnically diverse areas of the country become more homogenized due to ethnic cleansing, violence is reduced in those areas because there are fewer members of the minority ethnic group to attack, kill, harass, and oppress. Millions of Iraqis have fled their homes because of the violence, and this, unfortunately, is another factor that has led to a reduction in violence.

The most recent report by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates about 4.2 million displaced Iraqis. There are roughly 2.2 million internally displaced people that have been forced out of their homes but are still living inside Iraq, and there are another 2 million Iraqi refugees living in “Syria, Jordan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey and several Gulf States.” The CIA estimates the total population of Iraq to be about 28.2 million, meaning about 15% of the population have been forcibly removed from their homes through the threat or fear of violence. Most previously mixed cities and neighborhoods are now ethnically homogenized. And while the reduction in violence is positive, it comes with a heavy price. It is unrealistic to believe that these displaced residents will ever be able return to their homes and live in peace.

No wonder Odierno says the security gains are fragile. In essence our strategy of paying off the Sunni insurgents, and of allowing ethnic cleansing by the Shi’ite dominated government, along with the fortuitous decision of Muqtada al-Sadr to call a cease fire of his forces, merely kicked the can down the road a few months without resolving any of the underlying sectarian, ethnic and economic disputes which lie at the heart of the conflict in Iraq.

As Petreaus says, he will never declare victory in Iraq. He says that for one simple reason: America cannot win a victory in Iraq. At best we can delay the outbreak of a full scale civil war, or keep a temporary damper on the level of violence in that country, but at some point our ability to sustain the cost of that effort will come to an end. We can barely afford our current occupation, much less an indefinite, long term commitment to keeping hundreds of thousands of combat troops over there. It simply isn’t feasible, nor does it make one whit of sense.

I know the economy is the hot topic of the moment, and with the meltdown on Wall Street and all the figurative blood letting in the stock market yesterday, its easy to see why. But remember this. Empires that don’t pay for themselves inevitably end up costing the citizens of that Empire far more than they can bear. Just ask the British what a drain their attempts to hold onto their Empire cost their economy and their people when it became clear after WWI that the British Empire has become a net loss on that country’s balance sheet.

And our Military Empire overseas, and particularly in Iraq, is ruining us. TEN BILLION DOLLARS (or more) a month. Just to sustain an occupation of a country that after five years our Commanders in the field admit has shown only fragile and easily reversible security gains. And by security gains they mean a level of violence that is merely lower than the peak year of 2006, not that violence has been eliminated. Far from it, in fact:

In the last week of May 2008, there were roughly 350 attacks in Iraq. On average, there were about 50 attacks every single day. While this is far fewer than the nearly 1550 in June of 2007, it is about the same number of attacks as occurred in May of 2004, one year after “mission accomplished.” In the four years since, Iraq has exploded in violence and has brought that violence back to the same level. One could look at the last 4 years as a complete waste of time.

A complete waste of time, yes, but also of human lives and cold hard cash, cash that has only benefited the likes of war profiteers like KBR and other established members of the Military Industrial Complex. And while the deregulation and gross negligence in failing to provide any oversight of our financial industry during the Bush years is the driving force behind our current economic meltdown, the cost of sustaining a foreign adventure in Iraq which serves no national security purpose has greatly contributed to our inability to weather this economic storm.

Iraq matters in this election. It is a failed war, a failed foreign policy, and an economic catastrophe all rolled into one. You can as little separate it from the other events which have systematically and (quite possibly) irretrievably dismantled our economic strength (the true foundation of national security), as one can separate the myriad causes which led to the collapse of the British or Soviet Empires. To claim otherwise, to assert that more wars like Iraq (e.g., Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran!) in the Middle East are necessary to maintain our “privileged position” as top dog in the world community is madness of the highest order.

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