Deep Underground with Raul Groom

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Cheesy thought of the day:

Every day is a new chance. I woke up this morning and I wanted to go back to bed, feeling very put-upon that I had to get up, shower, eat breakfast and go to work, where I have to try to deal with a weird and quite serious technical problem affecting our entire division's network, whose proper operation is in many respects primarily my responsibility, in addition to numerous smaller chores relating to my condo association and other mundane aspects of suburban living.

Then on the bus I read a story of a cab driver who was shot in the back three times a couple of nights ago, one of the bullets actually passing through the back of his neck and out his mouth in a jet of blood. He staggered to get help, bleeding heavily, and woke up this morning lying in a hospital bed unable to speak, facing a lengthy, painful and uncertain recovery that may bankrupt him, and feeling like the luckiest man in the world.

The obvious moral of the story is trivial. Less obvious is the question, how heedless the man who needs to be shown another who is near death in order to remember that he is himself fully awake and alive in the world, with all of its possibilities stretched out before him like a fine velvet carpet?

OK, that's it for the motivational speech. On to the complaining.

In the Post this morning you'll find a smorgasborg of highly objectionable material, some of which I will now highlight and lampoon in the familiar fashion.

First, there's this cheery story from Page 1 (ATF) letting us know that troop levels in Iraq will rise to 150,000 this month, the highest level since the invasion. It's a good story, as such stories go, but it has some problems.

To see the first one, you have to look at the graphic, which shows that U.S. force levels were lowest at the beginning of February and began to climb during that month, and continued to increase in March, reaching 130,000 (up from a February nadir of less than 110,000) by the beginning of April.

The author of the article, Thomas Ricks, presents as factual the Pentagon line that the rise in troop levels was a response to the growing power of the insurgency and the need for greater "force protection." But that analysis is hard to square with the facts.

The serious bloodletting of the Shi'ite uprising in Sadr City and Najaf began on April 4th and continued through the end of April, with a slight lull during the week of the 18th to the 24th. In all, some 135 U.S. troops were killed in April, then the highest monthly death toll of the war (eclipsed last month.)

From the beginning of February to the beginning of April was actually one of the quietest periods of the occupation. In the eight weeks between February 1 and April 1, the weekly death toll from "hostile" causes reached double figures only once - 11 the week of March 7-13. Yet during that time the U.S. troop presence was increased by some 20,000, with about 10,000 more added in the month of April. The decision to add those troops was made before the April 4th uprising began.

It seems far more likely (and more prudent) that troop strength is being dictated not by the intensity of the resistance but by other, strategic factors. Clearly if the goal were truly to increase the likelihood of a waning insurgency before the "elections" (more on those quotes in a moment), a draw-down of troop strength, not an escalation, would be in order.

Which raises the question - what are our strategic goals in Iraq? The way the papers have presented things, one could be forgiven for believing that we are increasing our military presence only to get the Iraqis through the January elections, at which point we will be able to hand over the reins of government to the newly legitimized Iraqi government. That's a short-term, tacitcal goal that gives the American public a feeling of hope about the future of the Iraq endeavor. Which is why toads like Jim Hoagland are hammering, hammering, hammering away at the magical date of "January 30th."

Well, in this article about Sunni support (such as it is) for the election plan, you might notice a date you haven't seen before - December 2005. That's the date that Iraq's first constitutionally elected government will be chosen. Not one month, but one year from today.

So who or what, exactly, is being elected in January? That information is maddeningly hard to come by. To the best of my understanding, the Iraqis are electing an preconstitutional "parliament" that will be tasked with the writing of the Iraqi constitution, and that will have the power to do little else. Iyad Alawi, the American puppet PM, will remain in power. Crucially, the new parliament will NOT have the authority to ask the United States to withdraw.

Again, the question is, why? Clearly, the United States wants troops to remain in Iraq in order to pursue additional strategic goals beyond simply shepherding in a new Iraqi parliament. So, once again, Mr. President, WHAT ARE THOSE STRATEGIC GOALS?

Finally, returning to Hoagland's swill, let me say that the one useful thing about this piece is that it serves as a nice litmus test. If you cannot see what is sickening and hypocritical about the following two paragraphs, you are part of the problem. Period.

Majority rule is an attainable and legitimate result for the balloting, even if an important part of the country's 20 percent Sunni minority continues to bomb, behead or bully other Iraqis as it seeks to create chaos, prevent voting and/or regain power. Fallujah, in its own way, already voted for its view of Iraq's future, and lost.

The former Baathists and foreign Sunni extremists who turned Fallujah into Terrorism Central wrote in blood their campaign's "moral values," which center on blocking Iraq's Shiite majority, thought to be 60 percent of the population, from ever gaining power. It is no more complicated than that.


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