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*beat the devil* /by/ Alexander Cockburn
_War: Voters Said No, Congress Said Yes_
[from the January 1, 2007 issue]
First let's yield the floor to a Republican, Senator Gordon Smith of
Oregon, who recently proclaimed, "We have no business being a
policeman in someone else's civil war. I welcome the Iraq Study
Group's report, but if we are ultimately going to retreat, I would
rather do it sooner than later." Not cut and walk. Cut and run.
Now let's go to a Democrat, Representative Silvestre Reyes of Texas,
Pelosi's pick as head of the House Intelligence Committee. The
freshly anointed Reyes told /Newsweek/, "We're not going to have
stability in Iraq until we eliminate those militias, those private
armies. We have to consider the need for additional troops to be in
Iraq, to take out the militias and stabilize Iraq...I would say
20,000 to 30,000--for the specific purpose of making sure those
militias are dismantled, working in concert with the Iraqi military."
empty one. He knows nothing of the region. This became clear in his
brief parley with a reporter from /Congressional Quarterly/ who had
the impudence to ply him with questions at the end of a tiring day,
when men of mature judgment head for the bar. /CQ/'s man asked Reyes
if Al Qaeda was Sunni or Shiite. Reyes tossed a mental coin.
"Predominantly--probably Shiite." Wrong, of course, since Al Qaeda
is Sunni, of a notoriously intolerant strain. It's as if Reyes had
called the Pope a Presbyterian.
Then the pesky newshound probed him on the matter of Hezbollah.
"Hezbollah. Uh, Hezbollah..." Reyes answered irritably. "Why do you
ask me these questions at 5 o'clock?" Back in 2002 Reyes, a Vietnam
vet, was opposed to the war. Give him clout as Intelligence
Committee chair and he starts citing John McCain approvingly, even
upping the mad Arizonan's troop-boost call by 10,000.
At least Gordon Smith can publicly concede that as things stand, the
Iraq mission is a disaster, and quitting time is here. No prominent
Democrats in Congress besides Jack Murtha can bring themselves to do
that. (I include here Senator Slither, otherwise known as Barack
Obama, who trims to every shift in the wind.) The language is always
of pleasing schedules, in which a (fictional) entity called the
Iraqi Army, at the disposition of an (imaginary) power called the
Iraqi government, can be welded into an (entirely fantastical)
nonsectarian force by (as yet unavailable and putatively suicidal)
US military trainers.
Suicidal? A poll cited by the Iraq Study Group found that 61 percent
of Iraqis believe that it is appropriate where possible to attack
the US occupying troops. Since the poll included Kurds, who are less
hostile to the US presence, we can assume that the percentage of
Sunnis and Shiites who think it a patriotic act to shoot or blow up
a US soldier is well above 61 percent. Now imagine yourself as a US
trainer embedded in an Iraqi unit, the vast majority of whose
members believe it right and proper to kill you. "Suicidal" seems to
be the correct term. These calls for a bigger US training force are
You would have thought that Democrats would rush to hang their hats
on the bipartisan ISG report, calling for cut and walk. But the
long-awaited report is dead shortly after arrival. There aren't more
than a handful or so of Democrats who are going to be caught in the
same room as a report that calls for the return of the Golan Heights
to Syria and dares to raise the issue of the right of return of
Palestinians to their homeland. In America these days persons in
political life can describe reality only if they are self-employed,
with a guaranteed independent income and above 75 years of age.
Jimmy Carter and James Baker are two prime examples of this truth.
Otherwise fantasy rules in Congress and the press, which has
consistently misrepresented the extent of the disaster in Iraq,
preferring to promote fatal illusions about a viable central
government and fantasies of the United States being able to shape a
new model army of Iraqis.
No reporter has played a more assiduous role in fostering these
delusions than Michael Gordon of the /New York Times/. Gordon
somehow skipped free of the misreporting charges that finally caught
up with his former colleague Judith Miller, even though he shared a
byline with Miller in the very worst report, the claim that aluminum
tubes were hard evidence of Saddam's WMD program. In the past
months, in the /Times/ and on CNN Gordon has been laying down a
propaganda barrage against speedy withdrawal and for a hike in US
troop numbers in Iraq.
At the /Washington Post/ David Ignatius has similarly been fostering
the impression of feasible options in Iraq. "With enough troops and
aggressive tactics," Ignatius wrote this year, "American forces can
bring order to even the meanest streets." In March Ignatius, in
Iraq, detected "unmistakable signs here this week that Iraq's
political leaders are taking the first tentative steps towards
forming a broad government of national unity that could reverse the
country's downward slide." His keen eye detected a "new spirit of
So here we have the /Times/'s and /Post/'s lead
reporter/commentators on the war diligently promulgating the core
fantasy: that the United States has options beyond accepting defeat.
The vast majority of Iraqis want US forces out. Militarily the
United States has been defeated. Diplomatically it is isolated.
Politically it is immobilized. From the Republican defeats at the
polls through to the publication of the Iraq Study Group report,
there was a window for Washington to commence diplomatic operations
to get out with all speed. That opportunity has almost gone. The
House Democrats rejected Murtha. In the Senate they gave swift and
unanimous approval to Robert Gates, a career intelligence faker with
a shameful recent record at Texas A&M of opposing affirmative
action. Let's see how many Democrats will oppose their leadership's
recommendation that they vote to approve the supplemental budget
appropriation early next year--probably $160 billion--which will
give Bush enough money to keep the war going till he leaves town.
Let's see if the antiwar movement can organize sit-ins in the
offices of Democratic Reps preparing to vote those funds.