Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 19, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

GOOD NEWS FROM IRAQ....According to the Pentagon, new focus group findings in Iraq have produced some good news: it turns out that Iraqis have a number of "shared beliefs" about their current situation that "cut across sectarian lines."

Great! And what is this good news? "Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them, and see the departure of 'occupying forces' as the key to national reconciliation."

Really, you can't make this stuff up. Elsewhere, the Pentagon's quarterly report on Iraq tells us that we're making security gains in Iraq, but:

The provinces just north of Baghdad and Anbar have shown the least progress, as Sunni Arab insurgents move their bases north. In Nineveh province and its capital, Mosul, violence remained above 2006 levels.

The report argues that the gains are not irreversible, and it casts a pessimistic light on the ability of the central government to meet many of the legislative goals set by U.S. officials. The report calls the lack of progress disappointing and says failures are hindering reconciliation between warring sects within Iraq.

And David Ignatius passes along the good news that the UN has brokered a postponement of the scheduled election in Kirkuk, which illustrates "that there can be virtuous cycles, too, even in a country as bitterly divided as this one."

That's true, and the UN deal is a relief. Unfortunately, I suspect that "virtuous cycles" aren't the reason for it. Instead, my guess is that the Kurdish leadership decided that it wouldn't hurt to have a few more months to chase out even more Arabs and Turkmen and install an even bigger Kurdish majority in the city. As with so much else in Iraq, the UN agreement might be good news, or it might merely be a postponement of bad news. Caveat emptor.

Kevin Drum 1:19 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (28)

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Comments

I wonder what the command will recommend to the President now that they know that Iraqis think we are the cause of the problem. Any bets on having generals who are willing to recommend that Bush stop acting stupid?

Posted by: freelunch on December 19, 2007 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

Iraqis of all sectarian and ethnic groups believe that the U.S. military invasion is the primary root of the violent differences among them,

"The Uniter" may not have united us, but he has united the Iraqis. If only he could do for us what he's done for them.

Posted by: tomeck on December 19, 2007 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

[Wingnuttery from the Philippine "Al" has been deleted. IP checks, by the way, reveal that all the "Al's" post from foreign countries, except when American Hawk hijacks the handle.]

Posted by: Al on December 19, 2007 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

And if all of those liberal nay-sayers had had their way, we'd still be sitting around five years later wondering if Saddam had any weapons of mass destruction and waiting to turn us into a mushroom cloud.

Posted by: AJ on December 19, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Doorknob, Al is even stupider than normal today. Al, if you were a public figure, you'd be in the running for Talking Points Memo's Golden Dukeys.

And, David Ignatius? If he's talking about Iraq, I treat his comments just like Al's. Whatever he says in terms of analysis, I know the opposite is true.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 19, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

Al seems to have forgotten the lessons of the War of 1812. If Saddam hadn't been imperssing our seamen (!) it never would have gotten to this point.

Posted by: tomeck48 on December 19, 2007 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

I don't care about any good news from Iraq. The damage has already been done: all the deaths of our military and the Iraqis, the money thrown away, and the creation of yet more red ink. The debt piled up by this horrible man will prevent any decent work for the American people being done by the next president. He has in effect poisoned our wells by his trillions of new debt. In spite of all his ruinous tax cuts we are now sliding into a recession. If they would only resign now and crawl back under the rocks from which they came.

Posted by: Rula Lenska on December 19, 2007 at 1:41 PM | PERMALINK

Al isn't merely a tool, he is the entire freakin' chest. I don't see his ass in the game, he just cheerleads it from afar. What a disgusting piece of drek.

Posted by: Blue Girl, Red State (aka G.C.) on December 19, 2007 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

" ...a postponement of the scheduled election in Kirkuk" It would be helpful to have explanation of why that really is good news (is it?)
NTBCW the sense of "good" news in the post title.

* Hey moderator, if you're willing and able - it would be fun for you to post IP locations for "Al" posts (location OK, not the digits) and some others - can you?

Posted by: Neil B. on December 19, 2007 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

We're getting close to 4,000 dead US service men and women in Iraq. That threshold will likely be crossed early in the New Year.

That would be a very good time for some very good reporting that gives a clear and comprehensive view of the war's costs. And I mean all the costs: US dead and wounded (including contractors, the buried head injuries, suicides...), coalition of the willing dead and wounded, Iraqi security forces dead and wounded, assassinations, dead and wounded media personnel, dead and wounded civilians (sectarian violence numbers, "collateral damage" numbers), detained Iraqis, direct funding of the war as well as DOD funding numbers, etc.

A comprehensive picture of this debacle must be presented. Then pundits might realize why the American people still overwhelmingly indicate this colossal blunder is the most important issue for next year's elections.

Posted by: Trypticon on December 19, 2007 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Then there's this little gem further down in the story: Few mentioned Saddam Hussein as a cause of their problems, which the report described as an important finding implying that "the current strife in Iraq seems to have totally eclipsed any agonies or grievances many Iraqis would have incurred from the past regime, which lasted for nearly four decades -- as opposed to the current conflict, which has lasted for five years."

Wow. That's quite a feather in George Bush's cap, isn't it? In five years he caused the memory of a man he himself described as one of history's cruelest and most violent tyrants to fade into the background compared with their current suffering. Just wow.

Posted by: jonas on December 19, 2007 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with the many sectarian and ethnic groups of Iraq about the US invasion of their country.

Posted by: Brojo on December 19, 2007 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

No, AJ, we wouldn't. We already knew from the UN weapons inspectors, that there were no nukes in Iraq, and they weren't trying to build any. Another thing about which Bush and co. lied through their teeth.

Posted by: CN on December 19, 2007 at 2:11 PM | PERMALINK

In five years he caused the memory of a man he himself described as one of history's cruelest and most violent tyrants to fade into the background compared with their current suffering.

And it only cost us ~3000 lives and a trillion dollars.

What a steal! The man knows how to drive a hard bargain.

Posted by: frankly0 on December 19, 2007 at 2:13 PM | PERMALINK

CN, please, I wasn't being serious, just pointing out how little we've actually achieved in the nearly five years from the initial overblown assertions that got us into this mess that turned out to be completely bogus (and should have been obviously so at the time by anyone paying attention).

Posted by: AJ on December 19, 2007 at 2:28 PM | PERMALINK

Its an unmanageable quagmire.

AL's must be part of some foreign propaganda operation.

Posted by: Ya Know... on December 19, 2007 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

And if all of those liberal nay-sayers had had their way, we'd still be sitting around five years later wondering if Saddam had any weapons of mass destruction and waiting to turn us into a mushroom cloud.Posted by: AJ on December 19, 2007 at 1:36 PM

So spending hundreds of billions to disprove the propaganda was worth your peace of mind? The naysayers were correct and you wouldnt be the proud owner of a welfare state if you'd have listened to people who know better to listen to neo-kooks.

Posted by: Ya Know... on December 19, 2007 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Mr. Drum that postponing elections is a good thing.

Posted by: GW Bush on December 19, 2007 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Al is a right-wing resident of the Philippines? Who is he -- "Bong-Bong" Marcos?

Posted by: Donald from Hawaii on December 19, 2007 at 3:28 PM | PERMALINK

tomeck: "The Uniter" may not have united us, but he has united the Iraqis. If only he could do for us what he's done for them.

We need to be careful what we wish for. He might unite us by provoking the rest of the world into forming a coalition that will invade the U.S. to "liberate" us from Bush and the neocons, and incidentally stop us from acting out on the world stage. Or, I don't know, maybe we'll just pelt their soldiers with flowers and peppermints.

Posted by: cowalker on December 19, 2007 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

I'm ready to bare my breasts to the liberating UN Armies.

Posted by: Disputo on December 19, 2007 at 3:43 PM | PERMALINK

IP checks, by the way, reveal that all the "Al's" post from foreign countries, except when American Hawk hijacks the handle.

Just as I always figured -- the RNC is undermining wages for domestic trolls by outsourcing overseas.

Posted by: Disputo on December 19, 2007 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

IP checks, by the way, reveal that all the "Al's" post from foreign countries

The obvious question is, which ones?

Posted by: Gregory on December 19, 2007 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

Morris Fiorina was right. There are no culture wars in Iraq.

Posted by: Ross Best on December 19, 2007 at 4:49 PM | PERMALINK

The surge is working so well, we should follow it up with a sur-surge while we have momentum. It could be called Operation Whack-a-Mole 743.

http://www.suntimes.com/news/world/682895,gates120507.article
Commanders want more GIs in Iraq
December 5, 2007, FROM THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
BAGHDAD � U.S. military commanders in northern Iraq told Defense Secretary Robert Gates here Wednesday that they need more troops to battle increased attacks by al-Qaida terrorists who have fled north after being pushed out of the Baghdad region.

Posted by: Luther on December 19, 2007 at 5:01 PM | PERMALINK

Cowalker: well, I was being a bit sarcastic. Actually, I'm just thankful that it seems like we'll be able to get through his administration without having the liberals put into concentration camps.

Disputo:

the RNC is undermining wages for domestic trolls by outsourcing overseas.

You made my day, buddy. Best post I've seen in a long time.

Posted by: tomeck on December 19, 2007 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

Speaking of the dead, When the strategy now used was rejected.
..."That plan and others mirroring the counterinsurgency blueprint that the Pentagon now hails as a success were pitched repeatedly in memos and presentations during the following two years, at meetings that included then-Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby.... Officials, including Cheney, insisted the insurgency was dying. Those pronouncements delayed the Pentagon from embracing new plans to stop IEDs and investing in better armored vehicles that allow troops to patrol more freely, documents and interviews show."

It takes a special kind of genius to be wrong constantly.

Posted by: Mike on December 19, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Officials, including Cheney, insisted the insurgency was dying. Those pronouncements delayed the Pentagon from embracing new plans to stop IEDs and investing in better armored vehicles that allow troops to patrol more freely,

I suppose this is what all those guys with the yellow ribbon decals mean by supporting the troops.

Posted by: tomeck on December 19, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK
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