Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 13, 2008
By: Kevin Drum

THE SURGE....McClatchy reports that the surge may be starting to lose its effectiveness:

After months of declining violence, February is certain to be the third straight month to see increases in the numbers of Baghdad residents killed in car bombings and suicide attacks.

....Monday, a suicide car bomber drove his car into the Baghdad residence of a prominent leader of the Anbar Salvation Council....Later, Sheik Ali Hathem al Suleiman al Duleimy, who was injured in the attack, went on Iraqi TV and declared war against his enemies. He said that his militia, many of whose members are paid by the United States, no longer would allow the U.S. or Iraqi government to interfere with its work.

....Meanwhile, parliament Speaker Mahmoud al Mishhadani said that the legislature was paralyzed over budget disputes involving the Kurdish region and warned that other key pieces of legislation, such as an amnesty for prisoners and more power for provincial governments, could fail in the bickering.

Overall civilian fatalities in February, though still running at less than half the peak rate of 2006-07, are noticeably higher than in the past few months. Tension in the Sunni Awakening movement seems to be on the rise. Parliament is still deadlocked. Infrastructure improvements are nonexistent. And the surge is running out of time. I wonder what Plan H is?

UPDATE: On the other hand, here's some breaking news on the legislative front:

Iraqi lawmakers overcame weeks of deadlock today to pass three key measures: a $48-billion national budget, an amnesty law and legislation paving the way for provincial elections by Oct. 1.

....Mahmoud Mashhadani, the parliament's Sunni speaker who the previous night had said he should disband the legislature altogether, told reporters: "Today is a celebration for the Iraqi parliament."

This is modest progress, but welcome. Stay tuned.

Kevin Drum 12:38 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (46)

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Comments

We'll just send more troops.

100 more years of this, Baby!

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on February 13, 2008 at 12:43 PM | PERMALINK

Draft the Bush twins and the Romney boys and send them over. It's their turn now.

Posted by: tomeck on February 13, 2008 at 12:47 PM | PERMALINK

Anyone who doesn't think the surge is working doesn't understand the military and doesn't understand war.

Posted by: ibid on February 13, 2008 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

I wish someone would just acknowledge that an indispensable part of "winning" in Iraq is leaving. As Col. Kilgore said, "Someday, this war's gonna end."

Leaving is a good thing and the primary goal.

Posted by: airron on February 13, 2008 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

We said our neighbor was horribly dangerous and convinced everyone to smash his house and kill him. But it turned out we lied about how dangerous he was and really wanted to loot and steal his stuff.

How the fuck is anything supposed to be "effective" in somehow alleviating this utter moral disaster? For the sake of holy Jesus, I feel terrible about what we've done to that country and those people. We just do nothing but look after our own pure interests the whole time?

How reprehensible. Disgusting. Just fucking totally god damn revolting, Jesus, the big bad USA murdering indiscriminately and then making up the rules as we go along.

How far we have fallen. What a disgrace to us all.

Posted by: paradox on February 13, 2008 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

I'm not sure which surge you're talking about. Most surges are increases in X accompanied by a later decrease in X within a relatively brief interval T.

My understanding is there will be no decrease in X within a 10 or 100 year timespan, and certainly not by November.

Perhaps surge should be called something else.

Posted by: jerry on February 13, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

Send McCain to tour the bazaars and declare that victory is at hand.

Posted by: freethinker on February 13, 2008 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

The answer: send more troops!

If the "surge" was good, then the "super surge" would be better.

We thought we knocked their dicks into the dirt enough; well, those dicks need to be knocked further and further down into the dirt. And we'll be there, until we're the super dick-knocking'est empire on earth! (we're probably already the normal dick-knocking'est...)

Posted by: rusrus on February 13, 2008 at 12:57 PM | PERMALINK

But that's over there. Over here, everyone agrees that the surge is working.

Posted by: Boolaboola on February 13, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Plan H is for General Petraeus, like a rat leaving a sinking ship, to move on to a new assignment so he won't be around for the inevitable failure. Bush's basic strategy since the start of the surge has been to push this problem off on the next president. That is all he really cares about.

Posted by: Alvord on February 13, 2008 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Overall civilian fatalities in February, though still running at less than half the peak rate of 2006-07, are noticeably higher than in the past few months.

January had the most US military deaths since September. It seems the bodycounts are crawling back up.

Posted by: Swan on February 13, 2008 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

The surge has to be working, Bill Kristol was on A Daily Show last night telling us it was so.

Posted by: Martin on February 13, 2008 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

I bet a lot of the conservatives thought that after 6 months or so of surging, US troop deaths would just disappear. Looks more like we're stuck at having at least 20 guys die every month and a bunch of guys get maimed for the foreseeable.

Jan. was 40, the best month of the surge was 23, and Septmber was 65, for those who want to know, by the way.

Posted by: Swan on February 13, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Iraqi Lawmakers Pass 3 Crucial, Long-Delayed Laws

BAGHDAD — Using old-fashioned politicking behind the scenes, Iraq’s parliamentary leaders on Wednesday pushed through three divisive laws that had been held up for months by bitter maneuvering between factions and, recently, threats to dissolve the legislative body.

The three laws are the 2008 budget, a law outlining the scope of provincial powers — a crucial aspect of Iraq’s self-definition as a federal state — and an amnesty that will cover thousands of the detainees held in Iraqi jails. They were put to a vote as a single package.

“The Iraqi Parliament has approved the three laws, and this is the greatest achievement possible for the Iraqi people,” said Adnan al-Dulaimi, the Sunni lawmaker who leads the Iraqi Consensus Front.

Khalid al-Attiya, the deputy speaker and a Shiite, beamed as he told reporters right after the vote on Wednesday afternoon that the laws had passed unanimously.

Posted by: sjrsm on February 13, 2008 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"I wonder what Plan H is?"
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A diversion. Start a conflict with someone else. Yelling fire in a theater showing a bad movie certainly changes the audience's object of attention.

Posted by: steve duncan on February 13, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

*

Posted by: mhr on February 13, 2008 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps surge should be called something else.

Correct. It's an escalation.

And its not a war, its an occupation.

And occupations come to an end at some point.

Posted by: SnarkyShark on February 13, 2008 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

simple solution: a greater surge. and if that fails we surge some more. and if...

Posted by: della Rovere on February 13, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

There were some additional observations in that New York Times article about the successful passage of the laws.
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/14/world/middleeast/14iraq.html?hp
. . . the debate over the size of the Kurdish share has merely been deferred for a year. The 17 percent agreement is only for this year; next year it will be renegotiated, and there is a strong push to reduce the Kurds’ share.

On the provincial powers law, which includes a requirement that elections for the provincial councils be held in the fall, there are serious problems with the commissions that set up and administer the elections both at the national and provincial levels, raising questions about whether the votes will be viewed as fair or will merely deepen divisions among the sects.

Left out of the political bargain are the newly formed Awakening Councils, which are predominantly Sunni and in many cases represent powerful tribes. . . . Now their leaders are clambering for a place at the table. They are outraged that the Iraqi Islamic Party, which is Sunni but has limited grass-roots support, dominates the provincial council in Anbar.

Some progress is better than none, but as we've seen before, most of what happens in Iraq is outside of our control. I'd say, don't buy cooking pots in anticipation of chickens that haven't been hatched yet.


Posted by: cowalker on February 13, 2008 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

Modest progress? Three years of this legislature. A year since the surge began with 18 benchmarks. They've achieved one now and now they take a 5 week vacation.

Where can I go on a welfare plan like that? I promise to keep my progress moderate to qualify.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on February 13, 2008 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

There has been quite a lot of brouhaha about when and under what circumstances the United States should / will decide to leave Iraq.

First, the United States will never, of its own initiative leave Iraq. As the recent FISA vote yet again demonstrates, the Democrats - when push comes to shove - will actually support hard line policies. This will continue post 2008 regardless of how the election turns out.

Second, the United States nevertheless will be evicted from Iraq in the intermediate future for one of two reasons ( or possibly a combination of both) :

  • The insurgency grows so strong that the military is defeated.
  • The housing crisis grows, the deficits explode, and the United States itself is IMF'ed. As part of this, creditors forcibly curb DOD expenditures back to levels spent by other countries.

Once again, neither of these developments depend upon the outcome of the 2008 elections.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on February 13, 2008 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

why is the NY times article dated tomorrow ?

Posted by: ed_finnerty on February 13, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

why is the NY times article dated tomorrow ?

Posted by: ed_finnerty on February 13, 2008 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Tomorrow's news today!!!

Posted by: steve duncan on February 13, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

and why is Juan Cole among others reporting the opposite - i.e. that the legislation did not pass.

and why doesn't the bbc etc. have this news posted ?

Posted by: ed_finnerty on February 13, 2008 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

We clearly need a surge to support the surge.

Posted by: Orson on February 13, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

I miss Rumsfeld at times like this. I'd expect him to say that the fact that the surge is now failing proves that it was working. And this proves our strategy is correct.

Or something.

Posted by: Orson on February 13, 2008 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

Shorter Red State Mike: This new arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic is teh awesome!

Posted by: Gregory on February 13, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

And its not a war, its an occupation.

There's no contradiction between those terms. For example, when Germany occupied France it didn't mean that World War II was suddenly over in France. Similarly, when the Soviet Union occupied Afghanistan during the 1980s it didn't mean that there wasn't a war -- quite the opposite, it was the occupation that caused the war. In the case of Iraq, the war is the armed resistance to the foreign occupation, and the foreign invader's attempt to repress that resistance.

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2008 at 2:31 PM | PERMALINK

After months of declining violence, February is certain to be the third straight month to see increases in the numbers of Baghdad residents killed in car bombings and suicide attacks.

No one could possibly have predicted that a short term Potemkin strategy designed to provide partisan political cover to the Republican party back home would eventually run out of steam.....

Posted by: Stefan on February 13, 2008 at 2:34 PM | PERMALINK

Bush's basic strategy since the start of the surge has been to push this problem off on the next president. That is all he really cares about.

Exactly.

Posted by: Gregory on February 13, 2008 at 2:43 PM | PERMALINK

Screw "modest achievements," Kevin. Petraeus' bosses want to know where the Draft Oil Law is.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on February 13, 2008 at 3:12 PM | PERMALINK

About time for another election in that great new democracy, isn't it? Or is the culture so corrupt that present rulers will try to perpetuate their power?

Posted by: Luther on February 13, 2008 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

Huh, it only took the death and maiming of over a million Iraqis (4% of the population) the displacement of four million more (15% of the population), 4000 American lives, and a trillion dollars - so that the Iraqis could pass an amnesty law for a group that Americans foolishly kicked out of public service in the first place which lead to the sectarian violence which caused the deaths and maiming and displacement and enormous historic cash drain.

Could this sequence of events be any more tragically circular? Let me guess, the next big milestone will be a law criminalizing armed Sunni groups that have taken cash and weapons from Americans. And sometime beyond that we will succeed again by granting amnesty to those same groups.

What an ridiculous travesty this whole endeavor has been.

Posted by: trex on February 13, 2008 at 3:25 PM | PERMALINK

Duncan Kinder: As the recent FISA vote yet again demonstrates, the Democrats - when push comes to shove - will actually support hard line policies. This will continue post 2008 regardless of how the election turns out.

The recent FISA vote certainly demonstrates that Democrats can't stand up to Bush. But who will be pushing them to support hard line policies after Jan. 20, 2009? Do you think the Democratic president will abandon campaign promises and will threaten to veto anything other than hard line policies on Iraq and terrorism just like Bush? Or do you think the Congressional Democrats will defy the Democratic president and refuse to pass any legislation except hard line policies? If you think the latter, you give them way too much credit, IMO.

Posted by: cowalker on February 13, 2008 at 3:39 PM | PERMALINK

? Do you think the Democratic president will abandon campaign promises...?

Yes

? Or do you think the Congressional Democrats will defy the Democratic president...?

Yes.

Do I think that the Republican opposition will be miraculously more effective than the Democrats have been.

Yes.

Posted by: Duncan Kinder on February 13, 2008 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Concerning the pause in the surge, announced by Gates and Betrayus: Does anyone else feel this is designed by the White House to make sure violence in Baghdad stays at the current level prior to the November elections?

Also, that Gates broken arm this morning is punishment for same?

Posted by: Rula Lenska on February 13, 2008 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

It should be pointed out that Speaker al Mashhadani has made notoriously anti-semitic comments, blaming violence in the region on "the Jews". I wouldn't trust anything he said. I can't believe we are propping up this bunch of jokers and idiots.

Posted by: Jeff from WI on February 13, 2008 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK

What an ridiculous travesty this whole endeavor has been.

It depends, trex; as a domestic political issue, up to a point, it worked like gangbusters for the GOP. Orwell was right.

Posted by: Gregory on February 13, 2008 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

It depends, trex; as a domestic political issue, up to a point, it worked like gangbusters for the GOP. Orwell was right.

True indeed...at the expense of national unity, fidelity to the Constitution, the American sense of justice and proportion, our standing in the world, and other inestimable values in a list that goes on and on.

The more fanatic supporters of this whole enterprise don't even realize what damage it's done to their judgment and character.

Posted by: trex on February 13, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

The more fanatic supporters of this whole enterprise don't even realize what damage it's done to their judgment and character.

I disagree, trex; judging from those here who continue to carry the GOP's water, they just don't care. Would anyone who cared about their character argue the way, say, Red State Mike or "ex-liberal" does?

Posted by: Gregory on February 13, 2008 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

- Bush planned to Iraq before 9-11 and even before he became president.
- Bush attacked Iraq even though he had solid intelligence that Saddam had given up pursuit of WMDs in the mid- to late 1990's.
- Preemptive invasions and "preventitive" war are violations of the U.N. charter and acts of international aggression.
- Colin Powell lied repeatedly to the U.N. General Assembly in laying out Bush's case for attacking Iraq.
- Bush and Powell are war criminals.

Members of the Third Reich were tried and hanged at Nuremberg for exactly the same crimes that Bush and Powell committed.

These are all documented facts, not just opinions of a "leftie, pinko commie". Facts are stubborn things.

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 13, 2008 at 5:23 PM | PERMALINK

Turning Iraq into a nation of rainbows and ponies will never fix the disaster visited upon the Iraqi people by the monsters who supported the unprovoked slaughter of those Iraqi people.

It is too bad the whole god thing is a myth - there is simply no punishment great enough to fit the crimes visited on the Iraqi people by sick bastards like Pollyanna above pretending that trivial progress somehow validates their long support for terrorism against the Iraqi people.

Posted by: heavy on February 13, 2008 at 7:29 PM | PERMALINK

On a vaguely related note, I've been pointing out that John McCain is, in spite of the fairytales Republicans want you to hear instead of the truth, a supporter of torture.

NY Times:

The Senate voted 51 to 45 on Wednesday afternoon to ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods used by the Central Intelligence Agency against high-level terrorism suspects.
...
Mr. McCain, a former prisoner of war, has consistently voiced opposition to waterboarding and other methods that critics say is a form torture. But the Republicans, confident of a White House veto, did not mount the challenge. Mr. McCain voted “no” on Wednesday afternoon.
Demonstrating that McCain's opposition to torture only extends to saying mean things about it, but he would never do anything that might actually prevent it.

What a disgrace he is to the uniform he fought in and was tortured for wearing (well, that and dropping bombs on the people of Vietnam who, in a not terrible amusing parallel, were also no threat to our national security). Sorry John, your inability to learn from first hand experience in Vietnam and apply it to Iraq means you are unfit to hold any high office. Certainly not President.

Posted by: heavy on February 13, 2008 at 7:43 PM | PERMALINK

heavy:

You are so right, my friend. Thank you for the passion you show in opposing this monstrous occupation of the sovereign country of Iraq, despite Bush's on-going lies about us being there "at the invitation" of the sock puppet Maliki. Every day, every minute, every second that the American military is in Iraq is a war crime, because we are only there because of a series of dirty, filthy, underhanded, evil LIES!!!

TCD

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on February 13, 2008 at 9:06 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you, there are some who think that not saying fuck is the difference between civil and non-civil discourse. There are some who are total fucking morons.

The difference between civil and non-civil discourse is easy: do the things you propose make the world a better place or not? If your proposals are malign then, no matter how politely they are phrased, nothing you say is ever going to be a part of civil discourse.

A similar thing can be said of those who have committed violence in the name of an ideology. They are in no position to cast aspersions on those who commit violence in the name of ideology. If these same people promote more violence, especially in the face of overwhelming evidence that such violence has no justification, then they should be shunned by any and all persons who are rational enough to recognize that those proponents of violence are sociopaths whose every word is tainted by their mental defect and are in need of treatment and compassion. But by no means should their counsel be taken as anything but what it is - the ravings of the mad.

It is important to note that you are right, the violence being done to the Iraqi people is unconscionable. There is a desire, by those in the wrong, to avoid the issue of American culpability. To address why we are there would expose the moral bankruptcy of those who supported this mass butchery. They want to focus on tiny bits of progress, rather than face the fact that they have been complicit in what is no less than a massive crime against humanity (cue Mary's favorite joke "oh, the humanity." This is because she gave hers up long ago in favor of a career as a paid killer).

The only just solution now is to replace our troops with people who actually understand the victims of Bush's aggression and who can help rebuild the society broken by America's unwonted use of brutality.

The creeps and cretins who have brought us to this point need not have any say in the process. Their objective hatred for all that is good and decent about America precludes them from any civil discourse. Only when those people have been driven from the public sphere and into the mental wards where they so surely belong can we begin to take seriously calls for "civility."

The escalation, by the way, is a phenomenal success. It has allowed the supporters of mass murder to distract the public from the fact that people are still fucking dying in Iraq because George W. Bush wanted a war.

Posted by: heavy on February 13, 2008 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Is "the (marketing) surge" really working as defined by all of the benchmarks agreed to prior to the troop escalation? If "the (marketing) surge" is "working", a logical follow-up question would be, "what specifically about "the surge" is "working"?".

I would think a skeptical (as she/he should be), resourceful (as she/he should be), and persistent (you have the idea) investigative reporter nose around the bank accounts and personal wealth changes of former insurgent leaders that have become "enlightened". Why would they suddenly become illuminated now?

I might be wrong, but suspect that the "success" of "the surge" might have more to do with a concurrent effort to provide financial enlightenment to folks that our brave military folks used to fight. I also wouldn't be shocked if all of this was being coordinated to maximize the PR impact heading into the November election.

Maybe I'm wrong here, but no one has made a convincing case for what specifically is "working" from a military perspective since the troop escalation. Seems to me this is worth some digging.

Posted by: Mike on February 25, 2008 at 10:54 PM | PERMALINK
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