Today's op-ed in The New York Times by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack, "A War We Just Might Win," concludes: "There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008." Ahead of General David Patraeus's happy talk about Iraq we'll hear when he testifies to Congress this September, O'Hanlon and Pollack, who both were cheerleaders for going into Iraq, now offer their sage advice about staying there.
O'Hanlon and Pollack claim, "morale is high" among the U.S. troops, without acknowledging the 15-month extensions, the multiple tours, and the growing PTSD crisis.
"Fatality rates are down roughly a third," they write, but they offer no baseline number for purposes of comparison.
They deploy a stupid baseball analogy: "Iraqis have stepped up to the plate," without offering any evidence save their own anecdotal observations.
"A local mayor told us his greatest fear was an overly rapid American departure from Iraq," they write. But these Brookings scholars give us this nugget without identifying the city or the name of the mayor, or why they believe this is surprising, or even relevant, coming from an Iraqi collaborator with the occupation.
They assert that "many of the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi commanders who once infested the force have been removed," but they do not offer any evidence that warlords or sectarian militias have had their influence diminished.
In the middle of the piece, O'Hanlon and Pollack get philosophical: "In war sometimes it's important to pick the right adversary and in Iraq we seem to have done so." But they don't tell their readers how, exactly, invading and occupying Iraq helped the United States in its conflict with Al Qaeda, (which I assume they would agree is the "right adversary").
And like a bad re-run of a John McCain photo-op, O'Hanlon and Pollack write: "Just a few months ago, American marines were fighting for every yard of Ramadi; last week we strolled down its streets without body armor." Maybe our two courageous intellectuals chose not to wear body armor, but I bet you they had a substantial contingent of U.S. military personnel, snipers, and Blackwater guards as they "strolled" around.
But by far the worst part of this op-ed is what they chose to omit from their warm and fuzzy scenario of American military "progress" in Iraq.
O'Hanlon and Pollack do not mention the 100,000-plus Iraqi civilians who have been killed since the U.S. invasion, or the equal number maimed.
They write nothing about the estimated 1.5 million "internal refugees" in Iraq, nor do they acknowledge the 1 million people who have fled the country since the U.S. invasion.
They say nothing about the tens of thousands of Iraqis the U.S. holds in prisons throughout Iraq, or the "enhanced interrogation techniques" that U.S. proxies continue to employ.
They do not mention that in Baghdad residents are lucky to have one hour of electricity each day, and the U.S. military has built enormous concrete walls that resemble those that surround the miserable Gaza Strip, which seal off many neighborhoods from each other.
O'Hanlon and Pollack overlook the fact that unemployment in Iraq now stands at over 60 percent according to most measurements.
They do not mention how the Bush administration's schemes toward privatizing the Iraqi economy, especially the oil sector, have spread hardship and discontent within the population.
They say nothing about the permanent U.S. military bases the Pentagon has built in Iraq, including the massive Balad Air Base, which is bigger than Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, and the largest U.S. embassy on earth, which is roughly the same size as the Vatican; nor the fact that the CIA station in Baghdad is the biggest one the United States has had anywhere in the world since the CIA's station in Saigon during the Vietnam War.
They also do not mention that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has led to the perfection of the car bomb and the IED as instruments of urban guerrilla warfare, which is a development that is sure to plague us for decades to come.
Lastly, even as the captain of the victorious Iraqi soccer team told reporters he wished the Americans would leave his country and never should have occupied it in the first place, O'Hanlon and Pollack write nothing about the role of Iraqi nationalism in fueling the resistance to foreign occupation.
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