Today's nightmare question is: in what condition will the three missing American soldiers be when next we see them? Alive, on videotape, with guns to their heads? Dead in the street, riddled with bullets? Or worse?
The daily ambushes, pitched battles, car bombs, suicide bombs, and ever-escalating death toll - both American and Iraqi -- all reveal the so-called "surge" for the cruelly empty exercise that it is. Paradoxically, they obscure a larger, more fundamental deceit that has characterized every military initiative during this four-year calamity.
The surge's key quality, as originally posited by the Bush Administration, was its limited duration. We were asked to have just a bit more patience, since the exercise was to be temporary. (Never mind that its scope began to grow immediately after it began.) In other words: "All we are saying is give the surge a chance."
A chance for what, precisely? I put the question to a thoughtful, informed friend who is inclined to offer the requested patience. He responded: "To me, 'giving the surge a chance to work' means allowing the US military time to dampen down the violence in Baghdad and, eventually, elsewhere so that reconciliation between the Sunnis and Shiites is possible."
That echoes every rationale I have heard or read: what's necessary is to carve out some physical and psychic breathing room, so that the angels of everyone's better nature can work their magic. Of course, the entire transaction depends on maintaining this space, once it is established. But what - more precisely, who - will do the maintaining? Why, U.S. troops, of course, the very troops who comprise the surge right now.
So leave aside the evidence before your eyes, which reveals that the goal of the surge is chimerical. And leave aside some obvious questions, vis: if 4,000 troops are now looking for the three American soldiers in the 'triangle of death' south of Baghdad, what is happening to the primary mission while this gigantic search and rescue mission proceeds?
Put all that aside. Instead, try another, contextual, question: think back to the initial invasion of Iraq in March 2003. As U.S. forces pushed closer to Baghdad, why did the anticipated 'mother of all battles' never occur? Soon enough we learned the painful answer: rope-a-dope. Iraqi soldiers-turned-insurgents played dead and melted away, to re-emerge at times and places of their choosing.
Why is it that the current policy isn't laughed - or cried - right out of Washington and the rest of the country? It is a perfect conundrum: the only way the temporary surge can succeed is by being.............permanent! So once again, we get a variation of The Big Lie: white is black, up is down, yes is no, defeat is victory.