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National Strategy For Victory In Iraq

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Today the president released the National Strategy For Victory In Iraq, a 35 page document said to be a declassified version of America's official plan for the country.(1) Accompanying the document the president delivered a speech at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

It wouldn't seem possible that the president would continue to lie to us about Iraq. It's as if he thinks we'll get tired of pointing out that he's lying before he gets tired of telling the lie. The lie, of course, is Osama bin-Laden.

On page four of the paper, we get the subheading Prevailing in Iraq will help us win the war on terror. Following that are three bullet points:

- Osama Bin Laden has declared that the “third world war…is raging” in Iraq, and it will end there, in “either victory and glory, or misery and humiliation.”
- Bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri has declared Iraq to be “the place for the greatest battle,” where he hopes to “expel the Americans” and then spread “the jihad wave to the
secular countries neighboring Iraq.”
- Al Qaida in Iraq, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has openly declared that “we fight today in Iraq, and tomorrow in the Land of the Two Holy Places, and after there the west.”

It's not that the bullets aren't true, but the intent is clearly to link the war in Iraq with bin-Laden. The presumption being that Iraq has always been about fighting terrorists when what has actually happened is we have created a breeding ground for terrorists.

Back to page one, header: Victory in Iraq is a Vital U.S. Interest. "Iraq is the central front in the global war on terror. Failure in Iraq will embolden terrorists." But Osama bin-Laden isn't even in Iraq and it was invading Iraq that has emboldened terrorists.

Page two, Our Strategy Is Working. One of the problems with this document and the president's speech and almost everything we know about Iraq is that none of it is verifiable. Since the country is too unstable for the media to operate and even aid workers from Germany are being kidnapped, it's impossible to know what is working and what isn't.(2)

Page three starts with a quote from George W. Bush dated June 28, 2003. "Our mission in Iraq is clear. We're hunting down the terrorists." This quote is three months after the war began and is certainly not what we were told we were going to war for. We were sold a search for weapons of mass destruction and told there were links between Saddam and al-Qaeda. The weapons didn't exist and the link between Saddam and al-Qaeda is a lie that is still being told today. A lie that is all over this document.

It's not that this paper is all bad. In fact, this document is necessary. It's the most information released on Iraq in a long time. George Bush called it a declassified version of our strategy in Iraq. It spells out specific economic, political, and security goals. But the document is lessened by its reliance on propaganda that people already know to be false. The National Strategy For Victory In Iraq should not be pushing the idea that we went to Iraq to fight terrorism or that we are winning that war or that our strategy is working. The public needs information, and there is information in this document. But in the end it's still a political document. We're still being sold smoke like we have been all along. Like we were when we were told we could win this war on the cheap, with 100,000 soldiers, for a couple of billion dollars. When we were told we didn't need a post invasion plan because the Iraqis were going to throw flowers at our feet.

I understand the words of the former UN representative in Iraq, Vieira de Mello, that criticism has to be done in a constructive way because nothing is easier "than to criticize those who actually are confronted with the challenge."(3) He said to criticize without telling people how to do it better is irresponsible. So here's how you do it better. Stop lying. Move forward honestly. The truth is what has been missing in our policy and attitude in Iraq. Why not try it since not telling the truth clearly hasn't worked.

-Stephen Elliott

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1. Here is the full document as a pdf file.

2. On page 35 we're given this bullet point, "Communicating with the Iraqi public through information programs and civic education campaigns." Today in the Los Angeles Times it was disclosed that the military has actually been planting false articles in Iraqi newspapers by bribing editors at those papers. That information is almost certainly leaking back into America as American news agencies cannot operate freely in the country.

3. Sergio Vieira de Mello, one of our greatest hopes in Iraq, was killed on August 19, 2003 when a truck packed with explosives slammed into de Mello's corner office at the UN headquarters.