Friday, February 15, 2008

Iraqi Political Progress Leaves Few Places For The Left To Move The Target

The New York Times editorial board is in obvious distress today as it opines on "(some) progress" in Iraq. As political and military progress in Iraq is making it ever more difficult for the far left to articulate ostensible grounds for legislating defeat, the ever changing narrative is becoming comical - and the left's motives transparent.


Iraq is far from being out of the woods, but its trajectory is clearly in the right direction. To a neutral third party looking at the progress just being announced out of Iraq, it would have to look exceptionally promising. Peace is descending on large sections of the country, al Qaeda is defeated strategically throughout much of the country, and the Iraqi government has just made some very big strides towards accomplishing those things that it needs to do to bring about reconciliation and create a functioning country. A month ago, it passed a de-Baathification law to allow low and mid-level Baath party members back into the government. Today, the Iraqi Parliament passed a law outlining the scope of provincial powers and set a date for provincial elections, passed a budget that provides for fair distribution of funds, and voted on a general amnesty for many detainees.

One such neutral third party is Anthony Cordesman of CSIS, an acerbic critic of the war whose anylases of Iraq were, until recently, permanantly linked at the bottom of the NYT opinion page. Cordesman wrote yesterday:

No one can spend some 10 days visiting the battlefields in Iraq without seeing major progress in every area. . . . If the US provides sustained support to the Iraqi government -- in security, governance, and development -- there is now a very real chance that Iraq will emerge as a secure and stable state.

Read his synopsis here, and the full report here. But our Democrats and their far left supporters are not neutral third parties.

When the war in Iraq went bad following the Feburary 2006 al Qaeda bombing of the Samarra Mosque, the Democratic leadership adopted a strategy to completly embrace defeat as a means to discredit Bush, discredit the conservative ideology, and as a means of attaining partisan power. This was an act of cynical expediency for most. They of course can't say that, since they would be exposing themselves as "unpatriotic" for putting partisan gain over the national security and best interests of the nation during time of war. But it was fairly transparent early on - and now the transparency is taking on elements of absurdity as the justifications for legislating withdraw become ever more surreal. You can watch the evolution of their strategy through the NYT, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi:

Pre-Surge: (January)

The initial strategy was to stop the President from actually trying to win in Iraq by delegitimizing the surge. The opening salvo was fired on January 9, 2007, when the NYT attacked the President's just announced counterinsurgincy strategy as the "same old set of failed approaches and unachievable objectives," opining that what we needed was to an exit strategy out of Iraq's "brutal civil war."

The NYT also introduced the ridiculous meme Harry Reid credited to General Petraeus, that there can be "no military solution" in Iraq, therefore there is no reason for the surge. Yes, General Petraeus did say there could be "no military solution" in his confirmation hearing while discussing his proposed counterinsurgency strategy. In fact, he did so immediately before stating "Military action is necessary to help improve security." Ignoring that latter qualifier, Reid and the left used the Petraeus quote to justify their calls for surrender all the way through September.

Build-Up to the Surge (Prior to June)

By March 29, 2007 the nascent counterinsurgency operation had just begun, the full buildup was still two months away, but some real progress was being noted on the ground. The NYT was having none of that and was still trying to end the surge before any real success could be achieved, opining "Victory is no longer an option in Iraq." Clearly it wasn't an option for Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who were doing all they could to stangle the surge in its cradle.

Harry Reid, for his part, actually surrendered on camera to al Qaeda on April 20. Fortunately, our military did not receive the surrender orders.

Not yet ready to give up on giving up - on April 26, 2007, the NYT characterized the surge as a "failed approach," ignoring all of the security gains that were by then clearly evident. Three days later, the NYT's lead was a story on the amazing security gains being brought about by the Anbar Awakening - two words that have yet to be used by the NYT editorial board to this day.

Surge Begins Full Operation (June)

By June, sectarian violence in Iraq had been brought down by two thirds from its pre-surge high in January and the Anbar Awakening was starting to spread outside of Anbar province. While Iraq had been on the brink of "civil war" prior to the surge, it was clearly far back from the brink by June.

Regardless, trying not to confuse the issue with facts, on July 8, the NYT editors wrote that Iraq was engulfed in a "raging" civil war and, because of that, "[i]t is time for the United States to leave Iraq, without any more delay than the Pentagon needs to organize an orderly exit." You have to love these folks for their utter refusal to let facts stand in the way of their narrative.

Just a little over two weeks after that editorial, two former opponents of the war, Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollock of the left of center Brookings Institution penned their now famous op-ed in the NYT, "A War We Might Just Win." Hospital beds filled that morning with Congressional Democrats and their supporters who had choked on their cornflakes while reading the newspaper over breakfast.

The Petraeus Briefing (September)

After the O'Hanlon piece was published, the NYT editorial board simply ignored Iraq until near the end of August, when a flurry of editorials appeared in advance of General Petraeus's scheduled briefing to Congress. On August 31, the NYT began hyping a GAO report that told of little progress being made by the Iraqi government towards meeting the "benchmarks" and, based on old data, only minor security gains. As the NYT opined, "Iraq’s leaders have neither the intention nor the ability to take advantage of calm, relative or otherwise." And in case you didn't get the message, NYT essentially repeated the same editorial again a few days later.

The September 9 editorial ranks as one of my favorites. The NYT turned reality on its head, claiming that Petraeus was politicaly motivated and could not be trusted. Further, the NYT claimed that Petraeus's credibility and that of his commanders in Iraq was questionable - because they disagreed with the NYT / Congressional Democrat's characterization of Iraq. It was a masterpiece of hutzpah that any connoisseur of fine bullshit has to truly appreciate.

The biggest push to end the surge came on September 11, after General Petraeus had testified before Congress and the nation on progress in Iraq. The NYT, parroting Hillary, accused General Patreus of providing "false" information, citing to "recent independent studies [that] are much more skeptical about the decrease in violence." Further, the NYT argued, "[e]ven if the so-called surge has created breathing room, Iraq’s sectarian leaders show neither the ability nor the intent to take advantage of it."

Unfortunately for the left, most people believed General Petraeus and were willing to give him time to make the surge work. Go figure. Though that didn't stop the NYT from banging the same drum several more times that month - but it was all for naught. When that didn't work, Iraq disappeared from the editorial pages and the news. The war was over - for the NYT at least.

Thankfully, there were other sources of news, otherwise everyone would have missed Osama bin Laden's State of the Jihad address in October when he came about as close to declaring a strategic defeat for al Qaeda in Iraq as we will ever see. As bin Laden characterized it, "the darkness [in Iraq] is pitch black." Perhaps General Petraeus was telling the truth after all.

The Issue of War Funding (November)

It wasn't until late November that the NYT again took up the issue of Iraq, finally conceding - very grudgingly - to the blindingly evident security gains. The NYT argued that the security gains didn't matter because the central government was not moving towards reconciliation:

There have been some advances since President Bush sought to salvage his misadventure by sending even more troops into Iraq. Violence has declined and Al Qaeda in Iraq is said to be weaker. But Mr. Bush’s main argument for his escalation — that it would create political space for Iraqis to work together and achieve national reconciliation — has proved wrong.

But poor Harry Reid couldn't even bring himself to acknowledge the security gains. With violence down near to levels not seen since the inititial invasion and with peace breaking out over much of Iraq, Reid channelled the spirit of Baghdad Bob, telling a reporter: ". . . Al Qaeda has regrouped and is able to fight a civil war in Iraq. ... The American people are losing."

Reconciliation (January - Present)

The horror of horrors struck the far left on January 13. The Iraqis passed a de-Baathification law that would allow former Baath party members to reenter government service and to collect pensions. Reconciliation - the centerpiece of the left's ostensible justifications for legislating defeat - was being taken away from them. They went into denial.

One can only imagine the wailing and gnashing of teeth. I am sure a sudden outbreak of tourettes suddenly infected the occupants of the offices of Congressional Democrats and the NYT editorial board.

The Washington Post reported on the passage of these laws. WaPo interviewed the Shia and Sunni legislators involved in the drafting, debate and voting on the law. Not surprisingly, they were all very upbeat:

. . . "It's a good step for many reasons," said Falah Hassan Shanshal, who leads the parliamentary committee overseeing the legislation and is a member of the Shiite party loyal to influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. "First, it condemns all the crimes carried out by the Baath Party and its bloody regime. And this law will allow us to search for and detect every single person who committed a crime against Iraqis."

Supporters of the measure say it is intended to ease the restrictions that prevented former Baathists from holding government jobs. Shanshal acknowledged that certain people joined the Baath Party not for ideological reasons but out of necessity, and for people who have not committed crimes, "it is possible for them to return to public life."

But members of the largest Sunni coalition in parliament agreed to the new measure. Adnan al-Dulaimi, the group's leader, said the legislation was fair to low-ranking former Baathists and allowed the higher-ranking Shubah members to receive pensions, "which I consider good and acceptable."

See here. The NYT was having none of that. They were in panic and denial. In their editorial, they wrote:

The Iraqi Parliament has finally done something that the Bush Administration, and many others, considered essential to political progress in Iraq: it passed a law intended to open government jobs to former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.

What should have been heralded as an accomplishment, however, may only serve to further reinforce the bumbling nature of President Bush’s ill-conceived adventure in Iraq. No one, it seems, has a clear sense of what the law will do. Some suggest it could actually exclude more former Baathists than it lets in — a sure-fire way to fuel political tensions rather than calm them.

. . . Administration officials continually lower the bar for Iraq. Now they admit that the law is not perfect but say it begins to set fairer standards. Iraq’s presidency council still must approve the law and could yet make improvements. Iraqis are going to have to do a lot better to make their country work. Withdrawing American troops may finally persuade them to do that.

Read the article here. The NYT seemed in such a rush to condemn this law with inuendo and speculation that they were too busy to talk to the Sunni and Shia legislators involved in crafting and debating the law. But you have to love the conclusion and the note of desperation evident in it. The NYT is hanging on tooth and nail to the meme that surrendering and leaving Iraq still remains the panacea to force reconciliation, despite the passage of the reconciliation law. This is priceless, really. Even a writer of decent fiction couldn't make up stuff like this.

But you can't get anymore surreal than Nancy Pelosi and her response to this de-Baathification law. She dismissed it during a CNN interview the other day on the grounds that it had occurred . . .
. . .
(wait for it)
. . .
"too late."

Yes. That's right. Reconciliation does not count in her alternate reality because it did not occur in time. The House Democrats apparently passed a double secret time limit. If only Maliki and Bush had known. Amazingly, Wolf Blitzer let her get away with that response without challenge - or at least no challenge I could hear over my laughter, but I digress.

Moments later, I did hear Ms. Pelosi justify calling the surge "a failure" when Blitzer pushed her on the issue. She did not do it by citing to any facts; rather, she just screamed twice: "Its a failure. Its a failure." There is nothing like watching Pelosi revert to the intellectual level of a 5 year old. If she had not been sitting down while saying that, I am pretty sure she would have been stomping her feet. And had Blitzer challenged her further to provide some actual factual justification for her bald assertions, there is no doubt that CNN's audience would have been treated to the sight of Pelosi putting her fingers in her ears and humming loudly.

But back to the NYT and today. One can feel the NYT is, in fact, progressing through the five stages of grief. You could feel them working through their denial earlier in response to the de-Baathification law, and now they have moved into the stages of anger and acceptance:

Making (Some) Progress in Iraq

Good news is rare in Iraq. But after months of bitter feuding, Iraq’s Parliament has finally approved a budget, outlined the scope of provincial powers, set an Oct. 1 date for provincial elections and voted a general amnesty for detainees. All these steps are essential for national conciliation.

As always in Iraq, it is best to read the fine print. Final details of the legislation aren’t known. The country’s three-member presidency council must still sign off. And then the laws have to be implemented. . . .

We are, of course, cheered by the news that representatives from Iraq’s three main ethnic groups — Shiite, Sunni and Kurd — finally saw some benefit in compromise.

Read the entire article. I have no doubt that they are not using the word "cheered" according to any known dictionary definition. I think it far more likely that the copy editor inserted that verb in the place of several explatives and a verb describing some type of sexual act.

But something else of import is evinced in the NYT editorial. For the first time in over a year, the NYT didn't call for the immediate withdraw of our troops. This is huge. The NYT editorial board is off message. They have surrendered surrendering - or something like that.

I have yet to hear Pelosi and Reid - or Hillary and Obama - respond to this latest great news for Iraq and America. Given the NYT is usually on key with the far left, this might mean that Pelosi and company are about to give up the ghost on legislating defeat in Iraq. But I seriously doubt it. Stay tuned. The entertainment value of this looks like it will only continue to rise as the Democratic arguments for legislating defeat in Iraq become ever more surreal, and their motivations ever more transparent.


Freedom Fighter said...

Hah! Harry Reid as `baghdad bob'..too funny GW!

BTW,congrats on the second place finish in the Council follies - you wrote a fine piece.


Callimachus said...

Excellent post. Reminds me of the patient archival mining of Marc Schulman at American Future. When people don't have anything to do but sit around and wait to win the next election, they can be awfully irrational.

slag said...

That's awesome! (Some) possible political progress! And after only 4 years and billions of dollars and thousands of American lives. Oh happy day!