Wednesday, September 19, 2007


I have always liked the P.J. O’Rourke quote about how “The Republicans are the party that says government doesn't work, and then they get elected and prove it.” Sadly, I now see a grotesque corollary unfolding in Iraq.

Basically, it goes like this: President Bush and his pro-war chorus have made a habit of late of warning us that if the US withdraws its troops from Iraq, a horrible bloodbath will ensue. . . and the administration is now doing everything they can to make sure that it happens.

I am reminded of this unfortunate parallel by recent revelations about the massive amounts of rifles and side arms quickly and recklessly distributed in Iraq on Gen. David Petraeus’s watch—and the extremely disturbing number of those weapons that have now gone missing.

It all began earlier this summer, with a General Accountability Office report that more than 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 Glock pistols, 135,000 pieces of body armor and 115,000 Kevlar helmets issued to Iraqi security forces could not be accounted for.

Later, Amnesty International researchers found that hundreds of thousands of U.S.-approved arms transfers from Bosnia-Herzegovina to Iraq - more than 90 tons of AK-47s - could also be missing

Those Iraqi security forces that are “losing” their weapons are predominantly Shiite; meanwhile, the US continues to aggressively arm Sunni groups that have purportedly vowed to use the weapons against what we call “Al-Qaeda” (or is it “Al-Qaeda in Iraq,” or just a whole lot of other hostile groups?). As I’ve mentioned before, those Sunnis now receiving US aid in places like Anbar have sworn allegiance to Coalition forces, not to the Iraqi government, and I’m sure that those same Sunnis are all too aware of the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by Shiite militias in Baghdad and the south. As the Center for American Progress noted, this “strategy” is contributing to deteriorating security in Iraq: “the United States is arming up different sides in multiple civil wars that could turn even more vicious in the coming years.”

CAP’s “Strategic Reset” actually documents that the more the US equips and trains Iraqi security forces, the more violence there increases.

You’d think that somebody might notice.

Or, maybe they have. . . .

It is more than obvious at this point that the Bush plan for “victory” in Iraq is to pass the fiasco on to his successor and then spend the next several election cycles criticizing the Democrats for “losing” Iraq. The administration and its handpicked yes-men in the field will try to play prevent defense until January of 2009, keeping something between 100,000 and 140,000 troops in country, as rotations will allow. Meanwhile, Bush, Cheney, their families, and cronies will continue to reap the financial rewards of arms trafficking, privatized security and support, and regional (not national) oil deals, all at the expense of Iraqi unity (such that it is), regional security, and civilian safety.

When the next president redeploys US forces out of Iraq—and the next president will have to do this due to the depleted readiness of our military and reserves, and the untenable economic and diplomatic costs of this situation—there will, by many assessments, be some terrible consequences in some parts of the country (not that things are not thoroughly terrible now). But, how terrible things will get is still an open question.

If the situation in Iraq were to get precipitously worse when a Democratic president and Congress tries disengage, it could actually help Republicans (at least in their view and the view of likeminded media outlets) make their argument that their plan—whatever the hell that was—was actually superior to that of the Democrats. And if all of this comes to pass, you will suddenly see Republicans, who don’t really want Iraq to be a factor in the coming election cycle, suddenly revive the issue for future cycles, and wave the bloody shirt at the Democrats and the country. . . and the bloodier the shirt, the better.

After all, Republicans have something to prove.

(cross-posted to Daily Kos)

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