October 24th, 2006


The regular bloody news update.

It's been an almost record-setting two weeks since I have posted anything about Iraq. Since then, the bad news has come in so fast and furious, it's hard to know where to begin. Britain's foremost general saying that it's time for them to start bringing the troops home, prominent U.S. State Department officials accusing the Bush administration of stupidity and arrogance, the death of habeas corpus, video of U.S. soldiers being routinely targeted by snipers, and reports depicting Iraqi forces as either unwilling to fight, or, quite simply, as protecting and conspiring with the insurgency.

U.S. casualty rates have increased again, the updated Lancet Report has started to really sink in with a lot of people, and now the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has announced that there are up to 1.6 million Iraqis who have fled the country as a result of the war, most of whom now reside in Jordan and Syria. There are also more than 1.5 million people displaced within Iraq itself, including more than 365,000 who have fled their homes and communities since the bombings in Samara in February.

Really, I'm glad I didn't individually report on all these issues. It would've felt like one big "I told you so...", which is hardly why I created my journal in the first place. Suffice it to say that whether they support the conflicts or not, people in the U.S. are beginning to view both Iraq and Afghanistan in an entirely different way than before, as much larger, deadlier conflicts than previously realized. To me, this is definitely a good, if regrettable, state of affairs, truth being the basis of informed representative democracies.  

Surprisingly, I've seen some pro-Republican media sources respond to all of this as some kind of liberal media putsch, even talking about Iraqi insurgents intentionally being more violent right now in order to influence U.S. elections. These arguments are usually followed by calls for levels of censorship and political repression that would've brought tears to the eyes of Joseph Goebbels.

These people making these wild accusations have obviously never paid close attention to the casualty figures in Iraq, however, which traditionally peak in October and/or November. To me, this supposed "October Surprise" appears to be simply rooted in the fact that it is, in fact, October, and we are, in fact, seeing more of the same. The Bush administration's failed policies keep coming home to roost, as expected. And since when could protracted insurgencies be counted on to generate positive news coverage anyway? Last time I heard, long wars weren't popular... arguably for very good reasons. 

Today, we have the latest casualty of the GWoT.   


"Stay the course" is toast, as it's a phrase that has become a political liability. The Bush administration is replacing with a non-public series of "benchmarks", which they are taking great pains to indicate aren't ultimatums, aren't binding on the Iraqi government, and won't result in U.S. withdrawl if the Iraqis fail to achieve them.

Is it just me, or is the whole idea of non-binding, non-public, non-meaningful in any way whatsoever benchmarks a profoundly undemocratic and unhelpful policy intended to suggest that there are successful ways for our troops to get out of Iraq, without actually providing anything akin to a roadmap? It's a bit like security through obscurity, except it's really policy through obscurity. We're going to stay the course adapt our policies accordingly -- and secretly -- to achieve success, but we're not going to be clear what those policies are, and we're not going to hold ourselves accountable to achieving clear, measurable, meaningful results.

Why embarrass yourself by withdrawing from Iraq when you can withdraw from public accountability instead? The Bush administration has, through a series of timetables, led the horse to water, but it's clearly refusing to drink. So they seem content to sit around and wait for a little more nothing to happen in Iraq until it becomes someone else's problem. Too bad for all the soldiers and Iraqis who get to be killed and/or maimed between now and whenever we leave, I guess.

So, how is this not an extremely cynical, callous act? It's politics with a body count, where soldier's lives are sacrificed to bolster U.S. public opinion. it most certainly isn't "stay the course" any more, as that implies being on a path which allows for measurable progress. It's really more "stuck in the mud, wheels spinning."

The inevitable slogan that will have to replace "stay the course"? Peace with honor... or withdrawl with honor... or really anything else that entails getting our asses out of Iraq... with honor. Unfortunately, getting to that point will be a very expensive waiting game for all concerned. 

UPDATE: lafinjack pointed out this interview with Bush from Sunday, where he says "We've never been 'stay the course!'" 

See Doublethink
... another one for the *spit take* vault! 

Also just mentioned in the news -- a U.S. defense official has told Reuters that Britain wants out of Iraq in a year, give or take a few months.  Sure, Tony Blair will be accused of suffering from premature evacuation, but at least he won't leave behind a Brown stain...