Turning the Millionth Corner in Iraq

I thought Andrew Sullivan had stopped drinking the Kool-aid, but he seems to have had a relapse:

The Mosul campaign is a final and critical one, and Marie Colvin, an excellent and seasoned reporter, has very encouraging news:

Operation Lion’s Roar, in which the Iraqi army combined forces with the Americans’ 3rd Armoured Cavalry Regiment, has already resulted in the death of Abu Khalaf, the Al-Qaeda leader, and the capture of more than 1,000 suspects. The group has been reduced to hit-and-run attacks, including one that killed two off-duty policemen yesterday, and sporadic bombings aimed at killing large numbers of officials and civilians.

Last Friday I joined the 2nd Iraqi Division as it supported local police in a house-to-house search for one such bomb after intelligence pointed to a large explosion today.

Even in the district of Zanjali, previously a hotbed of the insurgency, it was possible to accompany an Iraqi colonel on foot through streets of breeze-block houses studded with bullet holes. Hundreds of houses were searched without resistance but no bomb was found, only 60kg of explosives.

The use of female suicide bombers – often the bereaved family members of, er, former suicide bombers – is another sign of the Jihadists’ desperation. Then we have the “fragile and reversible” but still encouraging development in Helsinki:

The Helsinki agreement, which was hammered out over meetings in September and April, was signed by 33 politicians from Sunni, Shiite, Kurdish, Turkmen, Communist and other parties.

The document consists of 17 principles, as well as strategies to ensure compliance with those goals. The principles included a commitment to eventually limit arms possession to the government, respect for minority rights and opposition to international and regional influence in Iraq’s internal affairs.

The agreement also included a pledge to integrate the so-called Awakening Councils, and others who have fought against extremists, into state institutions.

We need to add all the usual caveats. This is Iraq. But if someone had told me a year ago that fifteen of eighteen benchmarks had been reached, that all the parties were in negotiation over future politics, that al Qaeda was close to dead at the hands of the US and the Iraqis, and that oil contracts were being handed out amid four-year lows in violence, I wouldn’t have believed them.

Yes, the usual caveats, and if someone had told Andrew a year ago, blahblahblah. If I’m in the mood for that kind of weasel talk, I’ll go over to the American Enterprise Institute and get sick on Frederick Kagan lies about the success of the surge.

God, I’m so tired of this:

  • First of all, isn’t this, like, the 67,986th time we’ve “turned the corner”? Which “final and critical campaign” is this one? There’ve been quite a few, you know.
  • Second, pardon me if I don’t jump up and down screaming and waving the red, white, and blue at the statement that Al Qaeda is “close to dead.” Al Qaeda is a very small part of the violence in Iraq. And Al Qaeda wasn’t even in Iraq until after the U.S. invaded, so “killing” it is only correcting a problem we caused to begin with. It hardly constitutes “winning” the war.
  • Third, who is getting those oil contracts? Why are you so happy to have it confirmed for you that all the blood that’s been spilled in Iraq was, indeed, spilled for oil?
  • Fourth, what is so inspirational about four-year lows in violence that have been achieved largely through massive ethnic cleansing (i.e., mass murder)?
  • Fifth, I am bloody goddamn outraged at the constant, never-ending crowing by war supporters (which would include you again, Andrew) about the so-called huge drops in violence while NEVER mentioning the millions upon millions of Iraqis who are refugees, both inside Iraq and, in numbers that grow every day, in neighboring countries. Where, Andrew, do you get the gall to declare victory in Iraq when approximately four million Iraqis who have lost everything they had are flooding into Syria and Jordan and absolutely overwhelming those countries’ social support systems? That’s the next war you’ve got, right there.

I have several other bullet points inside of me, but I’m angry enough for now.

Cross-posted at Liberty Street.

3 Responses to “Turning the Millionth Corner in Iraq”

  1. gcotharn says:


    Do you believe it possible for the new Iraq government to succeed as an entity(given the way we are currently going about helping them; and given the persons and methods currently in place in the Iraqi government)?

    If it’s possible, what do you envision that success looking like? What are the odds of that success happening? 10%? 20%? 80%?

    I will not share any of my personal disagreement with you in this area, for a reason previously stated: the left and right cannot discuss strategy, b/c the left and right do not agree about what constitutes the threat. This post of yours is for you and fellow progressives to discuss amongst yourselves.

    But, b/c I respect your sincerity, I am interested in your thinking about the questions above: Do you think success is possible? Or, do you think failure is certain? If you find it interesting to answer, I will be grateful, and will take in your answers without rebuttal. My purpose in this instance is to better understand your thinking.

  2. Kathy says:


    I think an answer to those questions deserves another post. It may take me a while, given work pressures, et al.

    For now, my short answer: I think it might be possible for the present government in Iraq to succeed as an entity, BUT, *only if the U.S. leaves Iraq.* As long as our military is in that country, and we are, basically, occupying the country, nothing good, in the broadest sense of that word, can happen.

  3. tas says:

    I haven’t kept up on Iraq as much as I should have in the past couple of months, but I know that one thing which makes it look like IRaq has turned the corner is us allowing Iraqis to administrate some things on their own soil — essentially giving them jobs. When you can get a paycheck from the government, why join a militia? But at the same time, as Kathy mentioned, there are walls being built to separate neighborhoods and ethnicities. Sunnis aren’t allowed the mix with Shia, and visa versa. This will keep a problem at bay, but what happens when the dams burst? Those walls will surely come down. Additionally, the resources grab that oil companies — backed by the US — are trying to make will cause a lot of friction. Middle Eastern countries have based their sovereignty in part to the control of their oil. If the US wants Iraq to give oil companies a 75% share of their countries oil (which is the current proposal) and this is passed by the Iraqi government, expect to see the country go into another shitstorm. This also doesn’t even touch upon the fact that the Kurds (who don’t even fly an Iraqi flag) have made their own deals with oil companies.

    By anyone’s objective estimation, these are problems.

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