Winning Iraq

FrontPageMagazine | Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu | Nov. 5, 2007

If the old saw “no news is good news” has any truth to it, then things must be going very well indeed in the Iraq war. Increasingly obvious signs of success as a result of the “surge” under the able leadership of General David Petraeus have all but rendered the mainstream media speechless on the warfront. From the days of constant television showing video of black smoke billowing from burning car bombs in marketplaces, we have now reached a virtual blackout. When was the last time you saw a detailed listing of U.S. and Iraqi casualties in the top right column of the New York Times or Washington Post?

The media are not going to report good news, which leaves Americans with the impression that the war is going as poorly now as it was a year ago. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Friendly casualties are lower than they have been in years, across the board: U.S. and allied forces, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilian losses are all at near-record lows. Contrasted to this time last year, the comparison is staggering. And for all the recent caterwauling from craven Foreign Service Officers about a tour in Iraq being a “death sentence, and you know it,” so far the State Department has not lost anyone except contractors hired at extravagant cost to protect its officers. (Can anyone say “Blackwater”?)

On the rise, however, are al-Qaeda In Iraq’s losses, although you can expect to see them falling in the near future, too — not because these foreign fighters are not being hunted down and killed, but because AQI targets populations are declining. Fewer and fewer recruits are coming through Syria into Iraq to join the fight.

Huge attrition rates have reduced AQI presence in Iraq dramatically. Partially as a result of these high losses, the brightness of the al Qaeda’s appeal among foreign fighters from Saudi Arabia, Chechnya, and other disturbed places around the region has dimmed. Yes, the terrorist training camps in Syria are still functioning and Damascus does little to impede foreign jihadists’ travel through Syrian territory. But it appears some radicals who prefer to fight the infidel face to face are either waiting for another time (like after the 2008 elections) or are seeking more accommodating ground. Hence, the recent resurgence of fighting in Chechnya and Afghanistan.

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Comments

  1. Dean Scourtes says:

    What are the measures by which success in Iraq should be guaged? By any objective standard, they would include the following:

    1) Political settlement among the vaious factions of Iraq regarding the equitable sharing of oil revenue.

    2) The ability of members of Iraq’s various communities to live side by side peacefully and non-violently.

    3) The ability of Iraq’s security forces, after 4 years to “stand-up” and maintain peace ans securityfor Iraq’s people.

    4) The ability of the central government to exert its authority over local warlords, chieftains and militias, without support from US forces.

    5) The ability of the two million Iraqi refugees, who fled the violence and sectarian warfare, and are who now living in Syria and Jordan, to return home.

    6) The “quality of life” available to Iraq’s people as measured by hours of electricity, access to clean water, employment and education.

    By any of these measures we are not winning Iraq.

    In his history of Julius Ceasar, Tacitus quotes a defeated Celt as saying to a victorious Roman, “You have a desolation and called it Peace.” The success of Iraq’s factions in successfully ethnically cleansing their ethnic rivals, reflected in lower levels of sectarian killing because their are no rivals left to kill, should not be considered “winning”. The slight easing of the situation from very, very, very bad to just very bad, is not winning, either.

  2. Who were we kidding expecting Dean to actually acknowledge any good news out of Iraq while the White House is still under the leadership of a Republican. Despite the reality that terrorist and radical Islamo-Fascist groups are causing all of the slaughter of innocent Iraqis and US troups, Dean demands that we should fix all of Iraq’s problems and indirectly suggests a definition of “win” that may be impossible to implemented in that particular part of the real world. The only thing missing from his post was some reminiscing about the quality of life and “good old days” under Saddam Hussein and his freedom and people loving ways. Better to be slaves in Egypt that free in the desert, is that what you’re saying now Dean?

  3. Dean Scourtes says:

    Almost a year ago, the Iraq Study Group, also known as the Baker-Hamilton Commision described the situation in Iraq as “grave and deteriorating”. Chaired by James Baker, Secretary of State under President George Herbert Walker Bush, the ISG recommended the withdrawl of most US troops by 2008, and implored the Bush administration to engage Iraq’s neighbor’s diplomatically. (1)

    The report itself divides its recommendations into two groups. The first calls for a new and enhanced diplomatic and political effort in Iraq and the region. And to achieve this, it calls for what it calls a “diplomatic offensive” by the United States and the Iraqi Government to build an international consensus for stability in Iraq and the region. It calls for a conference of national reconciliation in Baghdad. And it says that for that to succeed, it has to have the active participation of countries with a stake in Iraq’s future, including Iraq’s neighbors. In particular, that obviously has to mean Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

    The second set of recommendations goes into the question of the US mission there and calls for a change in the mission of US forces in Iraq to accelerate the Iraqi Government assuming responsibility for the security parts of the mission and increasing US forces that are embedded with Iraqi units and a repositioning of US combat forces to focus on force protection presumably for those units that are embedded. (2)

    To date, these recommendations have not been acted upon and appear to have been completely rejected.

    As the Iraq Study group emphasized, peace and stability in Iraq cannot be brought to Iraq by military means alone, but only as result of a political solution. Today, as the Sunnis and Shiites continue to battle each other, and Iraqi Kurds sign their own seperate deals with foreign oil companies, there is no sign that we are anywhere near to political settlement among all Iraq’s factions.

    Footnotes:

    1. “Iraq Study Group: Change Iraq strategy now”, CNN, December 6, 2006
    http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/12/06/iraq.study.group/index.html

    2. “An Analysis of the Iraq Study Group Report” The Brookings Instititute
    http://www.brookings.edu/events/2006/1207iraq.aspx

  4. Dean Scourtes says:

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Carter has written a new book entitled “Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower”

    Mr. Brzezinski’s verdict on the current president’s record — “catastrophic,” he calls it — is nothing short of devastating.

    …Though the terrorist attacks of 9/11 wrought a moment of “global solidarity with America,” Mr. Brzezinski writes, the Bush administration’s swaggering unilateralism and “neocon Manicheanism” would turn a moment of opportunity into “a self-inflicted and festering wound while precipitating rising global hostility toward America.” Indeed, he argues that the Iraq war “has caused calamitous damage to America’s global standing,” demonstrating that the United States “was able neither to rally the world to its cause nor to decisively prevail by use of arms.”

    Further, he says, “the war in Iraq has been a geopolitical disaster,” diverting resources and attention from the terrorist threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan, even as it’s increased “the terrorist threat to the United States” by fomenting resentment toward America and providing “fertile soil for new recruits to terrorism.”

    When a Leader Missteps, a World Can Go Astray” , New York Times Book Review, March 6, 2007

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/06/books/06kaku.html?n=Top/Reference/Times%20Topics/People/B/Brzezinski,%20Zbigniew&pagewanted=all

  5. Jim Holman says:

    Chris B. writes: “Who were we kidding expecting Dean to actually acknowledge any good news out of Iraq while the White House is still under the leadership of a Republican.”

    In the point of view of the current administration, we’re always winning. If attacks increase, that’s proof of the desperation of the enemy. If attacks decrease, that’s also proof that we’re winning. So for the administration we’re always winning. We’ll be winning five years from now, ten years from now.

    “Reviewing developments in Iraq, Mr. Bush said, ‘We’ve made good progress. Iraq is more secure.’”

    For ten points, when was the above comment made?

    Answer: you can’t tell when it was made, because it could have been made any time in the last four and and a half years. In fact, you might have thought that it came from the posted article. Actually, it was made in October 2003. People have compiled extensive lists of “Iraq progress” quotations from administration sources. The interesting thing is that we’re always winning and making progress, no matter the situation on the ground, no matter how many U.S. soldiers or Iraqis are killed or wounded.

    “U.S. and allied forces, Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilian losses are all at near-record lows.”

    This is from the article. If you look at U.S. and other OIF forces alone, the statement is false. There have been other periods in which there have been fewer casualties. The statement if true only if you add in Iraqi civilian deaths. This is due in part to the fact that certain areas of the country have now been effectively ethnically cleansed, and there are currently over 2 million Iraqi refugees living in other countries and something like 1.5 million internally displaced.

    So anyway, four and a half years into the war, we’re making progress, and that’s nothing new because we’ve always been making progress and always will be making progress. This time next year, after another 1,000 U.S. soldiers are dead, and another $200 billion has been spent there, we’ll still be making progress, and it’s wonderful to be in a war in which there is so much progress.

  6. Jim, This story was not prompted or made by the administration so your comment: “In the point of view of the current administration, we’re always winning. If attacks increase, that’s proof of the desperation of the enemy.” has nothing to do with points made by Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu. He was simply stating that the surge has provided positive results, has reduces casualties, and has significanly reduced terrorist attacks. The fact that the mainstream media is completely silent on this shows their bias and failure to ethically report the truth. What else is new.

    Also, please stay on topic. The story does not discuss whether it was a good idea for us to liberate Iraq without carefully thinking through the consequences. It simply discusses the progress made today and some of the good results. I do not deny that the lofty goals and unreasonable expectations the US had were unrealistic and we found ourselves in a quite a pickle. On the other hand are you then also stating that it was better for the Iraqis to live under Saddam and that erradicating Al Qaeda and other terrorists by the thousands and keeping them busy in the Middle East and away from our homeland are are not positive and worthy results, even given the mistaken beliefs regarding WMDs? Should we now just pull out and cause another Cambodian-class catastrophe?

  7. Dean Scourtes says:

    ChrisB – Don’t you agree, however, that peace and stability in Iraq cannot be won by force of arms alone, but through political settlement?

    What diplomatic efforts have been undertaken to bring about a political settlement? Do you see any signs that Iraq’s various factions are moving closer to agrrement on key issues? That would be the evidence of an improving situation.

    In my earlier post (still held for moderation) I quoted the recomendations of the Iraq Study Group. Here they are again:

    “The United States should embark on a robust diplomatic effort to establish an international support structure intended to stabilize Iraq and ease tensions in other countries in the region. This support structure should include every country that has an interest in averting a chaotic Iraq, including all of Iraq’s neighbors–Iran and Syria among them. Despite the well-known differences between many of these countries, they all share an interest in avoiding the horrific consequences that would flow from a chaotic Iraq, particularly a humanitarian catastrophe and regional destabilization.” (page 43)

    “There is no action the American military can take that, by itself, can bring about success in Iraq.” (page 70)

    Source: “Iraq Study Group Report”, The Washington Post, December 6, 2006;
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/12/06/AR2006120601133.html

  8. DeanS, Yes, I agree that peace and stability in Iraq cannot be achieved by force alone but must heavily rely on a political solution. Unfortunately, until the deadly campaigns by radical Islamists and terrorist groups are brought under control, no effective political solution will be enough. I do believe there have been many ongoing efforts to deal with the political situation (don’t have time to research them all), but the death, terror and mayhem pepetrated by the terrorists have continually disrupted them and undermined the good done. You cannot negotiate with death and terror loving monsters. Once they are erradicated and marginalized the political process will indeed be given a real chance.

  9. Dean Scourtes says:

    ChrisB – I also agree with you that the US military’s improved relations with the Sunni tribesmen, which has helped marginalize and flush out the Al Qaeda fighters has been a success of the recent surge. However, this success has to be followed by others, like better relations between the Sunnis and Shiites and an integrated and effective Iraqi army, or else it will be short-lived.

    I strongly urge you to read the book “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq” by Thomas Ricks, which recounts the mistakes made during the early stages of the occupation. See “From Planning to Warfare to Occupation, How Iraq Went Wrong” for a book review.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/25/books/25kaku.html

    By far, the largest blunder was the decision by Paul Bremer to disband the Iraqi Army and fire all of the Baathist party members in Iraq’s government bureaucracy. Bremer’s predecessor, Jay Garner, had argued streneuously in favor of keeping the Iraqi army to provide security for reconstruction projects and had also said that only the top tier of Baathists should be fired since all the other bureaucrats had been compelled to join the party and were needed to keep Iraq’s government functioning.

    Bremer’s decision to disband the Iraqi army suddenly created 300,000 angry, idle men with military training, access to weapons and ammunition and a huge sense of wounded national pride. The vast majority of the original insurgents came from the ranks of the disbanded soldiers. The Al Qaeda foreign fighters were always a small, if extremely violent and dangerous, minority.

  10. Jim Holman says:

    Chris B. writes: “Jim, This story was not prompted or made by the administration so your comment: “In the point of view of the current administration, we’re always winning. If attacks increase, that’s proof of the desperation of the enemy.” has nothing to do with points made by Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu.”

    Fair enough. Let me say that the story bears a certain family resemblance to the many reports of progress that have been made throughout the years.

    Chris B.: “He was simply stating that the surge has provided positive results, has reduces casualties, and has significanly reduced terrorist attacks.”

    I’m not sure what the surge is responsible for vs. other things that may be happening on the ground. I get the impression that a lot of Iraqis are simply getting tired of butchering each other and being butchered. I hope that is the case, because if so, that would be even more important than what the surge may accomplish. The surge is temporary; one hopes that the reduction in casualties is permanent.

    Chris B.: “Also, please stay on topic. The story does not discuss whether it was a good idea for us to liberate Iraq without carefully thinking through the consequences.”

    Well . . . That’s not a point that I made. Perhaps you’re reading between the lines. If so, you are correct that that is my view, though I did not state it as such.

    Chris B.: “It simply discusses the progress made today and some of the good results.”

    Let’s review the concept behind the surge. First, the surge was not designed to “kill the bad guys.” Killing the bad guys may occur, but that was not the purpose behind the surge. Nor was the surge designed to take and occupy territory. In the words of one of Gen. Petraeus’ assistants, “the people are the territory.” The surge was designed to protect the people, to separate them from their attackers. Rather than having U.S. troops drive by neighborhoods in vehicles they would be stationed in neighborhoods. Through providing more protection to the people and thus reducing the cycle of violence, the Iraqi political leaders would be encouraged to clean up the corruption of the government, to reduce the militia influence in the police and armed forces, and to work toward political solutions.

    As far as the political results, those have been disappointing. But — attacks on civilians are down, not as much as we would like, but down, and that is a good thing. Most interesting to me, it appears that attacks are down even where we did not “surge.” That leads me to believe that there is perhaps some more fundamental — and important — change happening. As I said before, it is possible that Iraqis are getting tired of killing each other. I hope that’s the case.

    Whether or not the surge accomplished all that we wanted, I was glad that we FINALLY had an actual counter-insurgency strategy in Iraq. But at this point, having been fed so much “positive” news in the past, I reserve judgment on where all of this will eventually end up. I want to see what happens when the U.S. force level is reduced. The political things that we hoped for have not happened. (Remember when we “surged,” and the Iraqi politicians went on vacation?)

    Chris B.: “On the other hand are you then also stating that it was better for the Iraqis to live under Saddam,” & etc.

    Perhaps you confuse me with someone else? None of that is in my post. Frankly, I don’t know how we could even make that comparison. The big winner as a result of our involvement in Iraq is Iran.

    Chris B.: ” . . . that erradicating Al Qaeda and other terrorists by the thousands and keeping them busy in the Middle East and away from our homeland are are not positive and worthy results, even given the mistaken beliefs regarding WMDs?”

    Well, there’s no evidence that Al Qaeda terrorists in Iraq would have come here. Surely the home-grown Iraqi insurgents would not have come here. What we have done in Iraq is to give potential terrorists a graduate school education in how to fight a conventional army. In any unconventional war, we learn how to fight the enemy. Conversely, they learn how to fight us. Terrorists and insurgents now have experience in how to go up against a conventional army, and that knowledge is portable.