“The Surge” was a Success?

I never intended to start writing a political blog.  I really don’t want to.  I don’t feel that I have any particularly valuable insights into the process, and I certainly don’t believe that what anybody writes in any blog anywhere will change anywhere near enough minds to change the outcome of the election.  And besides, don’t the Republicans already have the electronic voting machines fixed for the upcoming election?

Now me personally, I have no idea if “the Surge” worked or not.  I’ve never been to Iraq.  I did live in Kuwait in 1995, and I have seen the border of the no-man’s-land with Kuwait.  I suppose that in Sarah Palinland that makes me an expert on foreign affairs. But in reality, I don’t have a clue as to whether or not “the Surge” worked. To answer that I would have to know what it was supposed to do – and I’d probably have to know why we are in Iraq in the first place. As far as I was told by my government we went into Iraq for two reasons: a) to topple Suddam Hussein and b) to remove the Weapons of Mass Destruction. As far as I can figure out Hussein was captured long before “the Surge” and we still haven’t found those WMDs. So at least as far as I can reason it out “the Surge” did not help accomplish our twofold reasoning for being in Iraq. But I digress. Let’s get back to Vets for Freedom and their TV ad.

I don’t know anything about the organization Vets for Freedom other than they run a political ad on local TV here quite a bit.  Since I don’t know anything about Vets for Freedom I’ll assume that they are a fine, upstanding organization doing wonderfully good things for people and the country.

But their ad, I Am The Surge, has raised my already too high blood pressure. If you haven’t seen this bit of media wizardry, you can click here to watch it. Go ahead, we’ll wait. If you haven’t got the whole minute to spare watching the ad, basically it says that Barack Obama did not support “the Surge” and does not think that it worked. That may be the closest thing to the truth that I’ve heard from the whacko, nut job, right since the campaign began.

But once you get beyond that basic premise, reality takes a hard left turn into cloud cuckoo land. A prime example of this would be the statement from a young Combat Infantryman, Travis Quinlan. Now first of all, I want to thank all of the veterans in this advertisement – and really all veterans – for their service to our country. I have not, and will not, belittle or denigrate any serviceman or woman for their service. But young Mr. Quinlan is either in possession of far more knowledge of the situation in Iraq than anybody knew, or he is simply misinformed. Mr. Quinlan states “I saw al-Qaeda decimated.”

As far as I can tell, nobody knows for sure how many organization in occupied Iraq are really part of al-Qaeda, or how many people belong to those organizations. The closest thing I can find to an answer is here. But Mr. Quinlan must know those answers. Because he has seen “al-Qaeda decimated.” The best agreed upon definition of decimated is the “killing of one in ten.” So, in order to truly sustain his claim of seeing “al-Qaeda decimated” Mr. Quinlan has to know how many al-Qaeda members were in Iraq and he has to have an accurate count of how many were killed. I’m sure that Mr. Quinlan is a fine, exemplary Combat Infantryman – but I somehow doubt that he has this kind of intelligence knowledge.

But you know what? All of that isn’t what bothers me the most about this ad. The ad closes with a telephone number to call to urge Barack Obama to support Senate Resolution 636. The call for support isn’t even the thing that bother me the most.

No, what really gets my goat is that Senators Graham and Lieberman – having solved all of the other crisis conditions in our country like Health Care, the failing banking system, the collapse of the housing market, etc. have time to work on legislation like this. What is Senate Resolution 636? Senate Resolution 636 simply declares that “the Surge” was a success.

Let me say that again – Senate Resolution 636 declares that “the Surge” was a success.

I was unaware that you could simply pass legislation to determine the success or failure of an event in the real world. I mean that would be like the President having the ability to declare “Mission Accomplished.”

Do these two fine Senators really think that the American public is so dumb that we’ll swallow the idea that saying something makes it so? And do they really think that they have done such a fine job running the country that they have time for this nonsense?

I think that I’m going to stop blogging for the moment and go write letters to Senators Graham and Lieberman suggesting that they stop the nonsense and get back to work. Maybe I’ll even send one to Vets for Freedom and ask if they can’t find a real cause to support instead of this nonsense.



6 comments on ““The Surge” was a Success?

  1. XP says:

    Tell your people in Congress to amend the resolution to include the following:
    A. The people who opposed invading Iraq were RIGHT
    B. Even though Bush said Iraq would be a “beacon of democracy,” it is still not free, Saudi Arabia is still not free, and several nations have been taken over by hard-liners since the invasion of Iraq happened
    C. The Bush Administration’s pre-surge strategy was a failure
    D. An apology to Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame, and United Nations employees who had their phones tapped to see how they would vote on the Resolution 1441

  2. Terry says:

    Who Lost Iraq?
    The client state that the Bush administration has spent so many years and hundreds of billions of dollars creating, nurturing, and defending has shown increasing disloyalty and lack of gratitude, as well as an ever stronger urge to go its own way, says Michael Schwartz.

    10 September 2008 (Middle East Online)

    Is the Maliki Government Jumping Off the American Ship of State?
    As the Bush administration was entering office in 2000, Donald Rumsfeld exuberantly expressed its grandiose ambitions for Middle East domination, telling a National Security Council meeting: “Imagine what the region would look like without Saddam and with a regime that’s aligned with US interests. It would change everything in the region and beyond.”
    A few weeks later, Bush speechwriter David Frum offered an even more exuberant version of the same vision to the New York Times Magazine: “An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein, and the replacement of the radical Baathist dictatorship with a new government more closely aligned with the United States, would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans.”
    From the moment on May 1, 2003, when the President declared “major combat operations… ended” on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, such exuberant administration statements have repeatedly been deflated by events on the ground. Left unsaid through all the twists and turns in Iraq has been this: Whatever their disappointments, administration officials never actually gave up on their grandiose ambitions. Through thick and thin, Washington has sought to install a regime “aligned with US interests” — a government ready to cooperate in establishing the United States as the predominant power in the Middle East.
    Recently, with significantly lower levels of violence in Iraq extending into a second year, Washington insiders have begun crediting themselves with — finally — a winning strategy (a claim neatly punctured by Juan Cole, among other Middle East experts). In this context, actual Bush policy aims have, once again, emerged more clearly, but so has the administration’s striking and continual failure to implement them — thanks to the Iraqis.
    In the past few weeks, the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has made it all too clear that, in the long run, it has little inclination to remain “aligned with US interests” in the region. In fact, we may be witnessing a classic “tipping point,” a moment when Washington’s efforts to dominate the Middle East are definitively deep-sixed.
    The client state that the Bush administration has spent so many years and hundreds of billions of dollars creating, nurturing, and defending has shown increasing disloyalty and lack of gratitude, as well as an ever stronger urge to go its own way. Under the pressure of Iraqi politics, Maliki has moved strongly in the direction of a nationalist position on two key issues: the continuing American occupation of the country and the future of Iraqi oil. In the process, he has sought to distance his government from the Bush administration and to establish congenial relationships, if not an outright alliance, with Washington’s international adversaries, including the Bush administration’s mortal enemy, Iran.
    Withdrawal Becomes an Official Issue
    Perhaps the most dramatic symbol of this new independence is the Iraqi government’s resistance to a Washington proposal for a “status of forces agreement” (SOFA) that would allow for a permanent and uninhibited US military presence in Iraq.
    With the impending expiration of the UN resolutions that gave legal cover to the US military presence in Iraq, the SOFA negotiations are crucial. They began with a proposal that expressed the full extent of Washington’s ambitions to utilize Iraq as the base for making the US “more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe even the Romans.” The proposal first leaked to the press in June 2008 was essentially a major land grab, including provisions like the following that would not have seemed out of place in a nineteenth century colonial treaty:
    *An indefinite number of US troops would remain in Iraq indefinitely, stationed on up to 58 bases in locations determined by the United States.
    *These troops would be allowed to mount attacks on any target inside Iraq without the permission of, or even notification to, Iraqi authorities.
    *US military and civilian authorities would be free to use Iraqi territory to mount attacks against any of Iraq’s neighbors without permission from the Iraqi government.
    *The US would control Iraqi airspace up to 30,000 feet, freeing the US Air Force to strike as it wishes inside Iraq and creating the basis for the use of, or passage through, Iraq’s air space for planes bent on attacking other countries.
    *The US military and its private contractors would be immune from Iraqi law, even for actions unrelated to their military duties.
    *Iraq’s defense, interior, and national security ministries (and all of Iraq’s arms purchases) would be under US supervision for 10 years.
    When leaked (clearly by Iraqis involved in the negotiations), this proposal generated opposition across the political spectrum from parliament to the streets. It was even denounced by the usually silent Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential Shia Ayatollah. Soon, Prime Minister Maliki made clear his own rejection of the proposal, setting in motion a chaotic negotiating process in which the Iraqis seem to have argued vehemently for a more modest, briefer US presence, as well as a definite deadline for full withdrawal — a proposal that was anathema to the Bush administration.
    By early August, when the details of a new proposal endorsed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began to leak out, it was clear that US negotiators had given way, granting significant concessions to the Iraqi side. According to Iraqi insiders, the new draft agreement called for US troops to be completely withdrawn from Iraqi cities, where most of the fighting usually takes place, by the summer of 2009. All US troops — not just the “combat” troops usually mentioned when Democrats talk about withdrawal timelines in Iraq — would have to be gone by the end of 2011.
    If the leaked draft were implemented, the US would leave behind those 58 bases, including the five massive “enduring” bases into which the Bush administration has poured billions of dollars. Moreover, the unhindered scope of action Washington had originally demanded for its forces would be dramatically limited: The US would not have the right to attack other countries from Iraqi soil, its ability to conduct operations within Iraq would be circumscribed, and immunity from prosecution would be restricted to US military personnel (and then only when they were participating in approved military actions).
    Symptomatic of the loosening US grip on its Iraqi client government were the reactions of the two sides to the leaked provisions of the new version of the agreement. Secretary of State Rice declared it “acceptable” and explained uneasily that the timeline proposed was not the sort of fixed withdrawal date that the Bush administration had long adamantly rejected, but an “aspirational” “time horizon” that would depend on “conditions” in Iraq.
    Maliki, in all likelihood responding to the fervor of public protests to Rice’s comments, immediately declared the agreement unacceptable unless the deadline for withdrawal was time-based and unconditional. In a well publicized speech to a gathering of tribal sheiks, he said that any agreement must be based on the principle that “no foreign soldier remains in Iraq after a specific deadline, not an open time frame.” In further clarifying his remarks, a key aide told the Associated Press that “the last American soldiers must leave Iraq by the end of 2011, regardless of conditions at the time.”
    The latest reports suggest that a further round of secret negotiations had restored some US demands, including full immunity for American soldiers (but not mercenary fighters), and application of the withdrawal deadline to combat troops only. Such concessions by Maliki, however, appeared certain to trigger another round of protest and resistance in the streets and in the Iraqi Parliament.
    Whatever their outcome, the still-unfinished negotiations point to something quite new in the relationship between the two governments. Until recently, the Iraqi leadership faithfully sought to enact whatever policies the Bush administration favored (though its capacity to implement them was always in question). With the proposed SOFA, this posture disappeared, replaced by a clear antagonism to Washington’s desires. With its formidable weapons (including 146,000 soldiers on the ground), Washington is bound to win at least some of these confrontations, but what we may be seeing is the end of the dream of a regime “closely aligned” with US policies.
    The Re-emergence of Oil Nationalism
    Nothing better highlights this transformation than oil policy. From the beginning of its occupation of Iraq, the Bush administration sought to quadruple Iraqi oil production by delivering control of the industry to the major international oil companies. Once given free rein to act on their own discretion, Washington policymakers believed that the oil majors would invest vast sums in modernizing existing fields, activate undeveloped reserves using the most advanced technology available, and discover major new fields utilizing state-of-the-art exploration and extraction methods.
    Up until 2007, the Iraqi government was an active ally in this enterprise, even though the vast majority of Iraqis — including the powerful oil workers union, the religious leadership, and a majority of Parliament — vehemently opposed these plans, demanding instead that control of the industry remain in government hands. In 2004, the US-appointed Iraqi government enthusiastically endorsed an International Monetary Fund agreement that mandated the development of major Iraqi oil reserves by international oil companies. When those companies found the legal basis for such investment too fragile to risk vast sums of capital, the Iraqi government (surrounded by American advisors) immediately began work on an oil law that would presumably provide a more secure foundation for their investment. In the meantime, informal advice was accepted from the oil majors, whose technicians were placed in charge of various engineering operations within the country.
    In 2007, when the oil law was finally delivered to the Iraqi Parliament, it met with unremitting opposition. The always strong oil unions immediately began a ferocious resistance campaign that stalled the law.
    None of these developments altered the Bush administration’s determination to push the law through. They did not, however, anticipate that the Maliki administration itself would become a further source of opposition. As Charles Ries told journalists on leaving his position as US Economic Ambassador to Iraq in August 2008 after a year of failure, “When I got here… I was quite optimistic it was only a month or two [before the petroleum bill would be passed, but the] more I understood what the real issues were… it was clear this was going to be a major political challenge.”
    While Ries was on the job, even the leadership of the Ministry of Oil, until then a pro-American bastion, went into opposition. One symptom of this was its failure to complete five no-bid contracts (that did not include either investment or extraction rights) with oil consortia led by the usual suspects — Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Total, and Chevron — designed to increase Iraqi production by 500,000 barrels per day. Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahrastani told the Wall Street Journal that a key reason for the faltering negotiations was the desire of the oil companies for “preferential treatment for future oil-exploration deals.” This comment, like the faltering negotiations, hinted at the abandonment of the Bush administration’s long-desired version of Iraqi oil policy.
    The new attitude was underscored when the Oil Ministry revived a Saddam-era agreement with the China National Petroleum Corporation, which was now granted a $3 billion contract to develop the Ahdab oil field. Given the growing US-China rivalry over the control of foreign oil sources, the symbolism of this act couldn’t have been clearer — especially since the earlier contract had been unceremoniously canceled by the United States at the beginning of the occupation in 2003. No less important, this was a “service contract” whose terms did not follow US guidelines calling for the reduction or elimination of Iraqi government control of the oil industry.
    Soon after announcing this new agreement, Oil Minister Shahrastani offered what might be seen as a declaration of oil policy independence. “[Global] oil supplies,” he declared, “meet and may slightly exceed current world demand.” The world, that is, had plenty of oil, and so there was, he insisted, no global need to rush pell-mell into oil development agreements that might not, in the long run, be of use to Iraq.
    This represented an attack on the fundamental premise of US oil policy — that, as Vice President Cheney told an oil industry gathering back in 1999, “By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East, with two-thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.”
    Significantly, back in 2001 — and before 9/11 — the Cheney Energy Task Force, working with the National Security Council, would make this commitment the centerpiece of administration Middle Eastern policy, defining the world situation as one in which the supply of oil must be drastically increased to meet the demand for an “additional fifty million barrels a day.”
    Oil-producing countries of the Middle East never embraced Cheney’s analysis and consistently resisted US efforts to encourage, induce, or coerce dramatic increases in oil production. Instead, they viewed the “shortage” of oil as a natural result of market forces, beneficial to their own economies.
    With the success of the US invasion, the Iraqi government threatened to become a maverick among the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), endorsing US supported plans that, theoretically, would have quadrupled Iraqi production within 10 years. So Shahrastani’s comments were a signal that Iraq was rejoining OPEC’s ranks and potentially opening a new era in post-invasion Iraqi politics in which the government he represented would no longer be a reliable ally of the United States.
    A Nail in the Coffin of American Defeat?
    Implicit in these actions is a new attitude toward, and assessment of, the US presence in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki and his cohorts appear to have adopted the viewpoint of journalist Nir Rosen that “the Americans are just one more militia,” just the most powerful of the rogue forces that they have to manage and eventually eliminate.
    As the Iraqi government accumulates an expanding lake of petrodollars and finds ways to shake them loose from the clutches of US banks and US government administrators, its leaders will have the resources to pursue policies that reflect their own goals. The decline in violence, taken in the US as a sign of American “success,” has actually accelerated this process. It has made the Maliki regime feel ever less dependent for its survival on the American presence, while strengthening internal and regional forces resistant or antagonistic to Washington’s Middle East ambitions.
    The respected Iraqi newspaper Azzaman pointed to one of these forces in a recent editorial: “Iran has emerged as the country’s top trading partner. Its firms are present in the Kurdish north and southern Iraq carrying out projects worth billions of dollars. Iranian goods are the most conspicuous merchandise in Iraqi shops. Iraq, though occupied and administered by America, has grown to be so dependent on Iran that some analysts see it as a satellite state of Tehran.”
    To support this contention, Azzaman asserted: “The Ministry of Oil and other key portfolios such the Ministry of Interior and Finance are in the hands of pro-Iran Shiite factions.” Citing Oil Ministry sources, it suggested that recent changes in oil policy actually reflected Iranian pressure to “exclude US oil majors from contracts to develop the country’s massive oil fields.”
    Azzaman may be overemphasizing Iranian influence, since there are myriad internal Iraqi influences that continue to press against Washington’s desire for a client regime. Parliament, the Sunni and Shia religious leaderships, powerful unions, and the Sunni and Shia insurgencies have all registered broad opposition to continued US presence and influence.
    As all this occurs, US leverage over the Iraqi government, though still formidable, is in decline. The Bush administration — or its soon-to-be elected successor — may face a difficult dilemma: whether to accept some version of the withdrawal demands of the Iraqi government or re-escalate the war in yet one more attempt to create a government that is “aligned with US interests.” The recent declaration by the Pentagon that only the most modest of troop reductions is militarily feasible in the foreseeable future may be a symptom of this dilemma. Without a full complement of US troops, after all, it will be increasingly difficult to convince the Maliki regime to re-embrace policies favored by Washington.
    The question remains: Can anything reverse the centripetal forces pulling Iraq from Washington’s orbit? Will the President’s “surge” strategy prove to have been the nail in the coffin of its hopes for US dominance in the Middle East?
    If this turns out to be the case, then watch out domestically. The inevitable controversy over “who lost Iraq” — an echo of those earlier controversies over “who lost China” and “who lost Vietnam” — is bound to be on the way.
    Michael Schwartz’s new book, War Without End: The Iraq Debacle in Context (Haymarket, 2008), will be released later this month. It explains just how the militarized geopolitics of oil led the US to dismantle the Iraqi state and economy while fueling sectarian civil war inside that country. A professor of sociology at Stony Brook State University, Schwartz has written extensively on popular protest and insurgency. His work on Iraq has appeared in numerous outlets, including TomDispatch, Asia Times, Mother Jones, and Contexts. His email address is ms42@optonline.net.
    Copyright 2008 Michael Schwartz

  3. anonymous says:

    Your an idiot! Don’t be so literal about decimate jackass. Just b-cuz you were in Kuwate 20 years ago doesn’t mean that you now shit! If our vets say that they kicked the shit of al-kida then they did. If 2 of our best sentors say that we kicked the shit out of Iraq then we did. If they say the surge worked then who are you to say different. 2 of our best senators say it worked, who cares what an ignorant muslem community organizer says! Grow up and get with it!

  4. Alex Peter Cwalinski says:

    Great Blog! You have great insight, it seems almost better than the President himself. Having served in Iraq and at the moment in Afghanistan I would have to disagree with my fellow service member Mr. Quinlan.

    I would never make such a bold statement as he, but I will say that it appears we are on a wild goose chase with the terrorists. First Afghanistan, than supposedly Iraq, and now Afghanistan again.

    I will also say that the military is stretched too thin. The strongest military in the world shouldn’t have to recruit more people with criminal records or stop-loss a service members contract after they have served honorably.

    If anything Vets For Freedom should be more concerned about those two issues instead of a bill that would make their party look good.

  5. […] my recent post “The Surge” was a Success? changed that just a bit for me. While it isn’t my most popular post ever with 51 views (Jesus […]

  6. BlogJot says:

    This response to your excellent post is either a really, really sly parody…or it’s a perfect example of why I’m so overjoyed that the era of Bush-like stupidity is finally coming to a close.

    On September 20, 2008 at 10:15 pm anonymous Said:

    Your an idiot! Don’t be so literal about decimate jackass. Just b-cuz you were in Kuwate 20 years ago doesn’t mean that you now shit! If our vets say that they kicked the shit of al-kida then they did. If 2 of our best sentors say that we kicked the shit out of Iraq then we did. If they say the surge worked then who are you to say different. 2 of our best senators say it worked, who cares what an ignorant muslem community organizer says! Grow up and get with it!

    I honestly can’t tell which it is. Every single sentence has grammatical and/or spelling errors, not to mention the content! It’s too perfectly ignorant to be real.

    Isn’t it?

    Anyway, nice article. I stumbled upon your blog when googling the phrase “The Surge Was A Success?” which it also the title of the one and only post on my own accidental blog: http://kevjot.blogspot.com

    I was curious if search engines had found it but found yours instead.

    Well done.


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