As the Bush Administration presses to extend the surge, what will Democrats in Congress do? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll.
As Congress gathers to hear the reports of Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker, no amount of Administration spin can hide the ugly reality in Iraq. A surge that should never have been tried and that could never have succeeded has predictably failed. While violence in some parts of Baghdad has declined to June 2006 levels, the number of deaths from political violence has increased in Iraq as a whole. Ethnic cleansing has proceeded apace, and the humanitarian catastrophe, already staggering, has worsened. Some 2.5 million Iraqis are now refugees in neighboring countries. Another 2 million are internally displaced. And despite Bush Administration claims to the contrary, most of Iraq’s cities and towns still lack regular electricity, sanitation and other basic services, and suffer from economic depression. Up to half of Iraqis are unemployed.
The stated purpose of the surge was to create enough security in and around Baghdad to give Iraqi politicians breathing room to pursue reconciliation. But with the exception of some very minor recent concessions on de-Baathification, the Shiite-led government has stuck to positions that have prevented most Sunnis from participating in the government. Moreover, it is increasingly difficult to speak of an Iraqi government that has power or authority outside Baghdad’s Green Zone. Real power resides with the militias on the ground, which are competing for resources and influence throughout much of Iraq. Even within the Green Zone, some seventeen ministries have withdrawn their support from the government and increasingly act as independent fiefdoms handing out resources to loyal constituents.
The surge has done nothing to change this–in large part because the United States, despite its sizable military and substantial economic largesse, is powerless to coerce or cajole change in the centers of power. Any gains the surge has produced may be gone tomorrow, like a footprint washed away by the tide.
The surge has thus been a cruel hoax on the American people and on our servicemen and -women (more than 600 of whom have been killed and 4,000 injured since the surge was announced). It is yet another Administration bid to stave off public pressure to withdraw and thus to avoid admitting failure. This irresponsibility–this morally indefensible sacrifice of American and Iraqi lives in pursuit of unachievable goals–must end. The Iraq War has long been lost, and it is time to bring it to a close. We continue to believe that a complete withdrawal of US forces, carried out as quickly as possible, is the best course of action for the United States, Iraq and the region.
The question before Congress and the nation should not be whether to give the surge more time but how best to end the occupation. So far the Administration has been able to thwart Congressional efforts to force a withdrawal–first with the surge and now with its dire warnings of a disaster in store for Iraq, the region and US interests if we withdraw. Also troubling, several Democratic presidential candidates seem to have bought into these worst-case scenarios and have begun to slow their timetable for withdrawal, adding new conditions for a pullout. Some are even calling for keeping a sizable residual force in Iraq or neighboring countries indefinitely. Congress must resist White House claims about the surge’s “success” and deny additional funds for the occupation, instead pursuing reconciliation and reconstruction, at home and abroad. As the Administration presses its PR offensive for an extended surge and open-ended occupation, it is critically important that we let our representatives know we’re fed up with the war and want the troops home–now. Otherwise, Congress is unlikely to buck White House pressure.