Thursday, March 09, 2006

Who's Exaggerating What Now, Rummy?

I'm shocked to report, as a follow up to yesterday's post, that Rumsfeld was either grossly misinformed or lying about the level of violence in Iraq lately. I lean towards the latter, mainly because it's easier for me to sleep at night believing Bush and Rumsfeld to be mendacious than to believe they are this utterly incompetent. As it turns out, it appears the level of violence following the Golden Dome bombing hasn't been quite so sedate as previously reported (from the Washington Post, via SusanG at Dkos):

Official Says Shiite Party Suppressed Body Count
By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, March 9, 2006; A01

BAGHDAD, March 8 -- Days after the bombing of a Shiite shrine unleashed a wave of retaliatory killings of Sunnis, the leading Shiite party in Iraq's governing coalition directed the Health Ministry to stop tabulating execution-style shootings, according to a ministry official familiar with the recording of deaths.

The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because he feared for his safety, said a representative of the Shiite party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, ordered that government hospitals and morgues catalogue deaths caused by bombings or clashes with insurgents, but not by execution-style shootings.

A statement this week by the U.N. human rights department in Baghdad appeared to support the account of the Health Ministry official. The agency said it had received information about Baghdad's main morgue -- where victims of fatal shootings are taken -- that indicated "the current acting director is under pressure by the Interior Ministry in order not to reveal such information and to minimize the number of casualties."

It appears the new government of Iraq has learned quite a bit from its American neo-conservative supporters. It doesn't matter if the violence has escalated as long as they can make people believe that it hasn't. The facts are irrelevant. Just cover up the truth and then loudly proclaim what you wish the truth to be, while wrapping yourself in the symbols of nationalism. It's worked for Bush and Rummy; no doubt it will also work for the Iraqi government as well.

This story also clears up why Fox News was reporting a few weeks ago that the Washington Post had misconstrued the casualty numbers following the Golden Dome bombing. No big surprise that Fox News is carrying water for the conservative belief in the Magic Democratic Kingdom of Iraq that the Liberal Media is Hiding, but it does settle why there was such a discrepancy. Not that it will matter to the viewers of Fox News of course. They have their Iraq narrative and no amount of factual investigative reporting is going to shake their ignorant certainty. As far as they're concerned, it's all media bias anyway. I'm sure Fox News, Newsmax, The New Republic, Men's News Daily, the Right Blogosphere and so on, will begin reporting all that wonderful good news from Iraq that the rest of the world isn't hearing any time now. Any time...

On a related note, a group calling itself Vote NO to Cut and Run has popped up in Madison and one of their members, Bill Richardson, graced WPR this morning for a rousing hour of "Name That Republican Talking Point". I have a slight bit of respect for this gentleman after hearing him defend the Iraq war, if only because he's one of the few conservatives I've heard who is willing to admit that Iraq is just a retro-fit of Vietnam. See, according to this Anti-Cut n' Run group, pulling out of Iraq would be a mistake, just like pulling out of Vietnam was a mistake. Apparently if we'd only just sacrificed a few hundred thousand more American G.I.'s, then Vietnam could have been the big win conservatives so desperately crave. He of course used all the same tired conservative talking points: the media is biased, no reporting of the "good news" from Iraq, Zogby is biased, anti-war is anti-military, etc. Nothing new under the sun here, especially if you remember the early 1970's. Sadly, I lost that little bit of respect from earlier in the paragraph when I realized that Richardson's group doesn't have the guts to actually put any contact information on their site.

My biggest objection to this group, which was formed to combat anti-war referendums hitting the ballots in 30 Wisconsin towns this year, and others like it is the use of obtuse jingoism like "cut n' run". It seems to be a personal favorite of the pro-war conservative crowd back here in the States. You know, the place where they aren't fighting the war they worship. This is another iteration of the view that our military is kind of like a national sports team, in that while conservatives don't really want to get out on the field and play, they also don't want their "team" to lose. So they throw up moronic ideas like "cut n' run" to lend some sort of macho glamour to the horror of war, as if thousands of people haven't lost their lives for this folly.

What's so frightening about this particular conservative nonsense is that it leads to a never ending state of war. If conservatives think we should support the mission because our troops are involved, then by default that means we're supposed to support ANY military action anywhere if U.S. soldiers are involved. (Funny how that didn't apply when Clinton was in office, but I digress.) That's a complete abdication of any and all civic responsibility for the actions of our government; ironic, coming from the "party of personal responsibility". This is why the military has civilian oversight. At some point, it is the responsibility of the elected civilian leadership, and by extension, the American people, to stand up and decide when the mission is no longer feasible. We cannot allow, as conservatives want to, every military action to become its own justification. Supporting the troops means using the military in a responsible manner, as Bush certainly has not done, and having the courage to admit when our foreign policy goals are no longer militarily achievable, as not one conservative coward in America has the guts to do.

Iraq may become a peaceful democracy one day and I certainly hope it does. Between the British occupation, the Ba'athist regime and now the U.S. invasion and occupation, the people of Iraq have more than earned some peace and prosperity. But the reality is that the United States military cannot make that happen by military force. We cannot drop enough bombs or kill enough insurgents or patrol enough streets to ever bring about that change in Iraq. That's what we in the anti-war crowd have know all along and what conservative war hawks need to understand. We cannot force a positive change on other countries at the point of a gun. The world is far, far more complex than the "we're the good guys, they're the bad guys" comic book rhetoric of conservatives. Foreign policy and world politics requires a more *gasp* nuanced understanding than just "shock n' awe!". Our military cannot create a liberal democracy in Iraq, no matter how much anyone believes in that noble goal. It's time to bring them home and look for a better way to help the Iraqi people.

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