Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Hollow Men

You can almost follow the bouncing ball here. Yesterday this story was in London. Tonight, it's in Newseek. By tomorrow morning, it will be on TV and the radio. For Broadway productions, they call it "opening out of town." In politics, it's called a "trial balloon:"

The distinction between insurgents and terrorists is one of the key principles in the document, and is in response to Sunni politicians' demands that the "national resistance" should not be punished for what they see as legitimate self-defense in attacks against a foreign occupying power. Principle No. 19 calls for "Recognizing the legitimacy of the national resistance and differentiating or separating it from terrorism" while "encouraging the national resistance to enroll in the political process and recognizing the necessity of the participation of the national resistance in the national reconciliation dialogue."
So, this is it? We told ourselves we were not an occupying force, that we would be greeted as liberators, we were told that the people killing our soldiers are "insurgents" who might as well be "terrorists," and yet the Iraqi government we put in place wants to distinguish between insurgents and terrorists, and will announce a plan tomorrow that does just that?

The 19 Senators are starting to look prescient. This is, indeed, how we have to do it. Iraq has to stand on its own, have a government of its own, and treat its people as it wishes to. But either our troops have simply been a fire support base to draw the terrorists out ("flypaper," with human beings as the "paper"), or they have been provoking the insurgency, and the sooner they are withdrawn, the sooner the violence ends. In fact, our presence is actually helping the Sunnis:

"The Sunnis have only one card to play, the insurgency," says the senior coalition official. "They don't have enough population and they're not sitting on any of the resources. Therefore their political identity is almost entirely defined by the insurgency."
So the longer our soldiers stay, the more reason we give them to fight us. (This would also be true if we insist on maintaining permanent military bases there, something these articles never mention. When is a "pullt out" not a "pull out"? We may find out before long.) But haven't we been saying this all along? Haven't we said the presence of our troops is the reason for the fighting? Hasn't Jack Murtha said that? Whither now, Tom Friedman, David Brooks, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly? When the country itself is willing to forgive those who kill our soldiers, why are we staying a moment longer?

What's Dick Cheney gonna say about this? And then there's the other issue of sovereignty (and notice who the Iraqis are looking to for a solution):

The plan also calls for a withdrawal timetable for coalition forces from Iraq, but it doesn't specify an actual date—one of the Sunnis' key demands. It calls for "the necessity of agreeing on a timetable under conditions that take into account the formation of Iraqi armed forces so as to guarantee Iraq's security," and asks that a U.N. Security Council decree confirm the timetable. Mahmoud Othman, a National Assembly member who is close to President Talabani, said that no one disagrees with the concept of a broad, conditions-based timetable. The problem is specifying a date, which the United States has rejected as playing into the insurgents' hands. But Othman didn't rule out that reconciliation negotiations called for in the plan might well lead to setting a date. "That will be a problem between the Iraqi government and the other side [the insurgents], and we will see how it goes. It's not very clear yet."
What is going to keep the Democrats from simply saying now: "See? They're a sovereign government, and they want a date set for removal of our troops, and the biggest problem with our troops being there is it inflames the insurgency, so...why aren't we leaving, Mr. President?"

And here's the unkindest cut of all:

The devil will likely be in the details. Everyone agrees for instance that a bomb set off in a mosque is terrorism. But if a roadside bomb is set off targeting soldiers, but killing innocent bystanders—is that resistance, or terrorism? "A lot will depend on the exact wording," says Othman.
Bush's idea of justice, when al Zarqawi was killed, was plainly stated: "kill the bad guys." No word how that concept of delivering justice via 500 lb. bombs from six miles up was received by the Iragis in the neighborhood, some of whom might themselves have been killed had the timing been less favourable. But where is justice now, for our soldiers? Well, now we have to accept that it doesn't matter. Now we have to accept that they died for...for what, actually? So I could type this blog? So you could read it? So we could pray on Sunday morning, worship in the church or our choice, or in the synagogue on Saturday night, or in some other way, or not at all? Really? Saddam Hussein threatened that? How, exactly?

"Give war a chance," said Thomas Friedman. "Give war a chance." And by golly, we did.

This is the way the war ends
This is the way the war ends
This is the way the war ends
Not with a bang, but a whimper.

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