Just in time for the elections, Bush orchestrates some “good news” in Iraq—the announcement of a pull-out of 8,000 troops early in ’09 (NYT, Sept. 9), and the beginning of a turn-over of control of Anbar province and responsibility for paying and “directing” the Awakening Council militias to the Iraqi government (NYT, Sept. 1). Both these developments are not as rosy as the headlines make them appear, if you take the time to read (and analyze) the small print. The Times tells us the troop pull-out would leave 138,000 troops in Iraq by March—”still several thousand more than were there in January 2007, when Mr. Bush announced the ‘surge’ that brought the total over 160,000.” Since nobody else does, we have to keep reminding that the end of the “surge” will leave more troops in Iraq than when “major combat operations” were declared over five years ago. In May 2003, Bush pledged that the 135,000 troops then in Iraq would be reduced by 100,000 over the next four months, leaving only a division to control Baghdad. But we’re not supposed to talk about that.
Bush has also announced a decision to increase US forces in Afghanistan by 4,500 troops, and—alarmingly—the Democrats are saying this isn’t enough!
As for the turn-over of Anbar—the Times reported Sept. 8 that the move is controversial in Iraq because of distrust between the Sunni Awakening movement and the Shi’ite-dominated government. In other words, one bunch of clerical reactionaries versus another. And the Awakening Councils themselves only agreed to collaborate with the US because they were tired al-Qaeda usurping the authority of traditional tribal chiefs (and probably because the US offered better money). They have never broken with al-Qaeda’s ideology of ultra-fundamentalist Islamism. So instead of Anbar being a totalitarian sharia enclave loyal to al-Qaeda, it is now a totalitarian sharia enclave loyal to the US! The Times offers not a word about how women or secular folks are faring in the “new” Anbar.
So this transition may be bringing a measure of stability to Iraq, but it is certainly not bringing freedom. (Of course, we aren’t supposed to talk about “freedom” anymore either, “Operation Iraqi Freedom” notwithstanding—the neocons have given the word a bad rap). And if the Awakening Councils and the government fall out, it may not even bring stability for very long…
Finally, all this is taking place against the backdrop of negotiations over the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), which would institutionalize a permanent (if, perhaps temporarily, reduced) US troop presence.
Hey, don’t blame us. We don’t make the news. We just deconstruct it.
See our last post on Iraq.