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The Surge is Working— but only in Washington DC

February 14, 2008
“We Cannot Save them from Themselves”
— Sen. Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee hearing

Along with a rant about the lack of progress on the US agenda for the Iraqi government , this is as far as the “alternative view point” on the surge goes on the Hill, and the defining argument of most of the “anti-war” lawmakers.

Civilian killings (according to public records) ARE down throughout Iraq– thank God. Nearly two years ago, the bombing of the Samarra mosque set off the worst bloodbath seen since the beginning of the invasion, and the latter half of 2007 has seen these numbers reach pre- Feb 06 levels. The troop surge began one year ago, and by the early summer the surge troops were in place. The following June and July were the most violent summer months of the occupation– and August was the second deadliest month of 2007 for Iraqi civilians.

But on August 29 of last year, Moqtada al-Sadr declared a ceasefire. Since then the violence has dropped dramatically, by at least half from “the earlier surge months”. Paying off yesterday’s “terrorists” in al-Anbar province has caused the violence and attacks on coalition troops to climb down– forget about troop surge, let’s call it what it is— a cash surge of pouring $24 million dollars a month into our “concerned local citizen groups”. A bribing surge.

In DC, the most “anti-war” Senators affirm the great success of the surge. Of course, 6,000 miles away, 2.5 million Iraqis (nearly 10% of the pre-invasion population) have been forced out of the country. Another 2.5 million are internally displaced, meaning that one in every six Iraqis have lost their homes and the rest of them live in ethnic sectarian enclaves…increasingly walled off by our neighbors courtesy of our tactics to “save Iraqis from themselves”.


Success in figuring out the right price to bribe insurgents in al-Anbar, who are driving out Shias from the region? Success in driving out every sort of Iraqi from their homes? Success in Sadr’s ceasefire– well yes, true, I suppose he is the great success in all this, but I thought the point was that it has has something to do with increasing US troop levels?


No question that the “surge” has been a “success” in bringing about unity in Washington DC– for the pro and anti-war crowd–it fulfills the dominant narratives of both. Here, more US troops means “winning the peace”, and if the Iraqi government wasn’t so inept and the Iraqi people weren’t so filled with primordial ethnic hatreds then we could stop sacrificing our blood and treasure. (And maybe then those ungrateful Iraqis would stop making bogus claims about how more troops in Iraq, is having a “worse effect” on the security situation, as 72% do.)

Check out the Iraq Body Count’s graphs on the rise and fall of violence. (While not pretending to approach the actual death toll, the methodology has been consistent throughout the war, and the overall trends illustrated are what is most important for the “surge” argument.)

The surge story is so successful in that it unites America behind a story of justifying the occupation– which the “anti-war” crowd in Congress as much as the “pro-war” crowd needs to excuse ourselves as occupiers in a country where curiously over half of its people approve of attacks on our troops.

But we don’t talk about that here in the 1 mile radius where we write the “legislative benchmarks” for the Iraqi government. We don’t talk about how 71% of Iraqis want us to withdraw completely from Iraq in a year or less.

People talk about the “battle in Congress over Iraq”. What battle? The surge has worked here… we are all convinced that “the surge has worked” and that “the Iraqis” cannot govern themselves. The surge has succeeded in boiling public discourse to one question:

Can we save the Iraqis from themselves?

In five years, with over a million Iraqis dead due to the invasion, 5million refugees, another 4 million in dire need of emergency assistance, another 3 million wounded, that means that nearly half of the population are either dead, wounded, displaced, or in dire need of basic necessities for survival.

All to save Iraqis from themselves… resulting in catastrophes on a scale wholly unprecedented before our intervention. So do you really think they are asking (or ever did) the US to “save them from each other?”


Because some of the most prominent anti-war voices “for ending the war” are arguing along the same lines so well illustrated by the columnist Thomas Freidman in his solution for an “endgame for Iraq”:

“We must not throw more good American lives after good American lives for people who hate others more than they love their own children.” – Thomas Friedman

For the sake of Iraqis who have been lived through 13 years of the most devastating sanctions in contemporary history, taking AT LEAST a million lives, and then 5 years of brutal war and occupation, I let these people make their argument for the sake of, one distant day, boosting chances of withdrawing US troops.

But for the sake of America (and the rest of the world where we launch our “global war on terror/democracy project”), when our conversation degenerates into this level of unquestioned racism, I have to ask:


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