[Marxism] The American Military's Lose-Lose Dilemma in Iraq

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Aug 2 07:44:49 MDT 2007

The Benchmarks That Matter
The American Military's Lose-Lose Dilemma in Iraq
By Michael Schwartz

President Bush has called upon Congress, the American public, the Iraqi 
people, and the world to suspend judgment -- until at least September -- 
on the success of his escalation of the war, euphemistically designated 
a "surge." But the fact is: It has already failed and it's obvious 
enough why.

Much attention has been paid to the recent White House report that 
recorded "satisfactory performance" on eight Congressional benchmarks 
and "unsatisfactory performance" on six others (with an additional four 
receiving mixed evaluations). Fred Kaplan of Slate and Patrick Cockburn 
of the Independent, among others, have demonstrated the fraudulence of 
this assessment. Cockburn summarized his savaging of the document 
thusly: "In reality, the six failures are on issues critical to the 
survival of Iraq while the eight successes are on largely trivial matters."

As it happens, though, these benchmarks are almost completely beside the 
point. They don't represent the key goals of the surge at all, which 
were laid out clearly by the President in his January speech announcing 
the operation:

     "Our troops will have a well-defined mission: to help Iraqis clear 
and secure neighborhoods, to help them protect the local population, and 
to help ensure that the Iraqi forces left behind are capable of 
providing the security that Baghdad needs."

The success of such "benchmarks" can be judged relatively easily. As 
President Bush himself put the matter: "We can expect to see Iraqi 
troops chasing down murderers, fewer brazen acts of terror, and growing 
trust and cooperation from Baghdad's residents."

This was supposed to be accomplished through two major initiatives. Most 
visibly, the U.S. military was to adopt a more aggressive strategy for 
pacifying Baghdad neighborhoods considered strongholds for the Sunni 
insurgency. Occupation officials blame them for the bulk of the vehicle 
bombs and other suicide attacks that have devastated mainly Shiite 
neighborhoods. The second, less visible (but no less important) 
initiative involved subduing the Mahdi army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr -- 
the largest and most ferocious of the Shia militias -- which occupation 
officials blame for the bulk of death-squad murders in and around the 

These changes should have been observable as early as this July. By 
then, as a "senior American military officer" told the New York Times, 
it would already be time to refocus attention on "restoring services and 
rebuilding the neighborhoods."

To judge the surge right now -- by the President's real "benchmarks" -- 
we need only look for a dramatic drop in vehicle and other "multiple 
fatality bombings" in populated areas, and for a dramatic drop in the 
number of tortured and executed bodies found each morning in various 
dumping spots around Baghdad.

By these measures, the surge has already been a miserable failure, 
something that began to be documented as early as April when Nancy 
Youssef of the McClatchy newspapers reported that there had been no 
decline in suicide-bombing deaths; and that, after an initial decline in 
the bodies discarded by death-squads around the capital, the numbers 
were rising again. (These trends have been substantiated by the 
Brookings Institution, which has long collected the latest statistics 
from Iraq.)


More information about the Marxism mailing list