Both parties on shaky ground when it comes to Iraq | NevadaAppeal.com

Both parties on shaky ground when it comes to Iraq

Guy Farmer
For the Appeal

It was a foregone conclusion that President Bush would accept the recommendations of his top military and civilian representatives in Iraq, which he did on Thursday evening. The bottom line is that the so-called surge will continue until next summer, when the U.S. will begin withdrawing the 30,000 troops who are involved in the surge.

In other words, it’s not a drawdown at all, just a redeployment. And that makes Democrats furious because many of them favor an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Following congressional testimony by the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) hinted that he might try to cut off funding for the Iraq War. That would be a costly mistake, however, because it would put our troops in harm’s way. Any withdrawal from Iraq must be gradual and on an unannounced timetable, no matter what the left wing of the Democratic Party is demanding.

Although I have opposed President Bush’s poorly planned and poorly executed Iraqi misadventure right from the beginning – even before we invaded that unfortunate country – I strongly object to some of the language coming from “progressive” congressional Democrats, who are parroting offensive talking points from Moveon.org, which accused Gen. Petraeus of being a traitor. In a full-page New York Times ad, Moveon.org called the highly decorated career military officer “Gen. Betray Us.” Reid and every Democratic presidential candidate should shun Moveon and its chief financier, George Soros, until they offer a public apology to Petraeus and the American people.

Respected New York Times columnist Tom Friedman noted a language problem recently in a column about how al-Qaida leader Osama bin-Laden is “Swift-boating” us in the PR war. “How can Bush lose a PR war to a mass murderer?” Friedman asked. Good question. And where are the Democrats who are so quick to criticize American troops for alleged atrocities at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo on this issue? I’d like to hear from Reid and his fellow anti-war Democrats about the horrible atrocities committed by bin-Laden and his Islamo-fascist henchmen. They could start with the deadly 9/11 terrorist attacks and continue through two Aug. 14 suicide bombings that killed more than 500 Iraqi civilians including men, women and babies.

The national media last week illustrated a point I’ve been making by paying far more attention to Gen. Petraeus’ testimony than to that of Amb. Crocker, who is in charge of non-military operations in Iraq. As Gen. (ret.) John Abizaid, the former Centcom commander, said in Reno nine days ago, diplomatic and informational surges should accompany the troop surge. Abizaid, who now lives in Gardnerville, stressed that the U.S. military can’t accomplish the Iraqi mission by itself. “There is no military solution,” he acknowledged.

Crocker said that although there has been some political progress in Iraq, much more must be done in order to bring the three major ethnic factions – Sunnis, Shias and Kurds – together in an effective national unity government. That’s the main challenge for our diplomats in Iraq and it’s an uphill battle in extremely violent conditions. Despite recent progress in Anbar and other provinces, fighting rages on in and around Baghdad as well-armed (some by Iran) extremist militias battle for territory and political supremacy.

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The Washington Post last Sunday published a detailed investigative report about bureaucratic infighting among civilian and military officials in our nation’s capital. For President Bush, the Post asserted, the past eight months “have been about not just organizing a major force deployment but also managing a remarkable conflict within his administration, mounting a rear-guard action against Congress and navigating a dysfunctional relationship with an Iraqi leadership that has been incapable of delivering what he (Bush) needs.”

New White House communications czar Ed Gillespie, a former national Republican chairman, has been working hard to sell the troop surge to Congress, the media and the voting public. The Post reported that Gillespie “has been blitzing an e-mail list of as many as 5,000 journalists, lawmakers, lobbyists, conservative bloggers, military groups and others with talking points and rebuttals of criticism.” And thanks to an all-out military PR offensive, “even critics were agreeing that Petraeus had made some progress in security, even though the Iraqi political situation remained a mess.”

But no matter how much progress our troops make in restoring order, the political side of the equation is in disarray and not likely to improve until and unless Iraqi political and religious leaders can put their differences aside and cooperate to develop a viable national unity government. In the meantime, our troops and diplomats are caught in the middle of a bloody civil war, and young Americans (approximately 3,700 so far) continue to die for reasons that are still unclear to many of us. That’s why I’m looking for a presidential candidate, Democrat or Republican, who has a clear plan for extricating us from the Iraqi quagmire sooner rather than later. I’ll let you know when I identify that candidate.

• Guy W. Farmer, a semi-retired journalist and former U.S. diplomat, resides in Carson City.