Iraq hawks are starting to sound like Bill Giles right before former Phillies GM Ed Wade got canned — they are assuring us that the Iraq war is going well and that we need to stick with the plan just a little bit longer. But even an infinite amount of right-wing hot air from an infinite number of right-wing mouths cannot transform the war from a catastrophe into a triumph.
Mushroom Cloud Cheney has been going around telling everyone that the surge has been a great success, and he's being parroted by a birdhouse full of his favorite media lackeys, from Bill Kristol to Jonah Goldberg, whose infamous war rationale was that once every decade the U.S. needs to obliterate some wretched little country just to prove that we can.
With a report due this month from the new Alexander the Great in Mesopotamia, General Petraeus — whose name gets invoked so often he should have his own drinking game — you can sniff the strong smell of desperation emanating from the administration and its apologists. Their war of choice, after all, has so far cost the lives of thousands of Americans, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and turned perhaps 3 million more into terrified refugees inside and outside the country, empowered neighboring Iran, and led to the on-the-job training of thousands of bloodthirsty anti-American terrorists.
Unsurprisingly for an administration that acts more like a unscrupulous PR firm than a government, there are strong indications that even the alleged drop in Iraqi civilian casualties over the past few months has been stage-managed by the Pentagon. The reality is that political violence has claimed on average nearly twice as many lives in 2007 as it did in 2006.
The best statistic anyone can come up with is that "only" 79 American soldiers were killed in Iraq in July, the lowest total, right-wing commentators will breathlessly tell you, since late last year. And the Tampa Bay Devil Rays may lose only 94 games this year, their lowest total since they lost a mere 91 in 2004. I don't see anyone rushing to buy season tickets to Tropicana Field.
Meanwhile, last month's string of bombings in a village in Northern Iraq killed as many as 400 people and was easily one of the worst of such attacks since the war started. U.S. troop deaths are just as bad as they were in March, and we are heading away from the summer lull, when most sane people and terrorists stay indoors during the scorching day. Last week saw deadly militia skirmishes in the holy city of Karbala, which took dozens of lives and showed that the government does not even control the Shia-majority south.
The political stalemate continues unabated too. Iraq is now being governed by a minority parliamentary coalition that has lost the confidence and cooperation of the largest Sunni Arab bloc. A dangerous referendum on the status of the disputed oil city of Kirkuk looms in a few months. And everyone knows the U.S. can't sustain its current level of troop deployment for very much longer, particularly heading into election season.
No temporary reduction in carnage — real or invented by the Pentagon — can turn this horrific venture into a success at this late date, four and half years since flyboy landed on the aircraft carrier and told us it was all over but Saddam's crying. Remember the goals of the Iraq war — destroying the WMDs, remolding the Middle East in our flaxen-haired, democratic image, and saving the Iraqis from the genocidal claws of their homegrown tyrant.
Well four years on, we know that Saddam had already disarmed and that the road to peace in Israel-Palestine most certainly does not run through Baghdad.
Here is the reality: The surge will not end this war. We have unleashed hell with our dreams of conquest and our delusions of omnipotence and only the Iraqis can put their country back together again. Those who think the end of violence is just around the corner might want read up on the 16-year Lebanese civil war that Iraq increasingly resembles. And those using sham statistics and naked propaganda to prop up this lost cause should have to bury the next 1,000 dead troops with their own bare, blood-covered hands.
David Faris is a frequent Slant contributor.