BAGHDAD, April 18--In the deadliest day in Baghdad since the latest American-led security plan for the city took effect two months ago, at least 171 people were killed today in a flurry of insurgent attacks, including car bombs that tore through predominantly Shiite crowds gathered at a bus hub, on a shopping street and near a police checkpoint, the authorities said…
…As rescuers crowded the site, a sniper opened fire on the crowd, killing at least one more person and wounding two others…
…The flurry of attacks came as Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki declared that the Iraqi government would take full control of security from the American-led forces before the end of the year.
If you believe that the Iraqi government can take control of security by the end of the year, I have a few pyramid investment schemes you might be interested in. As to the recent car bombings in Baghdad, well, that's hardly a sign that the "surge" plan is succeeding. Subsequent to the April 16 Baghdad bombing, Maliki described the situation in Baghdad as an "open battle."
Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver stated, “As we’ve said before, it’s going to be a tough fight,” but he added that “The plan is not even fully implemented yet.” One has to wonder how much tougher the fight will get when the plan is "fully implemented."
Ideologues and Brick Walls
Mr. Bush continues to threaten to veto any war-spending bill that sets time limits on our involvement in Iraq, and has accused Democrats of wanting to "legislate defeat." It would be more honest to say that the Democrats are trying to legislate sanity over Mr. Bush's off the rails foreign policy, and that their insistence on benchmarks and deadlines are the only thing that will force Iraq's government to get its act together.
According to the Times, in a Thursday visit to Baghdad, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates told Iraqi political leaders in no uncertain terms that America's commitment to the war is not open ended. "The clock is ticking," he told reporters.
Gates, traveling to Iraq for the third time in four months, took a decidedly stronger tone this time, reflecting U.S. frustration and the political tumult in Washington where President Bush and Congress are deadlocked over whether to set an end date for the war.
The defense secretary stressed again, however, that the debate has been helpful in letting the Iraqis know that American patience with the war is ebbing.
"Ebbing" support for the war is something of an understatement.
On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the war in Iraq could not be won through military force--hardly a new sentiment-- but only through political, economic, and diplomatic means. ‘‘I believe myself that the secretary of state, secretary of defense, and--you have to make your own decisions as to what the president knows--[know] this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything as indicated by the extreme violence in Iraq yesterday,’’ he said.
Republicans, naturally, denounced Reid's remarks as evidence that the Democrats do not support the troops. These, of course, are the same Republicans who have backed Bush's policies and strategies throughout the course of the Iraq War, and who are on board with Gates's plan to extend tours of duty in Iraq, shorten stateside rotations and send troops back into theater with insufficient training and equipment.
A report from McClatchy Newspapers indicates that military planners may have given up on the hope that "standing up" Iraqi troops will enable U.S. troops to come home soon, and believe that U.S. forces will have to bear the brunt of defeating insurgents and securing Iraq's trouble provinces. Joint Chiefs Chairman Peter Pace says the U.S. is trying to buy "time for the Iraqi government to provide the good governance and the economic activity that's required."
But a State Department official put things a slightly different way. "Our strategy now is to basically hold on and wait for the Iraqis to do something," he said. If we wait for the Iraqis to do something, we'll wait for a very long time.
There's no telling what Mr. Bush is really thinking, but his actions and rhetoric indicate that he's bound and determined to maintain U.S. troop levels in Iraq at present levels or greater until the end of his term and leave his mess for someone else to clean up. Reid and Pelosi need to keep pushing for benchmarks and timelines, because without them, the Iraq fiasco will continue to compound itself until there is no solution whatsoever.
In the meantime, John McCain, who's trying to make himself into the heir apparent of the Bush legacy, is pushing the escalation strategy, opposing the Democrats' timeline initiatives, and wants to bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran.
As a late, great veteran of World War II said, "hi ho!"
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.