Despite the neoconservative establishment's best efforts at amending history, Mr. Bush will go down as the first U.S. president to lose two wars. Efforts at spinning the recent "military success" in Iraq have met their inevitable collision with ground truth.
On Sunday, Turkey bombed militant Kurdish targets in northern Iraq, following up the air strikes with artillery shelling. “Turkish Armed Forces gave one message to Turkish people and rest of the world,” said General Yasar Buyukanit, commander of the Turkish Army. “It can be winter, snowing or them hiding in caves, but we would ultimately find and hit them.”
Yes, General, you can ultimately find them and hit them if the U.S. tells you where they are and gives you permission to fly into their air space, like it did this time. Giving Turkey permission to attack the Kurds was no doubt cheaper than having Blackwater do it, and it certainly created far fewer legal complications. And it was a darn sight safer to let another country use our intelligence to carry out an offensive action than to take that action ourselves. That way, when our intelligence turns out to be wrong again, it's not our fault that women and children get blown to kingdom come instead of the bad guys we were after because we're not the ones who dropped the bombs.
Your Old Kit Baghdad
The oafish U.S. handling of long-standing issues in Kurdish northern Iraq has, in essence, created yet another major front in a war that was already noteworthy for its resemblance to the Whack-a-Mole game so popular at America's favorite pizzeria for children. And it's not as if things are going swimmingly on all the old fronts.
Last month, Iraq's government invited its more than 1.4 million refugees currently in Syria to return home. That presents a huge problem for the occupying American force. According to Colonel William E. Rapp, a senior aide to the commanding general in Iraq David Petraeus, "There is an element of the violence being down because segregation has already happened."
In other words, sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites in places like Baghdad is down because the Sunnis and Shias living in integrated neighborhoods packed their bags and hightailed it out of there. When former Baghdad residents return, they're likely to find someone of the opposite sect living in their old homes (providing that their old homes still exist).
They'll also find a changed security situation.
The hundreds of senior and mid-level members of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army arrested by U.S. forces during the surge have been replaced by boys, some as young as 15. These al-Sadr youth, who terrorize Sunnis and non-cooperative Shiites alike operate with virtual impunity "under the radar" of American forces in the city, disguised as, of all things, themselves. "No one will suspect they are Mahdi Army," says one young militiaman of his comrades, as they patrol the streets on foot and mopeds, dressed in blue jeans and baseball caps. These young militants, intoxicated with their newfound power, have turned Baghdad into a bizarre reincarnation of Al Capone era Chicago. Theft and extortion are rampant. Many young Mahdi soldiers have become ruthless murderers.
The return to Baghdad by refugees—particularly Sunni refugees—will be like an infusion of kerosene on a conflagration already barely under control. What is the U.S. military's proposed solution for avoiding the pending catastrophe?
Iraqis have to ask themselves, ""Do you even want to come back?" offers Colonel Rapp.
Unfortunately for most Iraqi refugees, whether or not they want to come back is a moot point. Syria and other countries neighboring Iraq have recently stepped up efforts to evict them. Imagine that, countries who are tired of uninvited immigrants. This situation has been gestating for a long time, but U.S. high command is completely unready for it, just as it's been unready for every predictable disaster that has occurred since the staged fall of Saddam Hussein's statue.
What will those refugees do? It's a good thing for us they can't swim to Canada and Mexico and slip into America through our porous borders, huh? Think how many of them there terrorists might sneak in with them!
Meanwhile, Back at the Other Fiasco…
From AFP: "The Pentagon confirmed Monday that the US military and its NATO partners were reviewing plans for Afghanistan, rocked by its bloodiest year since 2001 amid a fierce Taliban resurgence."
Afghanistan, once the crown jewel in Mr. Bush's war on terror, is now the bloody ball of fur on the side of the road that nobody wants to look at or touch. President Hamid Karzai's government has no influence outside of the capital city of Kabul; Afghanistan is a world leader in narcotics exports and a sanctuary for terrorists. And to think, the mission was accomplished in Afghanistan well before we even ventured into Iraq.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, sounding more every day like he's just another standard Bush appointee, says the fate of the Afghanistan mission is in the hands of his NATO allies and has asked that a European official be put in charge of coordinating (i.e., taking the fall for) the international presence in Afghanistan.
With all this beautiful ugliness collapsing around his ankles, Mr. Bush continues to make boo noise about Iran. During a Monday speech to the Rotary Club in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Mr. Bush agreed with one of the Rotarians that Iran has a nuclear weapon, even though the recent National Intelligence Estimate says they have neither a nuclear weapon nor a nuclear weapons program. He also stated that Iran is a threat to peace, even though its defense budget is less than one 20th that of the United States, even though it has never started a war, even though during the one war it fought—with Iraq, a war that Saddam Hussein initiated by invading Iran—it was unable to project land or air power significantly beyond its own borders.
On paper, it would be impossible for Iran to win a war against the United States; but keep in mind that Mr. Bush has achieved the impossible twice before. He might still go for the hat trick.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books) will be available April 1, 2008.