Saturday, October 04, 2008

Mission Accomplished Forever

by Jeff Huber

Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq…the surge worked.

--Sarah Palin

Like so many neoconservatives, Sarah Palin has an odd notion of what winning and losing wars means when you're history's first global hegemon.

"Surrender" in Iraq would consist of all of our troops dropping their weapons and raising their hands, and allowing the evildoers to take them to one of Saddam Hussein's old prisons and strip their clothes off, and put ladies' panties on their heads, and threaten to allow German Shepherds to attack them, and make them form human pyramids, and hook electrodes to their genitals and then rape them with chemical light sticks, and then chain a couple of them from the ceiling by their wrists and beat them to death, and if anybody gives the evildoers any guff about their treatment of prisoners, they blame it on a few bad apples and get away with it. And when our soldiers ask to appeal their imprisonment in a court of law, the evildoers tell them they don't have any legal rights because the evildoers have unilaterally declared them illegal.

That, fellow citizens, is what "surrender" in Iraq would consist of, and I want to go on record as saying I'm foursquare against it. I won't presume to speak for Barak Obama or Joe Biden specifically or of the Democratic Party in general, but I think it's a safe bet that they're against that sort of thing too, so that gosh darn Sarah Palin really ought to quit talking like they aren't.

Like her prospective boss John McCain, Sarah speaks of "victory" in Iraq, and says it's "within sight," which is another way of saying "just around the corner."

Here's what would qualify as a victory in Iraq: Saddam Hussein meets young Mr. Bush on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln, and sits at a table in front of the ship's island, under the sign that says "Mission Accomplished," and writes his name on a bunch of papers that say the U.S. can establish permanent military bases in his country and take all the oil there and our soldiers and mercenaries and civilian contractors can pull any kind of shenanigans they want and the puppet Iraqi government we set up can't do anything about it.

Unfortunately that can't happen because Saddam Hussein is dead. Too bad none of the war experts at neocon central thought about that little detail of needing somebody to surrender to us when we went off half-cocked and did that regime change stuff. Or maybe somebody at neocon central did think of that and didn't say anything. Too bad either way, huh?

Oh, well, no use crying over spilled, uh, milk. All those soldiers of ours who got killed over there, they would have died in traffic accidents anyway, right? As to how many Iraqis have died because of our ill-advised and flimsily justified invasion of their country, some say the number is over a million, but it's impossible to say for sure, so don't worry your pretty head about it.

We can't go back in time and reset the problem, so there's no way for us to win in Iraq, but that's not an impediment to John McCain. He's still trying to win in Vietnam; once he pulls that off, winning in Iraq should be a piece of cake.

Fee, Fi, Fo, Fumble

Like beauty, success exists in the eye of its beholder, and that's fortunate for those like Sarah Palin who profess to believe that the surge in Iraq has "worked." It has worked so well that Mr. Bush has extended it into the regime of whoever winds up succeeding him.

The measure of success most often cited as proof that the surge has "worked" is the decrease in violence. As General David Petraeus boasted shortly before he turned over command of U.S. forces in Iraq in early September, "there has been enormous progress. We have gone from a situation where 14-15 months ago there were 180 attacks a day in Iraq. Now there are on average about 25 attacks a day." Iraq has roughly the size and population of California. Imagine the reaction Petraeus would generate if he said that thanks to his "enormous progress," San Diego Catholics and Los Angeles Lutherans were only bombing each other 25 times a day.

Not only are Petraeus's results other than stellar, the process by which he achieved them were, to put it politely, nefarious. Petraeus's modus has been consistent throughout his tours in Iraq, as commander in Mosul, as officer in charge of training Iraqi security forces and as commander of the Iraq theater. He gives a lot of guns to militiamen then bribes the militiamen not to use the guns on anyone he doesn't want them to use them on, then he makes unsupported accusations against Iran of arming and funding Iraqi militias.

Upon assuming command of the Iraq theater of operations form Petraeus, General Ray Odierno cautioned that the "gains" made in Iraq are "fragile and reversible." The Pentagon's latest quarterly report on the Iraq environment echoes Odierno's sentiments almost verbatim, saying that while "political, security, economic, and diplomatic trends in Iraq" are positive, "they remain fragile, reversible, and uneven." It's interesting how the guys who write those reports always say the same things the generals say. I'll never figure out how that works, will you?

In keeping with the good news/bad news theme, the report says that "While security has improved dramatically, the fundamental character of the conflict in Iraq remains unchanged—a communal struggle for power and resources."

At the core of this communal struggle are those militias we spoke of a moment ago. The Sons of Iraq or the Awakening or the Concerned Local Citizens or whatever we're calling the Sunni Civic League and Gun Club this week is getting restless. They still don't have jobs. The U.S. wants the Shiite controlled government to hire them on with the Iraqi security forces but the Shiite government doesn't want to do that because they want to hire Shiite militants, not Sunni militants. But if the Sunni militants don't have jobs then they'll likely go back to fighting the Shiite militias and the Shiite security forces that the Shiite government won't let them join. That's the "fundamental character" of the Iraq environment that isn't going to change until Mr. Spock and the Vulcans reveal themselves and share their matter/antimatter technology with us.

Hence, thanks to the way Petraeus conducted the surge, we'll need to stay in Iraq for a virtual eternity to keep a lid on things. That dovetails neatly with the neocons' prime directive, which all along has been to establish a permanent military footprint in the heart of the Middle East. Anything short of that would amount to failure, or defeat, or waving a white flag of surrender; and in that light, Sarah Palin is correct: the surge worked perfectly.

Hey, would John McCain be dumb enough to pick a running mate who didn't know what she was talking about?

Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes at Pen and Sword . Jeff's novel Bathtub Admirals (Kunati Books), a lampoon on America's rise to global dominance, is on sale now. Also catch Scott Horton's interview with Jeff at Antiwar Radio.


  1. Commander,
    This comment comes with the usual disclaimer: "I'm not a military person, and don't have that background or knowledge."

    Correct me if I'm wrong on this. What I see that we have going in Iraq, is not a "war" but an "occupation." And, I don't know how you "win" an "occupation."
    The Israelis don't know how to "win" an occupation. They have been about trying for 50 years now.

    So, we have a no-win situation in Iraq. What we can do to save the lives of our people, and the billions we spend there every month, is "re-deploy."

    In other words, a responsible draw down.

    Gosh darn, I'm not running for a damned thing. But I think I could argue a few points on this with the Witch of Wasilla.

    I probably could even manage to come up with a bigger rhinestone American Flag pin to wear for the debate.

    My Lord, she makes you wish that that seccessionist movement that her husband joined, had been successful. Even though what they advocate borders on treason.

    Then, we could just deport her as one more traitorous, stupid and undesirable illegal immigrant.

  2. EL,

    Pardon me donning my "expert" hat for a moment. Occupations, like wars, come in an infinite variety. An occupation can follow a war and not really be a war itself, as--in my opinion--our post-WWII occupations of Germany and Japan and Korea have been.

    But occupations can also occur concurrently with war, or be themselves the essence of the war. Britain's Iberian Campaign against Napoleon was one example. Nazi Germany's occupation of France, Poland, etc. is another kind of example.

    So by my criteria, our occupation of Iraq is also a war.

    Either way, Sarah Palin sucks. ;-)


  3. And, if the "surge" was not responsible for the gains in the first place (as suggested by one study, "Baghdad nights: evaluating the US military 'surge' using nighttime light signatures" in Environment and Planning A 2008, volume 40, pages 2285-2295,

  4. [reposting, in hopes of entire comment appearing...]

    And, if the "surge" was not responsible for the gains in the first place (as suggested by one study, "Baghdad nights: evaluating the US military 'surge' using nighttime light signatures" in Environment and Planning A 2008, volume 40, pages 2285-2295,

  5. [continuing, with some slight frustration]

    Petraeus's claim of "enormous progress" as being Surge-based is sheer fantasy.

    The article suggests that the reduction in violence in Baghdad that followed the surge was in fact only due to "ethnic cleansing" that had already removed the Sunnis from their homes just before the start of the Surge.

    I'm not militarily savvy, but the argument in this paper seems sound to me, and I'd be very interested in your take on it. It does seem that the collective storytelling has adopted the Surge-as-success meme, and there is probably no amount of data that could counter it at this point, but I'm still reality-based, so it matters to me. If there's any truth to this article, it would be nice to get it into the common discourse.

  6. Hi, Kathleen, thanks for the link. Yeah, I don't think the extra soldiers are what mattered. It was the Sunni appeasement plan and Iran getting Maliki and Sadr to make nice.


  7. K,

    We're playing blog tag;-) I sort of addressed your issue with the appeasement/make niceiness, but yeah, the ethnic cleansing was also a factor.

  8. Commander,
    I'm still reading what you post. For me, that means you're still doing a great job.
    Thank you. Again.

  9. Commander,

    To answer your last question.

    McCain was dumb enough to pick a running mate who gets her talking points from Starbuck's coffee cups.

    McCain was dumb enough to pick a running mate who cannot correctly read the talking points she gets from Starbuck's coffee cups.

    You betcha.

  10. Anonymous5:44 PM


    Thought you might enjoy this link, if you have a bit of gallows humor.

    In 1922 a British Colonial Secretary wrote an extended missive to his PM,
    complaining about a failed 5 year occupation, sitting on "top of a volcano", and probably having nothing tangible to show for it in the end.

    That occupation went on 10 more years.

    The Colonial Secretary,


  11. Thanks for your last couple of posts. A badly needed injection of sanity after the last couple of weeks. Between the rapidly multiplying financial disasters and the "no banker left behind" bailout, I'm pretty bummed. Well, hurricane season isn't quite over yet. Maybe I'll get lucky and the power will go out again.

    Your commentary on the McCainiacs is spot on, but you left out the biggest McCain lie of all. That is, that he's going to "drill drill drill" our country back to energy independence. It takes a lot to break through my carapace of cynicism, but that one really left me gobsmacked. Not that he'd say it, of course, but that no one's called him on it. If it were that easy to fix "the problem," then why do we have to stay in Iraq for 100 years?

    What a straight talking maverick that guy is.

  12. JP,

    About the drill drill; I distinctly remember not too long ago when gas prices were the fault of insufficient refining capability. I wonder how opening up ANBAR and offshore drilling will fix that.


  13. EEngineer8:22 PM

    The Russians appear to be trying to pickup Keflavik on the cheap. Unbelievable...

  14. Well, I hate to say I told everybody our old Cold War adversaries would kick us in the pocket book this time around, but I told everybody.


  15. great post Jeff...

    This all makes more sense if you come at it from a Political Science view rather than military view.

    War is just politics by other means...

    The reason the "war" didnt end in 2003 like it should is that the Bush admin loves the power that comes from being at war. It gives them special powers they dont have in peace time. They like and use that power so the war continues. It was never part of the plan to end the war.

    We are just lucky they are so bad at being bad. If george was more charismatic, competent and, well, smart, then we would be at least hip deep in Iran right now. If bush had a 60% approval rating and the backing of the people we might be at war with half a dozen countries right now. The complete collapse of the Bush popularity has kept their ability to go off on crazy adventures somewhat in check.

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