Well, Iron Blog has certainly barreled back this week. The Thirteenth Battle will prove unlucky for one of this week's combatants, but it seems that the readers have gotten lucky with this fine show. Thanks to you, readers, as well as the judges and the Chairman, for sticking around through the Blitz Battles and seeing what went down this week. And I would also like to thank Jimmie Bise, Jr., this week's Challenger, for coming back for another drubbing, and doing it in fine form and with good humor.
I have greatly enjoyed this Battle, though I have found it difficult to keep up as news kept pouring in all week, starting with John Kerry's speech Monday through yesterday's pundit-class yap-fest. But I think the Challenger and I, even if we were not always on top of the latest news, have covered the issues involved thoroughly and very well. Yet, on balance, I can't walk away from this Battle feeling any better about our involvement in Iraq over the last year or so than I did this time last week. It's not that I've convinced myself that things are worse than I thought; but, over the course of this Battle, the Challenger has failed to point to anything substantive, other than the one-sided rout of the Iraqi forces a year and a half ago, to show that victory in Iraq is on the way.
Let's take the Chairman's questions, and sum up what we've got so far:
I. Are we winning the war?
We are not. The Challenger has failed to offer either a metric or solid evidence that what we're doing is winning. (I do not count killing more of them than they kill of us "winning.") The claims of Official U.S. Sock Puppet Iyad Allawi are belied by the facts on the ground
. Even the Kurds, our most likely allies, are turning against us
But I think the most damning evidence is simply that things are getting worse for our soldiers
and the people
of Iraq. Those people, united once in their hatred of Saddam, are now uniting again in hatred of us
. I encourage you to look around the web today--the rules prevent me from linking to new sources, but more news of just how dangerous Iraq really is seems to break by the hour.
The Challenger opened with a maudlin reminiscence of the day the US military's PSYOPS staged
the literal fall of Saddam, and went on to claim that what was going on now is a "new" war. He did not address the Constitutional objection to this "new" war I raised in my First Rebuttal, and just plowed ahead with that same line of thought in his Second Rebuttal. I don't know what he has said in his Closing, but, please, even if you choose to believe the Challenger that our present troubles are not "the Iraq war," there is something going on over there
. There are battles, there are fighters, there are casualties. And it is not
going well for our side.
II. Can we win it at all?
Yes, we can. I am on record all over the internet for having opposed this war in the first place. I wish to everything sacred that we could go back to October 2002, or at least February or March 2003, and change what has happened. Short of someone inventing a way-back machine, that can't happen.
But I am also on record all over the internet for believing that we cannot abandon Iraq now. President Bush wants to talk about the "Ownership Society," I hear. Well, we own Iraq. We needed to listen to Eric Shinseki
, Anthony Zinni
, and Thomas White
when they said we'd need 400,000 troops to ensure that an insurgency doesn't tear Iraq apart. Maybe we didn't have that kind of manpower ourselves, in which case we should have worked actively to build a true multilateral force rather than barrel ahead with an inadequate and shrinking coalition. (Just over the course of the Battle this week, our coalition has lost another member
At any rate, in my Opening Statement, I laid out the three paths that seem to be open to us: staying the course, cutting and running, or significantly increasing troop levels to pacify resistance without more strikes on civilians. The Challenger, complacent in his claim that the Iraq War ended on April 9, 2003, must think staying the course, with its certain death and misery, is the way to go; at least, he hasn't offered a single alternative. As for me, I'll listen to the experts, thank you very much.
III. Have the President's policies steered us towards victory or disaster?
I am not one to question the Chairman (since it usually works the other way around!), but this is the spanner in the works, here. I'm afraid that my serious--and it was
serious--address of this question in my Opening Statement and Rebuttals has been dismissed outright as a "partisan screed." But it was not; every argument I made against Bush and his team was backed up by solid facts and hard news stories, not opinion pieces or partisan hacks. I stand by the assertion I made in my opening, that the first step toward truly winning the peace is changing leaders.
The Challenger never touched, not even in passing, some of the most important points I made by dismissing them as mere ad hominem
. Even after I called him on it directly, he declared that he made "pretty good paraphrases" and didn't actually address anything.
First there's the whole shifting rationale for war
thing. I haven't returned to it, mostly for space reasons and because the Challenger left it, like so many other elements of my Opening, unchallenged. But it's still there. I tried to explain some reasons why I felt we were not succeeding in Iraq, and I pointed out how the confusing rationale for the war made it hard both to sustain popularity here at home and to tell when we've won. The Challenger dismissed all of this by paraphrasing it as "Bush lied." That's not the point. I don't appreciate having been lied to, of course. And the Challenger did not do anything to suggest that the Bush team had not
lied when I said they did
. But beyond that, there has never been a clear goal put forward by the administration, nor has there been a coherent, reasonable plan. Just because things happened doesn't mean they were planned for; just because things happened doesn't mean they were our objectives. This administration hoped it would work out. Hope is not a plan.
I keep coming back to the lack of planning for what would happen once Saddam fell, or, at the very least, the deliberate ignorance of what our military commanders thought we needed and intimidation on our commanders in the field so they are afraid to ask the civilians in the Pentagon
for what they need. This is poor leadership at its worst; this is government at its most dangerous.
Such poor planning is perfectly in line with what we've seen from the Bush team, though. Yes, it was a small point in my Opening Statement, but it went unrefuted and sits as yet another piece of the puzzle that is the Bush team's inability to lead. That point? The Bush team couldn't close the deal in Afghanistan
, in a war that was truly popular and that should have been prosecuted to the fullest extent. So how can we trust them to win Iraq?
Finally, one of the most frightening aspects of this administration, again ignored by the Challenger because he thinks, I suppose, that it's ad hominem
, is the way no one ever admits or takes responsibility for mistakes. No one ever thinks to say, "Things aren't going so well, so we're going to try something new." No one ever gets fired for screwing up. The course doesn't change even when we're going the wrong way
Again, I'm not going to change your mind about the upcoming election. (I mean, I hope I will, but I doubt it.) I'm not going to change the Challenger's mind. That's not my task here. I was asked to answer whether or not we're winning, whether the president's policies had anything to do with it, and whether we could win it at all. This past week, I fought every partisan urge in my body to paint as negative a picture as I could about Iraq because I do
have hope. But my hope is not my plan.
It shouldn't be yours, either.
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat