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Current Battle: Election 2004

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Saturday, September 25, 2004

Battle Victory Iraq - Iron Blogger Democrat - Second Rebuttal

I can't tell you how excited I am the the Challenger finally took off the gloves and abandoned the brevity strategy. And, yes, I laughed. I must give props for the pantful of lead. Puts the Olympics in a much funnier light.

But he's still wrong on so many fronts--I don't know where to start. So I'll just start at the end of his Rebuttal, with Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. It'll all make sense. Trust me.

No, Minister
The Challenger quotes extensively from Prime Minister Allawi to make his case, and I have to say that I must give him credit (the Challenger, not Allawi) for keeping extremely current. This has been a tricky Battle, given the way new evidence for both sides keeps popping up this week. But I think it's time to talk a little bit about who Iyad Allawi is.

I did not collude with my friend and neighbor Scott about this, but he provides exactly the nice, tight, concise summary I need on Allawi. I normally hate to lift others' words quite so wholesale, but Scott writes,
Just who is this interim Prime Minister of Iraq, Iyad Allawi?

In a nutshell, he's a former Baathist, and former ally of Saddam Hussein. He has spent much of his life in the UK where he studied medicine, and he retains British citizenship to this day. While in London, he built a relationship with British security forces. In the early 90s, he formed the exile group Iraqi National Accord with the support of the CIA and MI6.

When President Bush criticized John Kerry for his comments about Allawi, he acted as if Allawi was a leader who enjoys the elected support of the people of Iraq. On the contrary, as his biography indicates, he's a longtime friend of American and British intelligence who in turn got him the position of interim PM. He's already declared martial law, and even Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is scaling back on expectations for the elections.

Is it just me or is this situation starting to look more like when the CIA and MI6 installed the Shah of Iran back in 1953?
While I'm not sure our selection of Allawi will necessarily end as badly as the whole Shah fiasco did (and Scott was being kind compared to some this week), I think it is very important to recognize that the man was hand-picked by the Bush team (admittedly not our first choice), was brought here this week by the Bush team, had his whole schedule set by the Bush team, entirely for the purpose of bolstering the Bush team's flagging image on Iraq. It's been so transparent that some pundits are wondering if Allawi will be replacing Cheney on the ticket.

Worse, Allawi's origins make him not so much the real voice of Iraqis right now. So says Time Magazine, for example.
Whether or not American voters choose to believe the President--or to accept John Kerry's charge that Allawi is simply reading from the administration's script and distorting the reality--in the eyes of Iraqis and most of the international community Allawi does not personify the democratic will of a free people. That's because Allawi owes his appointment last June not to the Iraqi electorate, but to outgoing U.S. administrator J. Paul Bremer. And his authority in Baghdad rests primarily on the backing of some 130,000 U.S. troops that remain in the country, and whose presence is viewed by many Iraqis as a sign that despite Bremer's departure, they remain under occupation.
So, also, says River, perhaps the internet's most famous Iraqi, who writes, "I can't seem to decide what is worse--when Bush speaks in the name of Iraqi people, or when Allawi does."

So what does that mean? I think it means we have to take what Allawi says with a certain amount of salt. And, in fact, that is what is happening around the press this week. Though I agree with the Challenger that Allawi does deserve some leeway and time to make things work, we still have to hold him accountable for a certain level of honesty.

If this is winning, I'd hate to see losing
Allawi says we're winning. So is that honest? Let's hear what the LA Times has to say (my emphasis):
Large swaths of Iraq remain outside the control of the interim government, major highways are fraught with attackers, and interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi--along with the U.S. Embassy and much of the international community--must conduct business in fortified compounds guarded by tanks, blast walls and barbed wire.

In Washington, Allawi gave Congress an upbeat assessment Thursday, but the situation in Iraq is more complicated. [. . .]

Widespread anxiety engulfed much of Iraq this month as a wave of car bombings, kidnappings and gun battles killed scores of American soldiers, Iraqi civilians and hostages.

The continuing violence has overshadowed signs of progress and put a damper on the prospect of democratic elections.

"How can we hold elections when they will bomb every polling booth?" asked Husham Mahdi, a 29-year-old communications engineer in Baghdad, echoing a common sentiment. [. . .]

Allawi said it was "a fact" that elections could be held in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces "tomorrow." But few experts would agree. The consensus among poll-watchers is that holding nationwide elections by January, as scheduled, will be difficult.

Apart from the widespread violence, the provinces lack electoral infrastructure--which some view as a greater challenge than security.

And critics say it is hard to argue that security is a problem in only three provinces of a nation where suicide bombers have struck from Basra in the south to Irbil in the north.
(Oh, and I would never condone any unethical methods of logging into the LA Times without registering.)

Yes, yes, there are two sides to every story, and the Cassandras among us can't help but focus on the big gray clouds rather than the sliver lining. But Allawi's story this week--and the argument from the Challenger--is that Iraq is a success story. It simply is not.

The very invocation of the name Kos will send some of the conservatives reading here into a mouth-foaming frenzy, but yesterday Kos cited the United States Agency for International Development's memo to non-governmental organizations in Iraq telling them of all the "events of interest" across the country for Thursday (the day Allawi addressed Congress). Here's a small sampling of what is going on in Iraq even as Allawi claims "Iraq is made out of 18 provinces. Out of these 18 provinces, 14 to 15 are completely safe; there are no problems."
There are unofficial reports of criminal gangs in Baghdad conducting activity with a view to kidnapping ex-pats for the bounty offered by terrorist organizations. Currently the threat of kidnapping is extremely high.

Historically, MNF activity in Sadr City has generated reprisal or indirect fire attacks into the International Zone and personnel are warned of an increased likelihood of such attacks in the near future.

The threat of abduction from within the International Zone remains and personnel should check their personal, individual security arrangements accordingly.

  • 0115 hrs Small arms fire attack on an Iraqi Police patrol in Ur District.

  • 0110 hrs IED attack on a convoy in the area of the 14 Ramadan street/Route 10 intersection (Routes FORCE and CARDINALS).

  • 0200 hrs Six IEDs found and cleared in Sadr City.

  • 0808 hrs.Indirect fire attack on MNF facilities in the northern area of the airport.

  • 0937 hrs. IED attack on a patrol on Route PREDATORS.

  • 1132 hrs. Indirect fire attack (mortar) on an MNF base in the Shawra Wa Um Jidir District.

  • 1220 hrs. RPG attack on a patrol on Haifa Street.
The report goes on to detail the problems all across Iraq, not just in three provinces. Time also notes that Allawi "might want to check in with the British troops in the 'tranquil' south he described, because they tell the BBC that last month alone one base at Amarrah suffered 853 separate attacks, the most frequent combat experienced by a British army unit since the Korean war."

Plenty of people question the possibility of elections, both in Iraq ("The elections are already a standard joke") and not ("Allawi appears determined to hold promised national elections on schedule on 31 January, despite an ongoing insurgency that threatens to make polling impossible in pockets of the country"). Even the Bush team can't get its stories straight on elections. Time, again, challenges Allawi's assertions about the Iraq military, too:
More importantly, Allawi emphasized, Iraqis are determined to fight the insurgents, and take over from American troops. Some 100,000 have already been trained, and more are on the way. Again, this analysis is quite congruent with the picture painted by the Bush administration, but others, such as the widely respected strategic analyst Anthony Cordesman, who bases his work mostly on conversations with U.S. commanders on the ground, suggest that when it comes to effective combat units that can be deployed alongside U.S. forces, only two or three battalions of Iraqis pass muster--i.e. no more than 2,500 troops.
The Challenger caught the typo from my drug-addled fingers citing Iraqi civilian casualties, but facts remain facts. Right now US and allied troops are killing more Iraqi civilians than insurgents. In this Knight-Ridder piece from the front pages of newspapers all across the country today, the reporter notes that "Iraqi officials said the statistics proved that U.S. airstrikes intended for insurgents also were killing large numbers of innocent civilians. Some say these casualties are undermining popular acceptance of the American-backed interim government." And this doesn't count the deaths from "the deteriorating safety of water and food in Iraq."

You say tomato
"I have made it clear," the Challenger writes, "that we were involved in one war, that we won that one handily, and are now engaged in a second war." In the end, my disagreement with him may be nothing more than semantics. As I said in my First Rebuttal, his way of framing this particular portion of the debate leaves many unresolved problems. One, it allows him to smugly keep declaring victory, while US troops remain in harm's way and the cost of our war(s) keeps mounting in lives and taxpayer dollars.

Two, there are some serious Constitutional questions, here. Article I makes it clear that only Congress can declare war. If what we are facing now is brand-new, then somebody has some 'splainin to do, Lucy. If, instead, we're just trying to wrap-up the loose ends following a single war, then the Challenger has to admit that, at best, our victory is still TBD. I admit there is good happening; what the Challenger doesn't admit is that, as whole hosts of my links have shown to this point, is that our "victory" is not so pat as he wants to say it is.

The Challenger began by playing with language, and in his Second Rebuttal, he keeps playing with language. This is the sort of thing I though only the Bush team actually did. He starts with our old friend Webster to try to say that what we're fighting in Iraq is not insurgency. I'll just use the language that our own State Department uses. If "insurgency" is good enough for Dick Armitage, it's good enough for me.

Which is why I tend to trust the much-maligned National Intelligence Estimate. Aside from the fact that the NIE is backed up by European intel, the only two people who seem not to trust it are George W. (just guessing!) Bush and the Challenger. What motive does the CIA have for lying now? And in that direction?

We can keep tomaytoing and tomahtoing about whether the Iraqi celebrations were real or staged (likely answer--some of each) and about whether the rebuilding of a country we didn't need to invade meets a cost-benefit analysis. But one thing we can't argue about--because the Challenger has not introduced sufficient evidence to do so--is the post-invasion planning. In his Second Rebuttal, he says, "Allawi and his government didn't just spring into being thanks to Magic Government Fairies. They exist because the Bush administration planned for them to be there then implemented the plan in June and again in August."

But I like Kevin Drum's analysis better:
In the beginning, administration ideologues were convinced we'd be welcomed with flowers. Within a few months we'd install Ahmed Chalabi as president of a liberated Iraq, draw down the occupation force to about 30,000 troops, and declare victory.

That really was fantasy, but when that plan almost immediately fell apart there was no Plan B on the shelf. So the administration ginned one up posthaste: disband the Iraqi army and stay around for a while. Jay Garner objected, so he was fired and Jerry Bremer was called in to be our new proconsul.

But that plan didn't work out too well either. By November scattered attacks had grown into a full-blown insurgency and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, apparently tired of Bremer's strongman act, insisted on quick elections. After some panicky discussions back home and a call to the UN, Plan C was unveiled: we would turn over power on June 30 and hold elections seven months after that.

But that still didn't work. The turnover proceeded on schedule, but security didn't get any better. Fallujah and Najaf became rebel strongholds, hamhanded planning turned Muqtada al-Sadr into a Shiite hero, and a dangerous insurgency became a full-blown guerrilla war.

So now we're on Plan D, a feebly disguised version of Plan C: the elections will proceed as scheduled and that will fix everything. It's unlikely that anyone below the level of cabinet secretary actually believes this, but it's impossible to say so because there's an election coming up. An American election, that is.
(skippy the bush kangaroo has an interesting take on our plan, too.)

So: Just because things happen does not mean that they were planned, well, in advance. Look, since 1999, US commanders have been clear that routing Saddam would be the cakewalk it turned out to be and that the real struggle--the one that would take 400,000 US troops--would be holding Iraq after the fall of Saddam. This administration has steadfastly refused to accept the realities of what this war would take. This is what I meant when I said the administration had delusions. This is what I meant when I said they didn't plan.

Shock the Vote
The Challenger and I are not going to vote for the same ticket in November. And I am not so delusional (heh) to believe that I will change his or most anyone else's minds about that.

And I also know that we do not have the time or the space--and we were not asked by the Chairman--to get into the whys and wherefores of our presence in Iraq in the first place. But I think that we have to examine the conduct of this president and the men and women he has surrounded himself with over the course of this war. Have they made the right decisions? Have they made Iraq safer, the United States safer, the world safer?

Bush doesn't want us to criticize him or our allies. But I think its telling than even our most important allies in the region are criticizing us. Pakistan's President Musharraff told Paula Zahn, "[the world] is more dangerous. It's not safer, certainly not [. . .] because [the war] has aroused actions of the Muslims more. It's aroused certain sentiments of the Muslim world, and then the responses, the latest phenomena of explosives, more frequent for bombs and suicide bombings. This phenomenon is extremely dangerous."

Maybe it's true that Iraq has acted as "flypaper" for some terrorists in the region. (It hasn't stopped terror elsewhere, though.) More importantly, and more frighteningly, it has galvanized terrorists around the world against us:
Iraq [. . .] has hampered the war on terror--and thus made us less safe--in three ways. First, it diverted resources from the effort against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and then bogged those resources down in Iraq. Second, contrary to being "flypaper" for terrorists who would all flock to their imminent doom in Baghdad, as conservative apologists claimed ex post facto, in fact the war and the horribly executed occupation (symbolized by the pictures from Abu Ghraib) have served as recruiting devices for al Qaeda cells and other America-haters worldwide. And third, the ham-fisted and ultimately deceitful way in which the Administration tried to strong-arm the rest of the world into backing the war seriously damaged American credibility and further isolated the U.S. in the war on terror.
The Challenger thinks I'm deceiving you when I say that the way the Bush team has waged this war is dangerous for both Iraq and the United States. But I submit that it is he who is deceived--by the Bush team.

Don't fall for it.

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat

Friday, September 24, 2004

Battle Victory Iraq - Challenger - Second Rebuttal

I want to open this rebuttal by saying that I'm genuinely glad I could make Jay laugh. I know he's been going through some tough times and it makes me happy to know that, even when we bump heads, I can bring him a little bit of relief. I hope you get to feeling much better very soon, Jay.

Now for my rebuttal. My esteemed opponent has accused me of a few things in his First Rebuttal. Well, actually he accused me of a lot of things, but there were three big ones: of being a Bush apologist, of paraphrasing his assertions to make them more palatable, of not answering the questions posed by the Chairman.

I'll address each of those, but I want to make a couple points before I do.

First, I have no problem invoking the name of the President in my argument. I haven't done it to this point because it seemed pretty obvious that since I am not only defending what the President has been doing in Iraq but have credited him with victory in one war and of winning another, I shouldn't have to. What other Commander in Chief could take credit for my plaudits? But to make him happy and to fulfill the Presidential Name Quota for my posts I offer this.

President Bush. President Bush. President Bush. President Bush. President Bush.

Second, I'm not at all confused in my argument. I have made it clear, I believe, that we were involved in one war, that we won that one handily, and are now engaged in a second war. The differences between the first and second could not be more stark. In the first, we engaged an enemy organized into an actual army led by a military hierarchy and wearing uniforms of the nation of Iraq. Our goal in that war (roughly) was to defeat the army and depose the leader. In that war not even my opponent can reasonably deny: "Mission Accomplished". In this second war we are fighting a diverse assembly of groups with varying levels of organization, varying levels of funding, various sources of support, and led by not one man but several. This assembly is not a military organization, has no military hierarchy, and has no certain leader to depose. Our goals in this (again, roughly) are to kill them in detail, to secure the areas where they operate, and to ensure that they find no sure footing from which to operate in the future. In this we can say, based on the points I made in my last rebuttal, our Mission is steadily being Accomplished. Or, to put it in the form that answers one of the Chairman's questions: We are winning. But I think that just maybe I said that before.

Jay gives me all the evidence I need to support my assertion that the fight in which we are engaged now is a different war when he says in no uncertain terms that what we face in Iraq are largely foreign fighters. Well, if you have a different enemy from a different place who are funded and dispatched from different countries, then it sure looks like you're fighting a different war, doesn't it? Unless, that is, that Jay wants to claim that these terrorists were already allied with Iraq and fighting for their cause in the first place. But I really don't think he wants to admit that Iraq had such close ties to terrorist organzations, do you?

But let's narrow that down just a little bit. In his first rebuttal, not long after he helps my case by pointing out the large number of foreign fighters in Iraq, he goes on to call the people we're fighting "insurgents". But the fine folks at Mirriam Webster seem to have a different idea of what an insurgent is than Jay does.

1 : a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially : a rebel not recognized as a belligerent
2 : one who acts contrary to the policies and decisions of one's own political party

These foreign fighters can not be insurgents because: 1) as foreign they aren't revolting against civil authority since the Iraqi government as no authority over them (they're not Iraqi citizens, see), and 2) they're acting in complete agreement with the policies and decisions of their political party - that is, the ruling parties of Iran and Syria.

They're not insurgents. They're an assortment of mercenaries paid either directly or with weaponry whose job is to kill Coalition soldiers, Iraqis, and destabilize the Iraqi government. They are, as I've said before, a completely different foe which is why what's happening now is a different war.

So why did I characterize it as the Unrevealed Phase of the Underpants Gnome Strategy? Well, I admit that was he trying to frame a rebuttal in the terms of Jay's argument. It made my point less clear than it should have been. I tried to rebute a cute argument with another cute argument and it went over like a pole vaulter with a pantfull of lead. Let me be very clear. We are fighting a separate war with a separate enemy and separate goals than the one we won in April, 2003.

I now want to examine Jay's charge that I'm a Bush apologist. How, I wonder, can he actually write a post where he calls me a Bush apologist then castigates me for not actually using the President's name? I know it can be done because I read it. I'm just kind of curious about how he managed to do it without a quarter of his brain leaping out of his ear, running into the kitchen, grabbing a steak mallet, and giving him a good whack across the knuckles with it.

I realize that trying to explain why I'm not a Bush apologist is like answering the question about when I stopped beating my wife (I don't have a wife! Ha!), but let me at least try. I do not agree with every aspect of how the President has fought this current war. There are a few things I very much wish he had done differently. For instance, I wish we had been far more vigorous in cleaning out the vermin who infest Fallujah. But I'm also not so blind to my own ideology that I can't see the successes of his strategy. I can see how, once we handed sovereignty back to the Iraqis and recognized Iyad Allawi as the legitimate leader of that country, we should probably let him actually lead the country and honor their sovereignty. And when he says that he is making things work in Fallujah and elsewhere, we ought to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even if I think we should have flattened the city with a large, Marine-intensive steamroller, I'm inclined to give the Prime Minister the latitude to find a political solution and to believe the results he's telling me. Is that naive? Well, I don't know about all that. I give world leaders the benefit of the doubt all the time. Even the Coalition gave Saddam Hussein 16 UN Resolutions worth of benefit of the doubt for well over a decade before we decided that he needed to be deposed. I'm fairly sure that Jay would not be willing to say in the same breath that the President rushed headlong into war and to say that we should rush headling not to believe the Prime Minister of Iraq, would he? If so, he should let me know first, so I can get that steak mallet safely out of his kitchen. Just in case.

His prime piece of evidence that I'm a Bush apologist is that I "take pride in the idea that we're killing more of them than they are of us, so it's okay". Well, the "idea" tht we're killing more of them is a prety important thing, don't you think? Despite Jay's statements to the contrary, it is an important metric we can use to determine how successful we are in this current war. We do have various means we can examine to see if we're winning or not and I've given not only the one Jay actively disputed, but several others he left largely unmolested. Since this one is the one on which he's seized, I want to stick with it for another paragraph or so.

I have to say that we have fought thus far in Iraq with surprising gentility, announcing our military operations into cities well before we act so that civilians can leave and not act as the human shields our opponents want them for and backing off in hotly-contested areas so that the Iraqi government and others could pursue political solutions. And I mourn the loss of any innocent civilian life, but I also applaud how delicately our military has operated and abhor my opponent's distortion of how many civilian dead there have been in Iraq. If you follow the link he provides to support his "100,000 dead civilians" statement, you'll see that, at most, the counter says that there are less than 15,000 dead because of Coalition military action in Iraq. I should note that those 15,000 people were killed in over a year of military operations are child's play compared Saddam's Hussein's slaughter of the Marsh Arabs (who number 40,000 but used to umber 250,000), or the mass graves he filled with Kurds at a rate of 3000 or 5000 at a time, or the tens of thouseands of people who have just disappeared over the years.

But Jay does have a bit of a point. Those foreign fighters wouldn't be dead, most likely, if we weren't there fighting them. Those poor, innocent terrorists and mercenaries could be spending their time in better ways, I suppose. Maybe they could be building belts full of explosives to blow up school bus stops in Israel. Maybe they could be working for the Iranian mullahs cheering on the hanging of a mentally-retarded 16-year old girl for her "sharp tongue". I don't know about you folks, but I would far rather those hate-filled and evil people try their hand against armed soldiers than against schoolchildren, handicapped teenagers, and restaurant patrons.

Now let's look at my opponents problems with my paraphrasing the things things he believe I chose not to contradict.

  1. The National Intelligence Estimate. Come on, folks. Do I really need to vigorously rebut his use of this as evidence? When he invoked it in his Opening Argument he said,

    Yes, I know that this is the same intelligence community that said selling Iraq's WMD to the public would be a "slam dunk," but they are also the same people who said, prophetically, "Bin Laden is determined to attack the United States," which turned out to be true.

    If he's already admitted that he's willing to believe its veracity based on the case he wants to support, I'm not sure that we should take it all that seriously as good evidence for his argument.

  2. The cost argument. Yes, I used the Marshall Plan as a point of comparison. Do I believe that the rebuilding of Iraq is the same as the rebuilding of Germany after World War II? Certainly not. But I do believe that rebuilding Iraq involves costs that no one could possibly forsee including upgrading tons of equipment neglected to the point of uselessness by Saddam Hussein and rebuilding hundreds of homes and neighborhoods neglected or just razed by the former regime. That takes a lot of money but it's a necessary expense. My point was that what we are spending on Iraq is much less a chunk of our national income than the last time we did something like this. That we can show success without breaking the national income bank reflects well on the President and the Iraqi people.

  3. His ad hominem attacks on the President. Well, I thik they were pretty good paraphrases but if you don't buy how I did that, let me give you the direct quotes.

    "The Bush administration was delusional."
    "There was an utter lack of post-war planning..."
    "The fact that we were lied to is enough..."

    Now let me show you how I paraphrased those statements.

    "...1) the President was delusional, 2) the President was grossly unprepared, and 3) the President lied."

    Now my opponent says that "He rephrases them (there he goes again!) and uses that to glibly dismiss what is truly the most serious part of my Opening Statement."

    I've chosen deliberately not to debate name-calling because, well, Pee Wee Herman said it far better than I ever could. But if those attacks are the most serious points of his Opening Statement, then his argument is in serious trouble.

  4. Iraqi Celebrations. Jay chooses to dismiss the article I posted as "probably Ahmed Chalabi's inner circle". Well, we'll leave that unsupported aluminum foil-cap theory mostly aside and look at a few more articles. Does the child pictured here appear to be part of the Chalabi Conspiracy? How about this article that mentioned street celebrations after the capture of Saddam Hussein? Or the "jubilant crowds" mentioned in this story - are they also on the Chalabi payroll?

    Look, I'm not so foolish as to believe that the day we captured Iraq and won the first war the country erupted in celebrations the likes of which we saw in World War II. But there were most definitely celebrations. I've proven that. But let's face it, folks. That we saw celebrations at all is a small wonder. For the records, I did believe that we wouldn't see what some folks in the administration were expecting, but neither did I swallow the propaganda that the Iraqis would decry us as invaders. I chose the prudent middle ground: that we would be welcomed, but warily. The people of Iraq have a long memory and they recall how we left them to die at the hands of a vengeful Saddam Hussein after the UN and our own State Department recommended that we not depose Hussein or actively support the uprising against him after the Gulf War. They would have been foolish and gullible not to be cautious. But in the last year we have won their appreciation, admiration, and support. At least that's what their Prime Minister had told us. They've also had to endure decades of tyranny, torture and murder and we could be just a little understanding about how that might have affected them psychologically. But daily they find ways to heal and to work hard to improve their country and to honor those countries who have sacrificed to liberate them.

  5. The war's unpopularity. Well, Jay did post an interesting assortment of polls, most of which, by the way, show that the majority support our going into Iraq and our being in Iraq right now. Look at the second survey by the Pew Centre or the third by the CNN/USA Today/Gallup or the fourth by the Ananburg Election survey. All those polls' most recent numbers show support for what we're doing in Iraq. He says I glossed over it. You tell me.

  6. No clear goal. Jay says that I "must agree that there's no clear goal anymore". I must? Really?

    How about if, instead, I tell you just what the goals are. The first goal is to establish security around the country. That's happening right now. According to Prime Minister Allawi,

    Let me explain something which is very important. I have noticed in the media, it have been neglected and omitted several times, in the Western media.

    Iraq is made out of 18 provinces. Out of these 18 provinces, 14 to 15 are completely safe; there are no problems. And I can count them for you, starting from Basra, moving into Iraq Kurdistan.

    There are three areas, three provinces where there are pockets of insurgents, pockets of terrorists who are acting there and are moving from there to inflict damage elsewhere in the country.

    So really few care to look at Iraq properly and go from Basra to Nasiriyah to Kut (ph) to Diala to Najaf to Karbala to Diwina to Samawa (ph) to Kirkuk to Sulaymaniyah to Dahoo (ph) to Irbil there are no problems. It's safe. It's good.

    There are problems in Fallujah. Fallujah is part of a province, the province is called Al Anbar. It's vast, very big. It has many other important towns, such as Anna (ph), such as Rawa (ph), such as Ramadi. There's nothing there. In Anna (ph) and Rawa (ph) indeed there is nothing, no problem, except on a small pocket in Fallujah.

    So really, I call up on the responsible media throughout the world, not only here, to look at the facts as they are in Iraq and to propagate these facts to the international community.

    I am not trying to undermine that there are dangers. There are dangers in Iraq. There are problems and we are facing international terrorist onslaught on Iraq. I personally have received every day a threat. In the last four weeks, they found four conspiracies to kill me. And likewise they are killing people. They are killing officials. They are killing innocent people. But the Iraqis are not deterred and we are not going to be deterred.

    I went the next day and saw a recruitment center for the police after they killed, massacred 40, 45 people. I found hundreds of people coming to volunteer to the police and to the army.

    I had spoke to them. They are all upbeat. They are resolved to beat terrorism and to defeat the insurgents.

    These are facts that one really needs to explain it to you and you need to explain it to the people.

    The second goal is to establish an independent, stable, and democratic Iraqi government. Looks like that's happening also since elections are going to happen in January. Or as PM Allawi puts it:

    I know that some have speculated, even doubted, whether this date can be met. So let me be absolutely clear: Elections will occur in Iraq on time in January because Iraqis want elections on time.

    The third goal is to train an Iraqi security force capable of handling the country once our forces withdraw from active patrolling. That, also, is happening apace (despite the terrorists efforts to kill recruits and discourage Iraqis from joining). Again, PM Allawi says,

    The Iraqi government now commands almost 50,000 armed and combat- ready Iraqis.

    By January it will be some 145,000. And by the end of next year, some 250,000 Iraqis.

    The government has accelerated the development of Iraqi special forces, and the establishment of a counter-terrorist strike force to tackle specific problems caused by insurgencies.

    Our intelligence is getting better every day. You have seen that the successful resolution of the Najaf crisis, and then the targeted attacks against insurgents in Fallujah.

    These new Iraqi forces are rising to the challenge. They are fighting on behalf of sovereign Iraqi government, and therefore their performance is improving every day. Working closely with the coalition allies, they are striking their enemies wherever they hide, disrupting operations, destroying safe houses and removing terrorist leaders.

    These seem to fly in the face of the argument that we've had no post-war planning. Allawi and his government didn't just spring into being thanks to Magic Government Fairies. They exist because the Bush administration planned for them to be there then implemented the plan in June and again in August. Allawi can say that Iraq is mostly secure not because there's are secret terrorist disabling rays keeping the country that way but because we executed a plan for security. Every day the Iraqi people see their lives getting better and their country growing stronger. I again quote Allawi,

    Oil pipelines are being repaired. Basic services are being improved. The homes are being rebuilt. Schools and hospitals are being rebuilt. The clinics are open and reopened. There are now over 6 million children at school, many of them attending one of the 2,500 schools that have been renovated since liberation.

    Last week, we completed a national polio vaccination campaign, reaching over 90 percent of all Iraqi children.

    We’re starting work on 150 new health centers across the country. Millions of dollars in economic aid and humanitarian assistance from this country and others around the world are flowing into Iraq. For this, again, I want to thank you.

    Oil pipelines repaired. Children back in new and repaired schools. Vaccinations for children. Homes and hospitals rebuilt.

    None of this happened by chance. It happened because the Bush Administration has a plan. In fact, in Allawi's speech before Congress, he mentioned the word "plan" nine times.

    Now you may not like the plan. I may not like the plan. But there is a plan.

    And when my opponent tells you that there is no plan, he's misleading you - really misleading you unlike the partisan, tinfoil-hat definition of "misleading" that he and his candidate John Kerry projects onto President Bush.

As I have said before and will say again, we're winning.

I'll conclude by quoting the Chairman's questions and answering them explicitly, so that my opponent won't have that to use anymore and can get onto addressing the facts I've brought into play.

  • "Are we winning the war?" As I've explained, we've won one war and are winning another.

  • "Can we win it at all?" I can only answer that if I believe that we're not winning. I belive I've proven to this point that we are.

  • "Have the President's policies steered us towards victory or disaster?" That one ought to be obvious.

My opponent says, "..it is clear to me that this president's unwillingness to admit error or change course when we are so far from true--these are dangerous characteristics. Dangerous for Iraq. Dangerous for the United States." But do not be deceived.

We are winning.

Thank You,
Jimmie Bise, Jr., Challenger

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Battle Victory Iraq - Iron Blogger Democrat - First Rebuttal

I am willing to forgive the Challenger his brevity in his Opening and Rebuttal, both because I understand the extenuating circumstances (earlier today, in fact, I had a six-inch needle poking into my spine!) and because, darn it, he makes me laugh (James Carville is a gnome! Tee hee!).

But in remaining brief, the Challenger commits several blunders: He leaves unanswered both the implicit and explicit questions of the Chairman. He severely undermines the strength of his argument with the blanket dismissal in his Rebuttal that "[t]here are a couple of points my opponent mentioned which I will not address because I don't see them as germane to the topic at hand." He cedes vast swaths of this debate; as they say on "Law and Order," he seems to "stipulate to the facts of the case." While doing so, he perpetuates myths about our "victory" and muddies the issue about the war's being over. He also doesn't seem to understand why I spend the last part of my Opening talking about the election, dismissing it as ad hominem against Bush. In the end, he's gotten himself a whole lot of (funny) nowhere.

I. The Question
The Challenger has a habit of paraphrasing things he doesn't like, twisting the language to suit his own purposes, and he opens by doing that to the Chairman. The Challenger's Opening Statement starts with, "Is the war won? If not, are we winning it? If not, why not and what can we do to win it?" What the Chairman actually asked was this: "Are we winning the war? Can we win it at all? Have the President's policies steered us towards victory or disaster?"

It's subtle, but the Challenger tries to reframe the debate in a way that lets him throw off a few clever lines, declare that we won the war on April 9, 2003, and then predict that I will make the "mistake" of confusing the rebuilding with the war, allowing him to declare "Mission Accomplished" against me, also prematurely. The Chairman seems to think that the war is not over, and I'm inclined to agree, not only because I'm a brown-noser of the first degree, but because US troops are actively engaged in fighting an enemy on foreign soil, enigmatic as that enemy may be. That sounds like war to me.

What's more, if the Challenger (or the president) is calling the current situation in Iraq a "new" or a "different" war, it opens up some constitutional questions. Like, who declared this war? I certainly don't remember Congress declaring, or even passing a resolution giving the president the authority to declare, war on "the terrorists, disaffected Baathists, and foreign mercenaries." Not even John Kerry claiming to have voted for it before voting against it. The invasion cannot be separated from the occupation en route to finally leaving the country, or staying there peacefully. The troops in Germany post-WWII were not occupiers; troops in the DMZ are there are the request of Seoul and occupy nothing. Right now in Iraq we are an occupying force and fighting every day.

The Challenger's own First Rebuttal belies the idea that this is a new war. He writes,
It's the war my opponent would have you believe is question mark-intensive phase of President Bush's Underpants Gnome Strategy. [. . .] The fight to root out the terrorists, disaffected Baathists, and foreign mercenaries and rebuild the country is the second part of the strategy.
That just leaves me confused; which is it--a brand-spanking new war or the second part of the same effort? The accidental question mark after "I didn't buy it" is more telling than he might think.

In rephrasing the Chairman's questions, the Challenger also very cleverly subtracts the agency of George W. Bush from the equation. The Chairman specifically charged us combatants to address the relative success (or potential for success) of the Bush plan. In the end, the Challenger's Opening Statement is a dodge--"We won so don't pay any attention to what's happening now!"--and the Rebuttal is not much better at addressing whether specific Bush administration policies are effective. In fact, he never once mentions Bush in his Opening, and mentions Bush only in referencing my arguments in his Rebuttal. Why, oh Challenger of mine, are you so afraid to talk about Bush's leadership?

II. It is Germane
Let me remind you what the Challenger seems to think is not "germane," and what he chooses not to contradict:
  • He doesn't deny that Iraq has been infiltrated with foreign fighters and terrorists. And it's considerably more than the "dash" or "dollop" he admits. We're facing resistance on a grand scale--his own numbers prove this. Juan Cole really puts it in perspective--and notes here how, contrary to the Challenger's and Allawi's assertions, chaos reins across Iraq. And, hell, not even the Green Zone is really green anymore!

  • He explicitly dismisses the newly-declassified National Intelligence Estimate by questioning its credibility. Trouble is, that assessment is seconded and thirded and more by other intelligence agencies around the world.

  • He as much as admits that we overestimated how we'd be welcomed after the fall of Saddam, even though he has fallen hook, line, and sinker for US military PSYOPS that staged the toppling of Saddam's staute for the media in the hotel across the street. He wants me to look at the photos in his links. I did, and in the five (one photo was repeated in both stories), I count fewer than a dozen celebrating Iraqis. It reminds me how these photos just have the same handful of guys over and over again in them--probably Ahmed Chalabi's inner circle.

    Were the Kurds happy? Sure, but remember the reason that the Kurds hated Saddam so much (and thus celebrated as described by this link from the Challenger) is that the US abandoned its commitment to help them in 1991, leaving many of them dead at Republican Guard hands. Besides, they're not so happy now. And, really, for every pro-American Iraqi blogger the Challenger can cite, I can cite at least one, maybe two, Iraqis who oppose this war.

  • He lets the arguments on occupation-planning just float right by. He must agree that we're short at least 150,000, if not 200,000, troops necessary to get the job done.

  • He glosses over the argument that this is an unpopular war. I am sure that if Americans in general felt it were necessary and were behind it, things would at least look and feel different to us now. But we don't support this overwhelmingly at all.

  • He must agree that there's no clear goal anymore. He writes that we've gone "from one objective to many," but he doesn't say what they are. As I said, that's the problem--no one knows what our goals are.

III. The War Isn't Over
Perhaps the Challenger is willing to stipulate to these facts because he's unwilling to admit that the war is not over.
Now we're fighting a new conflict [he writes]. Call it Iraq: Part II. Call it The War on Newly-Minted Terrorists (to borrow my brother's phrase). But know that it's a different war. [. . .] In this new war, we are looking at an entirely different situation. Our opponents are different. We have gone from one objective to several. The time frame for success has lengthened. That's all to be expected.
Well, I'm glad the Challenger expected it, because (as the Challenger stipulates!) the administration certainly did not see it coming, despite the repeated warnings of its own commanders.

But I submit to you that this is not a sequel to anything, and to call it such excuses and condones reckless behavior from this administration. When the Challenger stipulates (by denying it's "germane"!) that the rationale for the invasion and occupation has never been clear and that we have no clear goals anymore, he excuses it by saying that going "from one objective to several" is to be expected. Saying the "time frame for success" is different now, too, is just an excuse for the lack of any clear exit strategy.

I would imagine that the Challenger is less offended by my calling him and apologist for this administration than by my calling him a segregationist in our first go-round, but I don't think that particular position is an enviable one to be in. To be an apologist for this administration, the Challenger has to take pride in the idea that we're killing more of them than they are of us, so it's okay. Some of us aren't so much into killing. And, frankly, I have to wonder why when Saddam killed hundreds or thousands of people who opposed his regime, it was evil, yet when we do it, it's okay? These men and women we are killing--the insurgents, anyway, not the more than 100,000 civilians who have been killed (since it was less than that 500,000 the UN expected, I guess we avoided that humanitarian crisis!)--would not be in Iraq and would not be taking up arms against Americans there or anywhere were it not for our invasion in the first place!

The Challenger tries to fool us by comparing occupied Iraq to Europe under the Marshall Plan. Oh. My. God. This is not even apples to oranges, it's something worse. He wants to compare the costs in Iraq to the costs of rebuilding the whole of Europe after WWII? Give me a break! Aside from the fact that we no longer do things like carpet bomb to destroy whole towns that subsequently need rebuilding, there is no plan for Iraq! I could maybe be convinced that Iraqi reconstruction funds were worth it if there were actually a large-scale plan. But this has been my point all along: We had massive success at part one of the war and now we're stuck in part two which is, as best as I can tell, a question mark!

Finally, we can't call this war over because we have no way of knowing--we have no metric by which to measure success. The Challenger offers one; he writes, "If the number of their casualties compared to ours is a measure of victory, then we're winning." That's a pretty big if--and I don't think casualty counts are what we want to hang our hat on. What about ten million pages of documents?, he asks. Woo. Hoo. That's about, what, 9,000 pages for each dead coalition soldier? I'm really quite surprised he didn't say, "But the schools are open!"

IV. Bush v. Kerry
Finally, I need to clarify for the Challenger why my three stated reasons why we're losing are not mere ad hominem against President Bush. He rephrases them (there he goes again!) and uses that to glibly dismiss what is truly the most serious part of my Opening Statement.

The President of the United States has very few actual duties spelled out in the Constitution, but perhaps the most important of them is to serve as Commander in Chief. It is his responsibility, and his responsibility only, to lead our forces in battle, metaphorically if not physically. The buck must stop with him when it comes to our armed forces. When war goes sour, there must be changes; there must be consequences. George W. Bush and his lieutenants have steadfastly refused to consider the slightest possibility that they were wrong, that things should have been done differently and better.

When a corporation runs into trouble, who takes the fall? The CEO. When schools fall apart, who gets canned? The superintendent. When a baseball team sucks, who gets fired? The manager.

When the Chairman asks, explicitly, "Have the President's policies steered us towards victory or disaster?," I have to address that. And while I am not declaring Iraq a disaster (I freely admit that the world is better off without Saddam, and many good things really are happening in Iraq), it is clear to me that this president's unwillingness to admit error or change course when we are so far from true--these are dangerous characteristics. Dangerous for Iraq. Dangerous for the United States.

Respectfully submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Battle Victory Iraq - Challenger - First Rebuttal

As I was reading the IBDem's opening, I had to stop a few times and ask myself, "Self? Did you slip over to John Kerry's website by accident?". Truly, from beginning to the very end, the only thing that separated his opening from a Kerry campaign ad were the words "I'm John Kerry and I approve of this Opening Argument".

But that's pretty much what I expect on the issue of Iraq. In order for opposition to the President to gain the slightest bit of traction, our efforts in Iraq must be seen as a failure. And certainly, the IBDem has painted a pretty grim picture.

Unfortunately, it's not a picture of what's actually happening in Iraq.

In my opening, I addressed the question, "Have we won the war in Iraq?". The answer, of course, is yes - in stunning fashion. Coalition military forces managed to travel 300 miles into hostile territory in five days while incurring fewer casualties than in any other war in history. They did this without triggering the humanitarian disaster the UN so stridently predicted. They did this while critics and media personalities were likening Iraq to Vietnam not even five days after forces entered the country. But their dire predictions turned out to be utterly false. We won the war in less than a month.

Now we're fighting a new conflict. Call it Iraq: Part II. Call it The War on Newly-Minted Terrorists (to borrow my brother's phrase). But know that it's a different war. It's the war my opponent would have you believe is question mark-intensive phase of President Bush's Underpants Gnome Strategy. I know this because I was actually visited by an Underpants Gnome this afternoon. He tried to convince me of the very same thing the IBDem wants all of us to believe. He wants us to believe that we're fumbling around in the darkness, throwing away the lives of soldiers, and tossing inconceivable amounts of money down a black hole. But I didn't buy it and you shouldn't either?

The fight to root out the terrorists, disaffected Baathists, and foreign mercenaries and rebuild the country is the second part of the strategy - the new war that we have to fight in order for Iraq to emerge a democracy with any hope of stability. In this new war, we are looking at an entirely different situation. Our opponents are different. We have gone from one objective to several. The time frame for success has lengthened. That's all to be expected. As I said in my opening, cleaning out the rabble and helping a country rebuild and start a brand new government is not an overnight operation nor is it cheap. But guess what? We're winning this one, too.

My opponent has given us a series of points to illustrate that we're not winning. Taken at face value, he has pretty telling points. But there are a few things he's not telling you. Let's look at some of his points.

  1. We're incurring increasingly more casualties. Yes, that's true. Can't deny it. Then again, so are they. It is difficult, if not impossible, to get an accurate figure on how many "insurgents" Coalition forces have killed since April 3, 2003. I know because I looked all over the net for a couple hours today. So let's look at a few news stories to see what sort of numbers we can get from them.

    In recent action near Tal Afar, Coalition forces killed between 67 and 100 insurgents with few casualties. British forces killed over 100 Mahdi militiamen in August with no casualties. In fact, that same article notes that a casualty toll of 1500-2500 dead militia during August alone "would not be unreasonable" yet Coalition forces lost 75 soldiers in that same amount of time, nationwide. We're killing terrorists at a rate of ten to one or greater in our engagements and you can see that with virtually any news story you choose to read.

    If the numbers of their casualties compared to ours is a measure of victory, then we're winning.

  2. Reconstruction costs are "spiraling out of control". The source my opponent quoted puts the figure at 120 billion dollars this year and John Kerry deceptively puts the figure at 200 billion dollars. But is this really an out-of-control spiral?

    Well, not exactly. After World War II, the Marshall Plan cost the United States between 2.5 and 5 percent of our national income - a good amount over 200 billion dollars a year. In 2003, our national income was 9707.8 billion dollars (!) and by my quick and dirty math, the 120 billion dollars we spent in one year on Iraq was only 1.2 percent of that. Even if we take the inflated figure of 200 billion dollars, we only come up to 2.1 percent - well under the lowest point of the Marshall Plan. We're spending a smaller percentage of our wealth today than we did to rebuild a new democratic Germany. If spending is a measure of victory, then we're winning.

  3. Our Coalition is shrinking "almost by the day". Well, if "by the day" you mean "over the course of five months" then sure. We had 33 nations in the Coalition in April, 2004. Now we have 31. That's no real cause for alarm since it's far more nations than are currently involved in Afghanistan. If the size of our coalition is a measure of victory, then we're winning.

  4. The populations centers are out of control. Well, unless you happen to ask the Iraqi Interim Prime Minister. He seems to believe that:

    "...Najaf now is back to normality, the people are going about doing their own business. People are going to the mosques, to the shrines, to restaurants, hotels, so on. The same applies to Samarra, which was even probably more than Fallujah, problems there. Likewise in Basra. There are -- the vast majority of Iraq is really calm, no problems. Samarra, Diwaniya (ph), Hilla, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Kut, Basra, Najaf, Karbala, Suleimaniya (ph), Erbil, Tahuk (ph), these are all calm places, and the government is in full control."

    If the stability of the country, as voiced by the leader of that country, is a measure of victory, then we're winning.

There are a couple of points my opponent mentioned which I will not address because I don't see them as germane to the topic at hand, though they may be germane to other discussions (having terrorists operating against soldiers with guns as oppposed to unarmed civilians, or the specific reliability of the National Intelligence Estimate).

My opponent also says that our losing is an "inescapable conclusion". Well, that conclusion seems to have broken free and is now climbing the Empire State Bulding. I expect him to dispatch the biplanes to shoot it down, so let's see if I can wrap this up by clipping the wings of the IBDem's Air Force.

My opponent says that not only are we losing in Iraq but also that we can never win as long as President Bush stays in office. He stakes that argument on three reasons, which I will boil down into a nice tomato-ey reduction for you: 1) the President was delusional, 2) the President was grossly unprepared, and 3) the President lied. Well, how can I possibly argue with those? I'm going to need something just as classy and with every bit as much factual information as I can muster.

How about this? I know you are but what am I?

Really, I can't seriously respond to an argument that purports to be intellectual, but in reality is the same old ad hominem attack we've heard about George W. Bush since he ran for Governor of Texas. And I suspect that it'll prove every bit as effective as it has in the past. Don't believe me? Ask Ann Richards or Al Gore.

But still, one point does need rebutting. It's common anti-Bush mythology that people weren't celebrating in the streets and giving us a ticker-tape parade as we liberated their country. Well, go back and read the two articles I posted about the Coalition taking of Baghdad. Note the opening of one article: "As jubilant crowds danced and cheered in the streets of Baghdad...". Look at the photos on the sidebar. Check out the headline of one of those stories, "U.S. Troops Cheered in Baghdad" and look at the photo. Or read this article. Or you could read the words of Iraqis themselves, like these, or him or him. It seems that even for a people "skeptical of all authority and wary of the Americans' insistence that they were liberators" they were pretty willing to whoop it up now that they could without ending up in a shallow mass grave. We'll have to forgive them for learning how to live a torture-free life before they planned our Liberation Shindig.

As for the lack of a ticker-tape parade, well, he's got me there. On the other hand, I'm sure we'd settle for the archving of the ten million documents we've taken from Hussein's governmental strongholds or the documents we're using to uncover his bribery program undertaken under the watchful eye of the UN. It ain't ticker tape but it'll do just fine I think.

I'm not sure it needs to be said, but I'll say it anyway. If uncovering tens of millions of documents outlining the depravity of an ousted dictator and his long efforts to bribe the world into complacence is a measure of victory, then we're winning.

To conclude, I'd have to say that we're winning this new war in Iraq as well. It's not an easy victory as was the first, but it's happening. We have a long way to go before it's won, but we get a little closer every day. A lot of people, my opponent included, would have you believe otherwise - often for the most crass political reasons. But don't be fooled.

We are winning.

-Jimmie Bise, Jr., Challenger

Battle Victory Iraq - Iron Blogger Democrat - Opening Statement

Man oh man. Victory Iraq? Victory Iraq?

Well, we're not winning at the moment. Period. Careful now--put down that flag and newly-legal AK-47 . . . Look, I don't hate America, I don't hate the troops, and I don't hate freedom. But, really, we're losing.

  • The rate of American casualties is increasing Since the handover, more American troops (let alone American civilians) are dying than before.

  • The costs of reconstruction are spiraling out of control. And that aid money already allocated is going unspent.

  • Our "coalition of the willing" is shrinking, almost by the day. (Yes, even Britain is pulling back.) The American share of the cost, both in money and in lives, grows ever larger.

  • Iraq, which, contrary to some people's belief, was not a hotbed of anti-American terrorist activity, is now swarming with foreign fighters itching for a shot at us and happy to have this chaos as a base of operations.

  • Virtually every single population center is totally out of control, which really puts a crimp in any plans for meaningful national elections anytime soon.

  • The very best intelligence available on the ground suggests that we're losing badly, as the recent National Intelligence Estimate did. (Yes, I know that this is the same intelligence community that said selling Iraq's WMD to the public would be a "slam dunk," but they are also the same people who said, prophetically, "Bin Laden is determined to attack the United States," which turned out to be true.)

These things all add up to one inescapable conclusion: We're not winning. "Victory Iraq" is not close at hand or even on the distant horizon.

Why aren't we winning, though? There are three simple reasons:
  1. The Bush administration was delusional. When we went into Iraq, everyone was convinced that we would be "greeted as liberators" and be strewn with "flowers and dancing in the streets." That just didn't happen. It could be because, as Army General John Keane said, no one "predicted how passive Iraq's people would be after 35 years of political repression, and how that would make them skeptical of all authority and wary of the Americans' insistence that they were liberators." It could just be because the US went into the war (as we did in Vietnam) without a thorough grounding in the region's history and a misunderstanding of the Iraqi (and Arab) culture. At any rate, those expecting ticker-tape parades were fooling themselves and signing death warrants for our sons and daughters.

  2. There was an utter lack of post-war planning--and a complete ignorance of thoughtful recommendations--before combat began. General Eric Shinseki was fired for daring to suggest that we'd need "several thousand" troops to keep the peace in post-war Iraq. Army Secretary Thomas White got the boot for the same reason. We should probably have had more troops for the beginning--and even now--but the administration's insistence that it knew what it was doing with so few troops has made it hard for commanders to ask for what they need.

    Most disturbing is Anthony Zinni's story:
    Four years ago, those who devised an Iraq war game called "Desert Crossing" concluded that a large force would be needed to subdue the country. "We were concerned about the ability to get in there right away, to flood the towns and villages," says retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and the surrounding region when he supervised "Desert Crossing." "We knew the initial problem would be security."

    The 1999 exercise recommended a force of 400,000 troops to invade and stabilize Iraq. But at the insistence of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, ground forces in the March invasion were held to less than half that: about 130,000 U.S. combat troops and some 30,000 British troops.
    It got so bad, in fact, that we saw damning headlines last summer like "Pentagon had no plans for post-war Iraq." Well, maybe they did have a plan--something like the Underpants Gnomes plan made famous here by ex-Iron Blogger Republican, Rosemary Esmay. I see it like this:
    1. Utterly destroy an enemy we vastly outnumber
    2. ?????????
    3. Leave a stable, democratic Iraq behind

  3. We have a lack of enthusiastic support for the war here at home. This is in part because we were misled into the war. Whether purposely or inadvertently, virtually every single pre-war assertion about Iraq from this administration has proven false, from WMD claims to the delusions of post-war utopia. We can point fingers of blame (in fact, I'd appreciate it if the Bush administration finally admitted that mistakes were made and allowed some heads to roll, but they can't seem to admit error--ever), but it doesn't matter whose shoulders those misleading statements rest on. The fact that we were lied to is enough; it is the little pebble in our shoe, the hair in our soup that makes us want to send it back.

    It doesn't help homeland morale, either, that this war seems unconnected to us. Right up until the RNC last month (you know, when Bush finally started to see his polling numbers climb--hmmmm), we were facing almost weekly terror alerts. Iraq had not wronged us (despite what Fox News viewers think) or an ally the way it had in 1991 when support for the Gulf War never waned.

What makes declaring victory in Iraq even harder is that there is not a clear goal line, in part, again, because the administration has been cagey and inconsistent about its reasons for taking us to war there in the first place. Are we there to simply get a bad guy and liberate a people? Are we there to establish a base of operations for staging attacks against the terrorist who actually are a threat to the US? Are we there to knock over the first domino on the table that will become Middle-Eastern Democracy? Any of these would be clear, easily defined goals for our foray into Iraq (their morality or expediency could still be debated here), but since none of these has been clearly identified as our mission, there will be no way to tell when we have achieved success. Worse, an unclear goal--or this series of sometimes-conflicting sought-after outcomes--leaves our military and intelligence community confused as to what to do next, what's most important.

The Chairman's middle question, "Can we win it at all?," is the most dispiriting of the three he asks. I simply don't know. The closest I come to any kind of military leadership training is the several years I was embarrassingly addicted to the game Diplomacy in high school. I have to figure that people like Anthony Zinni, Thomas White, and Eric Shinseki are right; they all make it clear now (and, frankly, made it clear pre-invasion) that the paltry force we have in place is not enough to secure the peace.

This will not appease any of my bring-the-boys-home-now fans, but, let's be realistic here: We have three real choices: One, keep doing what we're doing which, as I have clearly proven, is not sufficient. Two, bring in enough troops (US or allied) to stabilize the situation--but not to brutalize the citizens!--so that an Iraqi military and police force can take over. Three, cut and run, leaving utter entropy in the middle of a region that does not deserve and cannot handle much more chaos (though Bob Novak may be floating that trial balloon for the administration). I have to choose number two, and, to the great disappointment of the right half of the room here, I have to say that such a change in strategy has to begin with a change in leadership. That's right: I firmly believe, given Bush's reticence to admit mistakes and the administration's tendency to bungle military planning, step one in "Victory Iraq" is electing John Kerry.

Yes, yes, I know that it seems improper and even crass to politicize Iraq, and I also know that John Kerry's speech this week outlining his proposals for winning Iraq are neither concrete nor so clearly distinct from the status quo. But this administration--this president in particular--has demonstrated a serious problem when it comes to endgame, not only in Iraq but also in Afghanistan, where the peace was not fully won, either.

I'm looking forward to this Battle, not only because I get to beat this Challenger a second time (and this time I'll try to do it without calling him a segregationist (: ), but because this is exactly the debate we should be having on a national scale right now. Bush's invasion of Iraq is seen by many of his supporters as evidence of his tough stance on terrorism, despite the deceptive way the war was sold and Iraq's lack of connection to anti-American terror. Those same Bush supporters see Bush's reluctance to admit that things are not going well or that mistakes were made in planning as evidence of his strong leadership. In both cases, Bush is merely demonstrating his inability to lead, to be Commander in Chief, effectively or sensibly.

"Victory Iraq"? Maybe, but not without regime change at home, too.

Respectfully Submitted,
Jay Bullock, Iron Blogger Democrat

Battle Victory Iraq - Challenger - Opening Statement

First, I want to apologize for the delay. Not noticing the timestamp on The Chairman's e-mail, I was working on the belief that the deadline for my opening statement was Wednesday at midnight instead of Tuesday. But thanks to his gentle correction and forebearance, I'm here. I also wish to apologize for the comparative brevity of my opening post. working on a short turnaround time in the most harried part of my week isn't going to lead to a lot of words. I hope that will not be held against me - not greatly at least.

So now, on with the Fiesta!

Iraq. Is the war won? If not, are we winning it? If not, why not and what can we do to win it? The questions we might consider in this Battle seem predicated on the answer to the last one being "no". So I'm going to shortcut the process a bit.

The Chairman asked if we were winning the war in Iraq. My answer is that we already won the war there. You could say that we won the day the commanding general in Iraq recommended the President declare major combat operations over, thus paving the way for nations who had promised us aid but not during those military operations to fulfill their promises. You could say we won the war the day we dragged Saddam Hussein from his spider hole and imprisoned him for a later Iraqi trial. You could say that we won the war the day we gave Iraq back to the Iraqis, returned their nation to a soverign status and gave them control over their own government and destinies again.

For my money, though, I opt for the first. We won the war when, after watching the Iraqi armies rout before Coalition forces and hearing of Saddan Hussein's panicked flight from Baghdad, our troops rode into Baghdad and a cheering crowd topped a statue of Saddam Hussein. That day was April 9, 2003.

I can understand confusion about Iraq. After all, war isn't always so definitive and the aftereffects of a war can last for months, years, or even decades. For instance, we still maintain troops in Japan and Germany 60 years after defeating them in World War II. Our troops still patrol the Korean DMZ 50 years after the armistice. Toppling a country and rebuilding it is a long process fraught with pitfalls and more than ample opportunity for mistakes. Oftentimes forces that oppose the rebuilding blend and change until it's not clear exactly who we're fighting. Vietnam was an excellent example of that and that even happened during the war itself. What we're facing in Iraq right now is one of those blends - a few leftovers of Saddam's regime, a dash of Sunni militants looking to grab a handful of power, a healthy dollop of terrorists who flow over the Iranian and Syrian borders like water, seasoned by the occasional cleric backed by Iranian mullahs. But that's a different fight with different enemies, different tactics, and an entirely different goal than the war we won in April, 2003.

There's a difference between "winning the war" and "winning the peace". I suspect the debate this week will center far more on the rebuilding operations in Iraq than the actual war itself. Conflating those two things to equal importance, or blending them together until they are indistinguishable is not only not useful, but also ultimately harmful. It is that blending that so easily brings the word "quagmire" to the lips of critics (and indeed had them using the term even while Iraqi forces were running so fast many left their weapons behind them and Saddam Hussein was shopping for spiderhole furniture) and gives critics of the President the comfort and safety of 30-year old war protest slogans in which to wrap themselves. I suspect that my opponent is going to blend these two more and faster than a bartender trying to win a Daquiri-making contest while hopped up on crystal meth. Don't be fooled.

We won the war.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Thirteenth Battle

This week, another former Challenger, bested in battle by my Iron Blogger, returns to seek his revenge. Jimmie Bisse Jr. was Iron Blogger Democrat's first opponent back when Iron Blog started, and now we shall see if he can return to topple the undefeated Jay Bullock.

Iron Blogger Democrat, Jay Bullock, you have been summoned to the battlefield! May you earn another victory and set Iron Blog on the winning course as we resume our battles.

If memory serves me right, one of the biggest topics in the media right now concerning the Presidential campaign is the war in Iraq. This topic is fertile ground for any number of debates, and has already provided topics in the past for us, but I have something very specific in mind. Therefore, the Topic for the Battle is this:

Victory Iraq?

Are we winning the war? Can we win it at all? Have the President's policies steered us towards victory or disaster? Let us see what our combatants have to say.

Allez debate!


Blitz Battle Winners
Chris in NH (BB #2)
Big Dan (BB #6)
Former Challengers
Jimmie Bisse Jr. of The Sundries Shack
Chris of World Inquiry
Dean Esmay of Dean's World
Big Dan of God In The Machine
Owen of Boots and Sabers
Frank LoPinto of Cool Blue Blog
Bryan S of Arguing With Signposts
Ralph Stefan of Ralph's Garage
Former Iron Bloggers
Rosemary Esmay (2-1)

The Agitator
American RealPolitik
Asymmetrical Information
Tim Blair
John Cole
The Common Virtue
Crow Blog
The Daily Blitz
Ben Domenech
Dan Drezner
Gerbera Tetra
Hugh Hewitt
Sebastian Holsclaw
Kaus Files
The Moderate Voice
Queen of All Evil
Right Wing News
John Scalzi
Donald Sensing
Matt Stinson
Sgt. Stryker
Andrew Sullivan
Transterrestrial Musings
USS Clueless
Matt Welch
Winds of Change


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