Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Five Years of War!!!

From today's Progress Report ... I'm leaving the house in a minute to go and protest at Mary Bono-Mack's (a very reliable rethugnican rubberstamp) Palm Springs office ... we're (Veterans for Peace + MoveOn, etc.) going to read the names and ages of all the Californians that have died in the past FIVE YEARS in this lie of a war:

Five Years Of War

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a preventative war of choice whose purpose, according to President Bush, was "to disarm Iraq, to free its people, and to defend the world from grave danger." Five years later, it is clear there were no weapons of mass destruction to disarm in Iraq and no grave danger from which to defend. In 2006, a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concluded that the war in Iraq had become "the 'cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement" faster than the United States and its allies can reduce the threat. The 2007 NIE concluded that "al-Qaeda [had] reorganized to pre-9/11 strength," largely as a result of the United States turning its attention away from Afghanistan and Pakistan in order to focus on Iraq. Also, al Qaeda's association with insurgents in Iraq helped "energize the broader Sunni extremist community, raise resources, and...recruit and indoctrinate operatives." Far from making the United States safer, the Iraq war has made the world much more dangerous.

A FAILED RECONSTRUCTION: A recent World Health Organization and Iraqi health ministry report estimated that 151,000 people were killed between the start of the invasion on March 20, 2003 and June 2006. In a March 17 report, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that millions of Iraqis are still deprived of clean water and medical care, describing Iraq's health care system as "now in worse shape than ever." Iraqis endure intense heat in the summer and freezing cold in the winter because of a lack of electricity, even though more than $6 billion, mostly in American money, has been devoted to improving supply. The New York Times reported that "typical daily peaks are around 4,500 megawatts." According to a recent report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, "that's only about 500 megawatts more than what it was shortly after the start of reconstruction five years ago -- before the completion of thousands of American-supported projects." Garbage collection is notoriously unreliable, with refuse often piling up "for days, sometimes weeks, emanating toxic fumes." In a new report, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees stated that, five years after the U.S.-led invasion, Iraqis are still fleeing in large numbers. Iraqis topped the list of asylum seekers in industrialized countries for the second year running, accounting for more than 10 percent of the total with 45,200 applications last year. "It is important to bear in mind, however, that Iraqi asylum seekers in industrialized countries represent only one percent of the estimated 4.5 million Iraqis uprooted by the conflict," the report said. Amnesty International reports that Iraq continues to be "one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with hundreds of Iraqi civilians killed every month."

A FAILING POLITICAL RECONCILIATION: In the latest blow against progress toward political accommodation between Iraq's ethnic and sectarian factions, a conference to reconcile Iraq's political groups began to unravel even before it got under way on Tuesday, as members of the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front said "they would not participate in the conference until Shiite lawmakers address their political demands." The Shiite bloc led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and some smaller groups also boycotted the conference, revealing the deep and persistent divisions between and within Iraq's main sects. Over the past few months, several legislative accomplishments that were first seen as signs of progress turned out to be much less favorable on closer inspection, or were simply reversed. In January, a de-Baathification reform law, initially "billed as the first significant political step forward in Iraq after months of deadlock," was "riddled with loopholes and caveats to the point that some Sunni and Shiite officials say it could actually exclude more former Baathists than it lets back in." In February, the passage of a package of three laws (addressing amnesty for detainees, budget allocations, and provincial powers) was hailed by conservatives as a significant political advance. Days later, the provincial powers law was struck down by Iraq's three-member presidency council, breaching the compromise that had enabled the passage of the three laws.

WAR ARCHITECTS STILL IN DENIAL: The individuals who devised and supported the Iraq war still refuse to admit error. President Bush insists that the war was worth the "high cost in lives and treasure." On separate surprise visits to Iraq this week, Vice President Dick Cheney and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) seemed oblivious to the tragedy that their policy had unleashed upon the people of Iraq. Cheney preposterously claimed that the Iraq war has been a "successful endeavor" and blithely "warned against losing the gains the surge has produced," even as Baghdad was again wracked by explosions. On the same day that a suicide bomber killed over forty people in the Shia shrine city of Kerbala, McCain repeated his mantra that "the surge is working." Here at home, the war architects frantically cast blame on each other, and even on the Iraqis themselves. American Enterprise Institute (AEI) scholar Richard Perle still maintains that invading Iraq was "the right decision," but blames Iraq proconsul L. Paul Bremer for "underestimat[ing] the task" of nation-building. Douglas Feith, the former director of the Pentagon's Office of Special Plans, has also blamed Bremer for "mishandling...the political transition" in Iraq. AEI analyst Danielle Pletka blamed the Iraqi people for not embracing the opportunity afforded them by the American invasion and occupation. Alas, Pletka laments, "there is no freedom gene."

A WAY FORWARD: The Iraq invasion has wrought a fractured, dysfunctional government, a disunified largely militia-controlled state closely allied with Iran to the east and in simmering conflict with Turkey to the north, an open-source training ground for terrorists and a cause around which global jihadists have rallied. American standing is at a low point in the Middle East and Arab world, with Arab democrats and reformers isolated and frustrated. It not enough to simply stay the course. The United States must reset its strategy by looking beyond the deteriorating situation in Iraq in order to counter the threat from global terrorist groups and ensure stability in the entire Middle East and Gulf region, using the credible promise of withdrawal from Iraq to encourage Iraqi leaders to come to a sustainable political accommodation. This is an essential first step in order to correct the tragic policy mistakes of the last years, of which the decision to invade Iraq is the most obvious and profound.


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