For nothing left to lose:
The British government sought today to defuse an embarrassing public debate over remarks by its top military commander that Britain should withdraw its troops from Iraq ‘’sometime soon.”
The comments were interpreted by some government critics as a challenge to the authority of Prime Minister Tony Blair since they seemed to be a direct contradiction of his insistence that a retreat from Iraq would be ”a craven act of surrender.”
The officer, General Sir Richard Dannatt, modified some of his remarks in a series of radio and television interviews to expand on his comments in The Daily Mail tabloid. But he did not completely retract his assessment that the presence of British forces in Iraq ‘’exacerbated” the violence there.
‘’I have withdrawn none of the comments that I have made,” he said in a radio interview. ‘’I have given a little more explanation about what I meant by ’sometime soon’; that’s not backtracking.”
It is over, folks. While some may pretend that Dannatt’s slight walkback from his more blunt earlier comments is evidence that the Brits are going to be with us till the end, they fail to recognize that this IS the end. We have have a fractured coalition, an American military that is weary, overstretched, and breaking, we have huge amounts of sectarian violence, no clear mission, no clear strategy, and no way to define ‘victory.’
In short, we are at the end of the experiment. And I am not the only one who thinks this:
A commission formed to assess the Iraq war and recommend a new course has ruled out the prospect of victory for America, according to draft policy options shared with The New York Sun by commission officials.
Currently, the 10-member commission — headed by a secretary of state for President George H.W. Bush, James Baker — is considering two option papers, “Stability First” and “Redeploy and Contain,” both of which rule out any prospect of making Iraq a stable democracy in the near term.
It is over, folks. The grand experiment has, at least in the short term, failed (you can hold out hope that perhaps after the imminent civil war a stable state may emerge. And hope is really all we have right now, as the new Iraq is splitting up before our very eyes). While military leaders and politicians put on a brave face and continue with plans to keep troops in the field until 2010 and beyond, the soldiers and the troops know the score:
All: I haven’t written very much from Iraq. There’s really not much to write about. More exactly, there’s not much I can write about because practically everything I do, read or hear is classified military information or is depressing to the point that I’d rather just forget about it, never mind write about it. The gaps in between all of that are filled with the pure tedium of daily life in an armed camp. So it’s a bit of a struggle to think of anything to put into a letter that’s worth reading. Worse, this place just consumes you. I work 18-20-hour days, every day. The quest to draw a clear picture of what the insurgents are up to never ends. Problems and frictions crop up faster than solutions. Every challenge demands a response. It’s like this every day. Before I know it, I can’t see straight, because it’s 0400 and I’ve been at work for 20 hours straight, somehow missing dinner again in the process. And once again I haven’t written to anyone. It starts all over again four hours later. It’s not really like Ground Hog Day, it’s more like a level from Dante’s Inferno.***
Most Memorable Scene — In the middle of the night, on a dusty airfield, watching the better part of a battalion of Marines packed up and ready to go home after over six months in al-Anbar, the relief etched in their young faces even in the moonlight. Then watching these same Marines exchange glances with a similar number of grunts loaded down with gear file past — their replacements. Nothing was said. Nothing needed to be said.***
Biggest Hassle — High-ranking visitors. More disruptive to work than a rocket attack. VIPs demand briefs and “battlefield” tours (we take them to quiet sections of Fallujah, which is plenty scary for them). Our briefs and commentary seem to have no affect on their preconceived notions of what’s going on in Iraq. Their trips allow them to say that they’ve been to Fallujah, which gives them an unfortunate degree of credibility in perpetuating their fantasies about the insurgency here. Biggest Outrage — Practically anything said by talking heads on TV about the war in Iraq, not that I get to watch much TV. Their thoughts are consistently both grossly simplistic and politically slanted. Biggest Offender: Bill O’Reilly.
This should come as no surprise- the reality on the ground is not what is being portrayed by our leaders and our pundits (the newest insight- grammar is to blame for Iraq failure) and our cheerleaders and our radio talk show hosts. Iraq is a bloody mess, there is little reason for optimism and fewer reason for calls to stay the course (other than delusion and domestic political priorities) and in essence, it is all over except the dying. And there will be plenty of that, as the inevitable drawdown is going to expose the people we ostensibly are helping to even more short-term trauma and devastation. I have complete faith that the administration that botched every detail of this war will find a way to make the withdrawal as painful as possible for everyone involved. I have, in short, complete faith in the incompetence of this administration.
I wish I was wrong. Hell, I wish I was as wrong about this being over as I was wrong about virtually EVERY OTHER detail of the Iraq war, ranging from the ability of this administration to wage a war and reconstruct Iraq, the evidence of WMD, the reaction the Iraqi populace would have to alliance forces- you name it, I got it wrong. Tragically, I am afraid that when we look back in a few years, about the only thing I will have been right about this war was recognizing the end. The world truly is unfair- the only price I have to pay for my complicity and arrogance is guilt. I got off light.