In December 2000, Jim Baker, Republican Controller Extraordinaire, lead the engineering of the prevention of any recounts in the Florida "election" so GW Bush could take over (not "win") the Office of the Presidency by the width of one vote on the Supreme Court. In December 2006, Jim Baker, by now the leader of the "Thoroughly Disillusioned indeed Disgusted with GWBush" sector of the Republican Power Elite produced the final report of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, created by Congress. The timing of the Report's publication had been conveniently arranged so it would appear after the 2006 Congressional elections. While the Group was indeed bipartisan, its unanimous report was endorsed by, among others, its two most right-wing members, former Sen. Alan Simpson of Wyoming, whose greatest claim to fame has been as the shepherd of the early career of Dick Cheney, and former Attorney General Ed Meese, under Ronald Reagan easily the most partisan Attorney General this side of John Ashcroft and Al Gonzales.
The ISG Report offered about 80 recommendations, intended to be implemented as a group, all aimed at getting the U.S. out of Iraq in the context of an overall Middle East settlement involving, ohmygosh, such states as Syria and Iran. The first Bush response was to run away from it as fast as his legs could carry him. When it was formally presented to him, he asked no questions. However, he did go over to the Pentagon forthwith, where he asked a ton of questions about how quickly what came to be called "The Surge" could be put together. "The Surge," of course, was a policy contrived to achieve a set of goals exactly the opposite of what had been recommended by the Iraq Study Group. The latter was intended to get the U.S. out; the former was intended to keep the U.S. in, indefinitely.
And, up to a point, that is precisely what it has achieved. Most importantly for BushCheney, it has worked politically, at least up to now. While the stated aim of "The Surge" was to "reduce violence" and "give Democracy a chance," the real aim was to enhance the prospects for: Permanent War or at least Permanent U.S. Occupation of the country, the gaining of exclusive U.S. oil company contracts, the creation of permanent U.S. bases if not permanent occupation of the whole country, and very significantly reduce to the greatest extent possible the impact "War as a political issue" at home. Central to achieving this objective was the built-in permanent delaying tactic The Surge created. How many times were the Congress and the nation told to "wait for General Petraeus to report?" Whereupon, at the appointed time, the good General would dutifully read from the script likely dictated for him in Karl Rove's office or its equivalent in the White House (and still does: see his response to Sen. Obama's comments on his plan for Iraq withdrawal). BushCheney had finally found one they could trust to follow their line without wavering in the direction of reality and truth-telling like all of the cashiered flag-rank officers before him and apparently a significant number of others still on active duty.
"The Surge" has worked in a major way to reduce the appearance of "Iraq News" on television to a minimum. It has also worked to achieve a major tamping down of political opposition to the War, especially in the Congress. Since there are no widely disseminated facts on what is really happening in Iraq, the White House has been able to pretend that the country is one almost totally at peace. Well, indeed it is, that is, for example, if one counts 554 reported Iraqi casualties in June of this year as "at peace" (Juan Cole, President of the Global Americana Institute, Monday, July 21, 2008, "Obama in Iraq; Der Spiegel Proves al-Maliki Story Correct; Series of Bombings hit Baghdad,"). Cole, a Middle East expert, estimates that that number is 10% of the true figure. Public utilities function poorly, there are serious problems with water supply and sanitary sewage disposal for many Iraqis. Politically, here at home, "The Surge" has really worked for BushCheney and now for John McCain.
McCain and his shadow fact-checker, Joe Lieberman, tell us that over and over again, and most of the MSM take it as gospel. Obviously, since it has "worked" so well, it is the rationale for staying in Iraq indefinitely. Of course such a stay would not be like ours in Korea or Japan, John, because there is still shooting there amongst Iraqis, John, as well as occasionally, mortar shells are lobbed into the Green Zone in Baghdad. And oh yes, as the Government Accountability Office told us recently, virtually none of the political developments that were supposed to have occurred in the past year and a half actually did. After all, those are only afterthoughts, aren't they John? And so, BushMcCain were happily looking forward to "staying until victory has been won," however the "V" word might be defined. Oh happy day.
But then a couple of odd things happened. Bush's hand-picked Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, allowed that a U.S. withdrawal as proposed by Sen. Obama would be just the ticket for Iraq, a move that an overwhelming majority of Iraqis would support. (Yes, in the latter he was just reflecting what poll after Iraqi poll has shown for the last 2-3 years or so.) And Sen. Obama actually said what only the most fearless of Democratic politicians have dared say up to now -- if "The Surge" has worked as well as the Georgites claim it has, why that is just wonderful reason for the U.S. to begin withdrawing. Uh-oh, George. What is going wrong here?
There has surely been some reduction in violence in Iraq. How much has been due to the presence of about one-third more U.S. troops than previously (with many fewer of them driving around in obsolete Hum-Vees exposing themselves to roadside bombs) and how much due to "other factors" is impossible to calculate. Other known factors include the massive ethnic cleansing that has gone in Baghdad and other cities under the U.S. nose and the realization among some minority Sunnis that the solution for them lies ultimately in a settlement with the Shiites, not the continuation of a civil war they cannot possibly win.
Unknowns also include just how much Sunni-Shiite negotiation is going on beneath the radar without the involvement of the U.S. that was supposed to be part of "The Surge" (my guess is -- a lot) and how much beneath-the-radar participation by the major regional Shiite power (Iran) and Sunni powers (Saudi Arabia and Syria) there has been in these likely negotiations. All three of these worthies would, for their own reasons, like to get the U.S. out. Funnily enough, such negotiations were among the most important recommendations of the Iraq Study Group. The only difference is, is that if indeed they are going on, the U.S. is not party to them. Ah well, let's hear it once again for George and surely for Dick.
And so, up to now "The Surge" has accomplished its primary mission for BushCheney, which was to tamp down the political opposition to the war in the U.S. But boy, does it now seem to becoming for these two a prime example of the old Chinese maxim: "Be Careful What You Wish For."
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY), a weekly Contributing Author for the Web zine The Political Junkies.net; a Special Contributing Editor for Cyrano's Journal Online; and an invited contributor to the Web log The Daily Scare.