In Friday's Times Herald, is a headline (no link available) about Iraq that suggests progress in that beleaguered country: "U.S. deaths in Iraq fall again: Refugees' return hailed as 'great victory.'" It would be wonderful if this were the whole story. All Americans would love to see that the sacrifices of American and Iraqi lives, the expenditure of hundreds of billions of American tax dollars, and the deterioration of America's reputation around the word had finally produced something positive. I say this here, up front, because it's become a routine talking point on the right to insist that those of us who opposed this war from the beginning wish for failure, that we are so relentless in our contempt for Bush-Cheney policies that we cannot accept, and even reject out of hand, evidence that those policies might be working. Nothing could be further from the case: we grieve for lives lost, and we hope for the establishment of a decent civil society in Iraq.
But we also are determined not to gloss over the truth and not to be fooled by superficial, incomplete stories such as the one in Friday's Times Herald. One place to start getting a more complete account of what's actually happening would be this article in Friday's New York Times: "Iraq unprepared as war refugees return." It turns out that the Times Herald, as usual, is reporting less than the whole tale. The putative lull in violence in Baghdad is largely explained by the fact that murderous militias have successfully eliminated their enemies from whole neighborhoods. Extensive parts of Baghdad that were mixed, with Shi'ites and Sunnis living side by side, have been ethnically cleansed, and U. S. field commanders are seriously worried that this moment of relative calm will quickly disappear when families driven from their homes try to return. The Iraqi government, such as it is, has no plan to deal with this potential catastrophe.
One reason the Iraqi authorities are so unprepared is the widespread corruption and criminal activity that permeate the Malaki government (click here). Remember that the Bush-Cheney "surge" was designed to give the Iraqi government breathing space to get its act together and actually govern? Rather than get the electricity grid functioning, the government has turned to extortion and theft.
While all Americans are grateful for any respite in the horrors brought to Iraq by the U.S. occupation, we should not be fooled into concluding that the Bush-Cheney gang finally has a plan. What's really happening is a constant lowering of expectations. Once upon a time in the Bush-Cheney fantasy world, the U. S. invasion was going to bring peace and democracy. Now, if they get the violence down for a month or two--though still to levels that should horrify us--they claim success, even though their own commanders in the field know that this illusion of stability is fragile and probably transient.