Judgment Under Fire

by Deroy Murdock

Top Dems should apologize for being so wrong for so long on the surge.

As top Democrats address their national convention in Denver, they will propose “ending” Operation Iraqi Freedom, demand a speedy withdrawal of U.S. forces there, and insist that “Bush lied, and people died.” What they will not do is apologize for their nearly universal failure of judgment regarding the wisdom and effectiveness of President Bush’s spring 2007 “surge” of 20,000 troops into Iraq. Widespread Democratic defeatism and lack of faith in our GIs’ ability to win gouged a gap between their forecasts of doom then and Iraq’s far sunnier outlook now. With few exceptions, Democrats got this one dead wrong.

“I am not persuaded that 20,000 additional troops in Iraq is [sic] going to solve the sectarian violence there,” Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.) said on January 10, 2007. “In fact, I think it will do the reverse.”

Not so.

Thanks to brave U.S. GIs and valiant Iraqi soldiers, cops, and volunteers, Iraq is increasingly tranquil. According to the September-October issue of Foreign Affairs, “Overall violence is down at least 80 percent since the surge began, and ethno-sectarian violence — the kind that seemed to be sucking Iraq into all-out civil war in 2006 — is down by over 90 percent.” American fatalities have plummeted from 66 in July 2007 to five last month.

“By and large, what’s left of the insurgency is just trying to hang on,” U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told the Associated Press in late July.

“As we have surged into neighborhoods — to protect the Iraqi people, earning their trust, and benefiting from their help — violence has dropped, and locals have turned against the jihadists,” wrote Army National Guard captain and Vets for Freedom chairman Pete Hegseth last week after returning to Samarra, where he served from December 2005 – July 2006.

“The economy on the street is booming,” a Baghdad-based American businessman told me. “The Iraqi people are going about their business, and business is thriving. It is so, more and more. I see it in places I could not go even six months ago.”

“The simple fact is that sending in over 20,000 additional troops isn’t the answer. In fact, it’s a tragic mistake,” 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry said on February 16, 2007. The Massachusetts senator continued: “It won’t end the violence; it won’t provide security. . . . It won’t turn back the clock and avoid the civil war that is already underway; it won’t deter terrorists, who have a completely different agenda; it won’t rein in the militias.”

The simple fact is that the surge has helped turn the Mahdi Army, Iraq’s biggest militia, into a charity. “The group will focus on education, religion, and social justice,” the Wall Street Journal’s Gina Chon explained on August 5. Radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr decided to disarm his battered force. He is rumored to be in Iran, studying Islam.

As for terrorists, the surge and Sunni disgust with the barbaric Islamo-fascism of al-Qaeda in Iraq almost have squeezed AQI to death. Last month alone, two high-value AQI-affiliated emirs and an associate surrendered to Iraqi and Coalition forces.

“The surge is not succeeding,” Delaware senator and presumptive Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joseph Biden told journalists on April 26, 2007. “It’s like squeezing a water balloon. You squeeze it in one place, it bulges somewhere else.”


While Biden proposed trisecting Iraq into a Shiite south, Sunni middle, and Kurdish north, the surge has calmed things enough that Iraqis are working to keep their constitutional republic together, rather than yield to centrifugal forces.

“The surge was designed to give the Iraqi government time to take steps to ensure a political solution,” Senator Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) said August 22, 2007. “It has failed.”

Congressional Democrats like Clinton often attack Iraq’s parliament as foot draggers who specifically failed to implement a petroleum reform law. This is mighty rich for Democrats who managed to pass not one appropriations bill this year, yet jetted off for a five-week vacation rather than consider GOP ideas for increasing oil and energy production.

The Iraqi parliament in 2008 adopted a budget, a pension law, and amnesty for some prisoners. It scheduled provincial elections for October and is weighing plans for an expected $50 billion budget surplus (a virtual foreign phrase in Washington, D.C.), largely from an ever more productive petroleum sector.

According to the Brookings Institution’s stunningly comprehensive Iraq Index, attacks on Iraqi oil pipelines fell from 19 in May 2007 to one last March. This has helped oil production swell to 2.54 million barrels per day, surpassing peak pre-war production of 2.5 million barrels daily.

On April 19, 2007, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) flatly declared that ‘‘this war is lost and the surge is not accomplishing anything. . . .”

Wrong again.

“The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost,” the AP’s Robert Burns and Robert Reid reported last July 26. “In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago…”

“The violence in Anbar has gone down despite the surge, not because of the surge,” Charles Schumer (D – New York) said on the Senate floor last September 5. “The inability of American soldiers to protect these tribes from al-Qaeda said to these tribes, ‘We have to fight al-Qaeda ourselves.’ It wasn’t that the surge brought peace here. It was that the warlords took peace here — created a temporary peace here. And that is because there was nobody else there protecting them.”

Schumer conveniently assumes that the presence of 20,000 U.S. GIs with very good aim did not stiffen the backbones of embattled Sunni tribal leaders, allowing them to help kill and expel AQI terrorists. In fact, the developments in Anbar were part of the surge plan from the outset. According to a January 10, 2007 White House fact sheet on “The New Way Forward in Iraq,” a “key element” of the surge, even before it began, was to “Increase efforts to support tribes willing to help Iraqis fight al-Qaeda in Anbar.”

While key Democrats blew it, starting with their standard bearer, the GOP nominee got it right.

“We must have more troops over there,” Senator John McCain told Fox News Channel on December 12, 2006. “And we have to have a big enough surge that we can get Baghdad under control and then Anbar province under control.”

McCain embraced the surge concept, encouraged President Bush to implement it, and energized Republicans on Capitol Hill and across America to support it. He trusted U.S. service personnel to stabilize Iraq. And they delivered — big time.

On the nation’s most urgent issue, John McCain and the GOP scored a bull’s eye, while Barack Obama and the Democrats’ arrow missed the target and crashed in the dust.

Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution.

© 2008 Scripps Howard News Service