Reviled by most Democrats, President Bush’s 20,000-troop surge is working. Indeed, news of this policy’s success is emerging from an unlikely source: Democrats.
Despite other misgivings on Iraq, Senator Hillary Clinton (D., N.Y.) admitted to the Veterans of Foreign Wars last week: “We’ve begun to change tactics in Iraq and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it’s working.”
“The surge has resulted in a reduction of violence in many parts of Iraq,” Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin (D., Ill.) told journalists. “More American troops have brought more peace to more parts of Iraq.”
“The military aspects of President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq…appear to have produced some credible and positive results,” Senate Armed Forces chairman Carl Levin (D., Mich.) said in a joint statement after visiting Iraq with his committee’s ranking Republican, Virginia’s John Warner.
Senator Jack Reed (D., R.I.) told Charlie Rose: “My sense is that the tactical momentum is there with the troops, and we’ve had some success in terms of blocking insurgents moving into Baghdad.”
“The troops have met every assignment,” said Senator Bob Casey (D., Pennsylvania). “They’ve beaten the odds time and again. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to.”
Iraq war foe, Rep. Brian Baird (D., Wash.), recently returned from there a changed man. “We are making real and tangible progress on the ground, for one, and if we withdraw, it could have a potentially catastrophic effect on the region,” he’s said. Baird now opposes military-retreat timetables.
After visiting Iraq last month, Rep. Jerry McNerney (D., Calif.) favors more operational flexibility for U.S. commanders. “I’m more willing to work to find a way forward to accommodate what the generals are saying,” he said.
Rep. Tim Mahoney (D., Fla.) believes the surge “has really made a difference and really has gotten al Qaeda on their heels.”
“We are finally getting somewhere in Iraq, at least in military terms,” Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the Left-leaning Brookings Institution wrote July 30. After eight days in Iraq, they concluded, “We were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with…There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.”
These improvements include a halving of “truck bombs and other large al-Qaeda-style attacks” since the surge began in February, USA Today reports. Early August saw 74 security incidents in Anbar, down from 450-500 weekly last fall. In Ramadi, such episodes have plummeted from 120-180 weekly last summer to three the week of August 6. Pentagon officials say Iraqis are volunteering 23,000 monthly tips, quadruple August 2006’s figure.
Many of these Democrats correctly argue that the surge showcases how much American GIs have accomplished and highlights how little Iraqi politicians have achieved, especially while vacationing as their new republic endures existential challenges. As their odds of being detonated diminish, however, Iraq’s sovereign, democratically elected representatives may return to parliament tanned, rested, and ready to enact an oil law, for starters.
Although the Democrats’ critique of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government is justified, it also represents a convenient shifting of the goal posts used to score the entire surge operation. The military surge, doomed by most Democrats at its outset, now enjoys growing Democratic praise, as its success becomes indisputable. Yet somehow, many Democrats paradoxically argue, the surge also has failed since Iraq’s civilian leadership is mired in gridlock. Indeed, the Washington Post revealed a glimpse at the new Democratic sheet music. As Jonathan Weisman and Anne E. Kornblut reported Wednesday, Democrats are pursuing a “campaign to praise military progress while excoriating Iraqi leaders for their unwillingness to reach political accommodations that could end the sectarian warfare.”
Of course, there is only so much the American armed forces can do. While they are pacifying the streets, they hardly can be held responsible for Iraqi quorum calls, committee meetings, and legislative compromise. If the Defense Department could make legislatures run smoothly, President Bush might consider a Pentagon surge on Capitol Hill.
Meanwhile, as U.S. troops make Iraqis more secure, al Qaeda keeps bludgeoning Iraqi hearts and minds. In Anbar, for example, predominantly foreign Islamic extremists behaved like a Taliban on the Euphrates. Last October, they declared Ramadi, Anbar’s chief city, capitol of a new Islamic state.
Iraqis there and in Diyala province soured on al Qaeda’s reforms — among them: a new “war tax,” 4 P.M. curfews, kidnapping women for arranged marriages, and conscripting forced labor to harvest dates and oranges. Violators of a new smoking ban had their fingers or hands chopped off. al Qaeda in Iraq set one seven-year-old ablaze, sources told CNN, and otherwise murdered women and children.
“The al Qaeda organization has dominated and humiliated Sunnis, Shiites, and jihadis,” the United Jihad Council declared. “It has forced people from their homes. They can’t get enough blood. They killed many honest scholars, preachers, and loyal mujahedeen.” As 15 UJC insurgents chanted in Tahrir last June: “Death to al Qaeda!”
“If you talk against them [al Qaeda in Iraq], they let you go at first, then come back and behead you later,” explained villager Abu Miriam. If caught being interviewed, Miriam predicted: “I will be killed. In fact, slaughtered, slaughtered with a knife.”
While al Qaeda in Iraq extends civilians such 7th-century hospitality, America recently spent $6 million to repair the water grid in Baghdad’s impoverished Sadr City. The “U.S out of Iraq” crowd should acknowledge the fundamental contrast between what we provide Iraqis and what our enemies offer them. Iraq War critics should heed Democrats who admit that, for all its faults, President Bush’s surge advances the forces of running water and hobbles those who burn seven-year-olds alive.