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What “Making Progress In Iraq” Means

Helicopter gunnerGiven how easily the Administration stampeded Congress into its mind-numbing, Constitution-trashing vote to allow warrantless spying on even US residents (including citizens) on the say so of the least trustworthy Attorney General in my lifetime, one wonders why the Administration even went to the trouble of sending Secretaries Rice and Gates onto the talk shows. But there they were, continuing the White House’s relentless and relentlessly misleading propaganda campaign to convince Congress and the public that General Petraeus’ Iraq surge is, guess what . . . working and should continue.

Surely the White House knows by now that a disgusted public is helplessly resigned to the fact that Congressional Democrats still have too many frightened sheep — about 41 in the House, 16 in the Senate — to stand up to a President even, as David Brooks noted on NBC, the Republicans “hate.” They also know that with enough Democratic sheep and Republican lemmings, they can take the country over any cliff they choose, and so they’ll get whatever they want in September, and continue their catastrophic war on Iraq no matter how false and misleading the claims in Petraeus’ report.

Still, you have to marvel at the orchestration and the sheer level of misdirection. Ken Pollock and Michael O’Hanlon continued their victory is possible lap on Fox News, proving that even if Glenn Greenwald exposes that you shamelessly misrepresent your record of bad advice and even worse predictions, you can still fool most of the media most of the time, and Fox News all of the time, as long as you support the President’s war policies and exploit the media’s penchant never to check the track record of the so-called “experts” they keep allowing on their shows. And with all of the right wing pundits and the Vice President pointing to their “expert” assessment, and the talking point du jour echoed by Gates, Rice and Petraeus, who can doubt that we are making progress in Iraq and should continue the present successful plan? Of course, it helps if when you define success, you count the things that don’t matter and ignore the things and people that do.

So just for the sake of history — not that it will matter in September — but because future generations trying to understand how a once great nation experienced such a rapid and thorough moral disintegration and humiliation, it’s worth pointing out a few facts just from the last week that went virtually unnoticed during the current propaganda binge:

– While US casualties were down in July compared to previous months, the level of violence against the Iraqi people has been rising. Attacks against and deaths went up for both Iraqi security forces and Iraqi civilians (up a third from the previous month). Apparently, the definition of “progress” is highly dependent on the nationality of the victims.

– The condition of such fundamental services as electricity and fresh water systems is on the verge of collapse. Clean water is an essential foundation of civilization, and it is now scarce in many areas; the electricity system is essentially non-functional — down to about 2 hours a day — which means that the ability to maintain essential services or acquire and maintain food without spoilage is endangered unless you’re lucky enough to have private micro generators and can obtain scarce fuel without being killed.

– The most important “progress” that Petraeus, Gates, and Rice keep citing appears to have been achieved by buying off the Sunni militias who, while willing to help the Americans neutralize the Sunnis’ al Qaeda rivals, are nevertheless dedicated to overthrowing the Shia-dominated, pro-Iranian central government. While Secretary Gates, appearing on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, denied the US is directly providing arms to the Sunni militias, he concedes the US is providing money, which I’m sure the Sunnis can figure out can be used to buy arms.

– If you’re wondering what the newly rich Sunni Sheiks are buying these days, according to a July 31 report of the US Government Accountability Office, the US military “cannot fully account for about 110,000 AK-47 assault rifles, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armour and 115,000 helmets reported as issued to Iraqi forces.” About 30 percent of the weapons intended for the Iraq security forces over the last three years are AWOL. That’s just the stuff provided courtesy of the US. I’m sure the Iranians and Saudis are equally helpful in stimulating private markets for arms. UPDATE: Almost forgot to mention the guy who was in charge of making sure this didn’t happen: General David Petraeus.

– With increased fighting in Iraq cities, the number of refugees and displaced civilians is increasing; there are now several million Iraq refugees, creating a genuine and growing humanitarian crisis.

– The al-Maliki government, already angered by the American strategy of arming Sunni warlords, has been moving perilously close to collapsing for the last month, as members of its coalition abandon the central government.

Even those closest to the Iraqi prime minister, from his own party, admit the political situation is desperate.

“I feel there is no strategy, so the people become hopeless,” said Faliy al Fayadh, an MP from the Dawa Party. “You can live without petrol, without electricity, but you can’t live without hope.”

Only an Administration mired in delusion and denial and oblivious to the human suffering it has inflicted on others would ignore these conditions while claiming the surge is bringing progress to Iraq. But with a Congress composed of unquestioning sheep and lemmings, and mindlessly centered only on American perspectives, it may not matter. If/when the Iraq adventure collapses, and the nation confronts the full horror we have created in Iraq, it may come as a complete surprise to those who lead this country.

Photo: AP Photo/Petr David Josek, US helicopter over Baghdad.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley