Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cheerleading from Iraq

Spot got a not-especially-germane comment to his last post, but its author obviously couldn't wait to post the question in it:

When [chortle] are you going to comment on [Spot's Iraq correspondent Dave] Thul's op/ed piece? [heh]

My hunch is that you disagree. [ha ha ha]

Peter A. Swanson

Well, Spot will comment right now, Peter. Spot had a premonition that Dave would get some ink today. Spot is becoming downright clairvoyant!

One of Dave's points is:

But I can tell you that a majority of U.S. troops want to stay in Iraq and finish the mission. How do I know this? Two ways.

The first way, Dave says, is anecdotally. Everyone around Dave supports the war.

Imagine with Spot for a moment:

Uh, sergeant, can I have a word with you?

Sure. What's up soldier?

Well, I've got some misgivings about what we're doing here. Everybody's giving us the evil eye these days, and we're just playing peek-a-boo with the insurgents. It's impossible to tell if the situation is getting worse or better. Frankly, I'm discouraged.

I understand where you're coming from, soldier. I tell you what. At the campfire tonight, when it comes to sharing time, you just say what you told me now. It's good to get these things out where we can talk about them. Perhaps there are other soldiers who feel the same as you do. Run along now; I have to finish this Kahil Kilbran poem.

Thanks, sarge. You're the best.

This is the way it works in the military, right?

The second way, Dave says, is that 1500 service persons have signed an online petition at asking Congress to stop calling for "retreat."

If Spot recalls correctly—and he thinks he does—there are about 160,000 service persons in Iraq at the present time. And that doesn't include all of the Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater, CIA, et cetera, folks, either. The site has been widely promoted and featured in the blogosphere and elsewhere. Spot's no mathematician, but he thinks that's less than one percent of the people in country.

Compare and contrast, boys and girls, with this:

Curious about what members of the military actually think about President Bush, the Iraq war, and the question of whether there should be a "surge" in troops? Then check this out: The latest annual Military Times poll of members of the military has just come out, and guess what it finds? For the first time, more respondents disapprove of Bush's handling of the Iraq war than approve of it. It also finds that a minority -- all of 38% -- think there should be more troops in Iraq than are already there. And only half think success in Iraq is likely -- down from 83 percent two years ago.

These were end-of-the-year numbers from 2006. Spot bets they haven't turned massively in Dave's favor since then.

Dave says we have to win in Iraq because golly, we just have to win! Spot says that Dave is a True Believer, but in this case any concept of winning is merely wishful thinking. It is tough to beat a dog in his own backyard. Spotty knows this. People like Dave like to remind us that the insurgents can never beat the U.S. on the battlefield. True, but they don't have to.

The surge—escalation; let's call it what it is—will just create more enemies faster for us. We lit the fire. As Spotty's grandma used to say, "When you burn your butt, you have to sit on the blisters." We're just making the blisters bigger.

Every "good thing" that has taken place in Iraq since the invasion: building (or in most cases rebuilding) schools, treating wounded Iraqis, protecting civilians from sectarian violence, whatever, is just in mitigation of the shit storm we created by the invasion. They don't erase the act of aggressive war from the ledger. Far from it.

Our effort should be directed to trying to mend what we broke, not trying to put some illusory "W" in our column.

Dave ends his column by saying this is all worthwhile so that he can come home with honor and have made the world safer for his young daughter—an absolutely understandable sentiment. But Spot asks you this, Dave: how many tens of thousands of Iraqi kids and their parents have to die before you conclude the risk to your daughter growing up in the middle of America is zero?

Update: Fixed the link to Dave's op ed.

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