No End in Sight for Iraq

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As we know, the United States is nowhere near being able to build the sort of police force in Iraq that’s capable of keeping some modicum of order and allowing the U.S. to draw down its troops to some extent. (By “some extent,” I’m assuming that the Bush administration wants to keep a small-ish force in Iraq forever, partly as a bulwark against Iran, but also wants to bring enough troops home to get Iraq off the front pages.) Up until now, that hasn’t been a rousing success: the police force has been accused of being infiltrated by death squads and engaging in torture, assassination, and all manner of gruesome activities that aren’t part of the standard recipe for peace and stability.

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Anyway, Michael Gordon’s piece in the Times today reports further on some of the difficulties that the United States has had in creating a police force—namely, that many Iraqis don’t really want to join for fear of being targeted by insurgents. It’s a good piece, but I can’t let this paragraph go without comment:

The Bush administration in March announced a new strategy for victory in Iraq: “clear, hold and build.” Contested towns would be swept of insurgents and held by new Iraqi security forces, while the United States worked to solidify the gains by helping to fix the
infrastructure and build civic institutions.

Right, but isn’t it worth noting that the month before announcing this “new strategy,” the president announced that he wouldn’t seek any more funds for reconstruction in Iraq, despite the fact that much of the previous money had gone toward security costs and corrupt contractors rather than actual reconstruction. So doesn’t that make the “new strategy” a bit hard to carry out? Doesn’t that mean that there really isn’t any sort of strategy in place?

It sure seems that way: Army Gen. George W. Casey recently hinted that, due to the increasingly horrific violence in Iraq, there probably won’t be any troop reductions this year, and the U.S. is currently bringing troops in from Kuwait to al-Anbar province, especially as countries such as Italy and South Korea are taking thousands of troops out of the country.

(Note: The photo above, by Kael Alford, shows smoke from burning oil trenches drifts over the Euphrates River near Fallujah in 2003. It’s part of a photo essay, “Unembedded,” that ran at Mother Jones late last year.)

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