Is the 'Insurge' Working?

2007-09-12-purplefinger.jpegWhy aren't more people outraged over revelations that we're supporting Sunni insurgents against an elected government? Where are the headlines from all those news outlets that paraded purple-fingered Iraqis before us as demonstration of the war's success? Wasn't promoting democracy Explanation Number Four for why we're in Iraq? Or was that Number Five?

The attitude toward democracy among Beltway politicos and media types reminds me of those Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks ads from the seventies - the ones for people who "aren't comfortable with fish." Mrs. Paul's, one ad said, "doesn't have that fishy taste." We're exporting democracy - without that taste of, you know, democracy.

Most Americans want us out of Iraq, and so do most Iraqis. But we have a Washington elite of politicians, think-tankers, and journalists that finds the will of the people somehow ... distasteful.

Gen. Petraeus denied in his testimony this week that we were arming or funding Sunni insurgents, despite numerous reports to the contrary. But, as Spencer Ackerman points out, one of Petraeus' own generals said otherwise last June. And, while Gen. Petraeus presses the Administration's case against Iran, the stunning fact remains that there is clearer evidence that we're funding insurgents against the al-Maliki government.

CNN reporter Michael Ware says it plainly: "Fears in Baghdad and in America of U.S. troops supporting armed groups opposed to the government are not unfounded." And there's this exchange between Ware and Anderson Cooper:

COOPER: Are these -- these tribal groups willing to work with the central government in Baghdad ... and vice versa?

WARE: The answer is no on both counts, Anderson ... they are opposed to the Maliki government and any government that they believe is beholden to Iranian influence, a belief shared by many within the U.S. mission. So, these are anti-government forces that America is supporting against the government it created. [emphases mine]

Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki said in July that the United States is reaching out to "gangs of killers." We're supporting part of the insurgency. So here's the real question for Gen Petraeus:

Is the Insurge working?

These actions speak to a deeper pattern within the Administration, its conservative allies, and their media enablers. All three groups appear to have a deep affection for the rhetoric of democracy, combined with a deep discomfort with the actual workings of the democratic process. Add to that a willingness to do whatever it takes to succeed in their chosen professions, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Remember Rumsfeld's "democracy is messy" quote? Actually, in that case it was his incompetence that was messy, but his choice of words reflected a widespread and deep-seated distrust of the democratic process. So do these words from Washington reporter Sheilagh Murray, quoted by Duncan Black:

Q: Why won't the politicians follow the polls when it comes to leaving Iraq?

Shailagh Murray: Would you want a department store manager or orthodontist running the Pentagon? I don't think so.

The beauty of democracy is exactly that, of course: that department store managers and orthodontists (and jewelry salespeople) have the final say - that, in a very real sense, they outrank the military and civilian leadership.

That's the part that seems to make the Washington tribal leaders uncomfortable with democracy, here and in Iraq. Our media and political elite seems to share a Hamiltonian disdain for the "mob," although the "mob" at home has made consistently wiser decisions in the last four years than they have (starting with their choice of President in 2000).

This was never really about democracy, was it? The only 'progress' we can point to in Iraq now is the result of a Faustian bargain with violent sectarian groups. The leadership in Washington is buying time by arming extremists, at least until the war becomes the next President's problem.

Sounds fishy to me.

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