THE BLOG

The Escalation Didn't Work

The escalation failed to do the one and only thing it was supposed to do. The entire Iraq policy of George W. Bush has failed since the fall of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad. No amount of parsing or spinning can change those simple facts: the escalation is and was the wrong answer.

I chaired a hearing on the GAO Report yesterday, the report that stated that Iraqi civilians overall aren't any safer, that the political benchmarks aren't being met in Iraq, that, in short, none of the rationales for the escalation in Iraq have come to pass. It unfolds with maddening, enraging regularity: the Administration claims goals for their policy, they gradually back off of those goals and substitute smaller, less easily measured goals, and then muddy the waters hopelessly on whether even those modest new goals have been met. Time and again we've been through this.

That's why the Congress set up some clear benchmarks to measure what's happening in Iraq. Mitch McConnell praised the "clarity" those benchmarks brought to the debate. "Just wait until September," they all said. "We put in these meaningful benchmarks, we can judge in September."

Well, how do they judge those benchmarks now? Only three of 18 have been met. Another four were "partially met," which sounds like a "Gentleman's C" if I've ever heard of one (and, for anyone who saw my college transcript, I have).

Judgment time is here, and the only verdict is the same one we had in January, the same one we've had for a long time in Iraq: the Bush policy is a tragic failure. It's a policy that not only isn't working; it can't work. A political solution in Iraq cannot come about without a clear deadline on where our troops will be pulling out. Only Iraqis can end this civil war, and they aren't - and won't be - making any progress with an open-ended, massive presence by our military in their country.

The White House has tried, with some success, to focus everyone's attention in the media on the report they are writing, the report they used to call the Petraeus Report. But, at least judging from press reports, unfortunately, this report already seems to be controversial and solely focused on military measures. (No surprise - now, thanks in large measure to some good old fashioned muckraking out here in the blogosphere, we know that even the so-called Petraeus Report will be written not by the General, not by our Ambassador in Baghdad, but by the White House-- the White House which has again and again avoided the kind of plain, unadorned facts discussed in the GAO report.)

Look, I know from experience that there's no such thing as a military solution to a situation like this, and no amount of "metrics" can create one. Our own generals have always confirmed this about Iraq. And by the way -- go read all of the statements at the time about the "reason" for the escalation - it was to buy political breathing room for Iraqis to compromise. Period. It hasn't happened. So it all boils down to the same thing: these are more "steps" that don't get you any closer to your real goals, "successes" that don't lead to any resolution.

This White House ran out of credibility on Iraq a long long time ago. This is not the first time we've been told one thing only to learn another (Weapons of mass destruction? Greeted as liberators? Saddam's oil revenue to pay for the war and reconstruction?), so, predictably, instead of an honest appraisal of the escalation, this White House is again moving the goalposts and shifting criteria-- and they are doing it as the moment of accountability arrives. Their response to bad news has been and continues to be: simply change the story. What they can't change is the fact that time is not on our side. It's wrong to sacrifice over 100 American lives each month for a policy we know is not working.

So here's where we stand: Republicans asked for clarity in this debate and swore up and down that, this time, they were serious. When September came around, they'd look at the facts and make a sober assessment on the merits of the policy in Iraq. Well, those facts are in. We need to keep up the pressure on them.

I'll be working continuously this month trying to set a deadline to force a new policy in Iraq. I'll try to stop by as often as I can this month with ways you can, if you choose, put the pressure on the Roadblock Republicans to force them to take a new tack. In the end, it's been sustained action by millions of activists that have gotten us this far, and it's only through the loud voices of those activists that we can get what's right - an end to the Bush doctrine in Iraq, and a policy worthy of our soldiers' sacrifice.