…”War Is Lost” Brigade Need to Think Again

Posted: June 3, 2008 in Democrats, Iraq, Obama



June 03, 2008

The Washington Post editorialises on the continuing good news from Iraq that goes unreported in the US

THERE’S been a relative lull in news coverage and debate about Iraq in recent weeks, which is odd because May could turn out to have been one of the most important months of the war.

While Washington’s attention has been fixed elsewhere, military analysts have watched with astonishment as the Iraqi Government and army have gained control for the first time of the port city of Basra and the sprawling Baghdad neighbourhood of Sadr City, routing the Shi’ite militias that have ruled them for years and sending key militants scurrying to Iran.

At the same time, Iraqi and US forces have pushed forward with a long-promised offensive in Mosul, the last urban refuge of al-Qa’ida. So many of its leaders have been captured or killed that US ambassador Ryan Crocker, renowned for his cautious assessments, said that the terrorists had “never been closer to defeat than they are now”.

Iraq passed a turning point last (northern autumn) when the US counter-insurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shi’ites. Now another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi Government and army restoring order in almost all of the country, dispersing both rival militias and the Iranian-trained “special groups” that have used them as cover to wage war against Americans. It is, of course, too early to celebrate: though in disarray, the Mahdi army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the US and Iraqi elections.

Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow US commanders to make some welcome adjustments and it ought to mandate an already overdue rethinking by the “this war is lost” caucus in Washington, including senator Barack Obama.

Andrew Kohut, in The New York Times, on how the war in Iraq may play out in the US presidential election:

SURPRISINGLY, a late April Pew survey found voters thinking that John McCain could do a better job than Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in handling the war, by a 50per cent to 38 per cent margin in Obama’s case and a 49 per cent to 43 per cent margin in Clinton’s case.

A late May poll found a much closer division of opinion between McCain and Obama, 46 per cent to 43 per cent, but not one that favoured the Illinois Democrat.

It’s noteworthy that these responses came from a public that largely thinks the war was a mistake (57 per cent to 37 per cent in the April survey), a view that is a cornerstone of the Obama campaign.

This suggests that the high regard for McCain on the issue is predicated on looking forward at how he might handle the war in the future than at his past record of support.

No doubt McCain’s high standing over his likeliest November candidate has a great deal to do with the higher level of confidence thatvoters have in him over Obama on national security. The April survey found voters picking McCain over Obama as better able to defend the country against future terrorist attacks, by a huge 63 per cent to 26per cent margin.

Meanwhile, on US ABC television news:

“WE’VE seen this movie before,” Obama said at a town hall in Rapid City, South Dakota. “A leader who pursues the wrong course, who is unwilling to change course, who ignores the evidence. Now, just like George Bush, John McCain is refusing to admit that he’s made a mistake.”

Obama explained to the crowd of 2700 that McCain had said on Friday that the US had drawn down to pre-surge troop levels in Iraq.

“John McCain was wrong, and he was wrong on the most important question that any commander-in-chief faces,” Obama said.

“We have not drawn down to pre-surge levels. We have about 20,000 more troops in Iraq today than we had before the surge. Even after we finish rotating more troops out later this summer we’ll still have thousands more of Americans in Iraq than we had before the surge. Those are the facts.

“Now, we all misspeak sometimes. I’ve done it myself. So, on such a basic, factual error, you’d think that John McCain would just say, ‘Oh, I misspoke, I made a mistake’, and then move on. But he couldn’t do that. Instead, he dug in,” Obama said, and connected it to President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq war. “We all know this President refused to admit that he made a mistake. That’s the leadership that we’ve had enough of over the last eight years.”



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