opinion web
Liberal Opinion Conservative Opinion
Joe Conason
Joe Conason
20 Nov 2015
Why ISIS Needs the 'Useful Idiots' Who Demonize Muslims

When France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls said after last Friday's attacks in Paris, "nous sommes en guerre" &#… Read More.

13 Nov 2015
Hard Questions for Debating Democrats

Imagine for a moment that the purpose of a presidential debate is to elucidate policy differences on matters … Read More.

6 Nov 2015
What Socialism Means to Bernie -- and You

Once upon a time, socialists running for president in the United States had to explain that while they had no … Read More.

Backward "Progress" in Iraq


Every dismal anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq has come to resemble the last, at least for anyone still listening to George W. Bush. So redundant were the president's remarks that they scarcely registered on the front pages.

Each year he assures us that we are making progress, even if we don't seem to have gotten anywhere except deeper into the sectarian quicksand. And each year he promises that we will see more such progress in future months, if only we possess the steely character required to send other people's children to war.

On the invasion's first anniversary, he noted, "There are still violent thugs and murderers in Iraq, and we're dealing with them." Back then, he mentioned the government's interception of "a planning document" authored by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which complained: "Our enemy is growing stronger and his intelligence data are increasing day by day — this is suffocation." Zarqawi was "getting the message," he boasted. Being dead, Zarqawi can no longer get the message, but the war drags on.

On the second anniversary, he said, "Iraq's progress toward political freedom has opened a new phase of our work there. We are focusing our efforts on training the Iraqi security forces. As they become more self-reliant and take on greater security responsibilities, America and its coalition partners will increasingly assume a supporting role. . . . The progress in the past year has been significant and we have a clear path forward. "

On the third anniversary, he conceded that the situation in Iraq might not look so great to the untrained eye. "With continued reports about the tense situation in parts of that country, it may seem difficult at times to understand how we can say that progress is being made." He quickly pivoted to the "optimistic" outlook, however, "because slowly but surely our strategy is getting results. This month I'm giving a series of speeches to update the American people on that strategy. I'm discussing the progress we are making . . . "

On the fourth anniversary this week, we are still making progress, of course. "There's been good progress," said the president, speaking of the latest effort to secure Baghdad, where he sees "hopeful signs." Success will require "months, not days or weeks," he warned.

But he didn't seem to notice that the path of progress is going backward.

Two years ago, he promised that the Iraqis were becoming "more self-reliant" in defending their own security. This year, he stressed that our troop escalation in the Iraqi capital "is still in the early stages, it's still in the beginning stages. Fewer than half of the troop reinforcements we are sending have arrived in Baghdad."

Hearing once more his dispirited bleats for "resolve" — which sound increasingly like an excuse to postpone withdrawal until 2009 — should make anyone long for a few words of honesty and sense. That is exactly what Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., provided in his response on CNN's "Larry King Live," which is worth quoting here.

"I think we all have to recognize that we're not going to achieve a military solution in Iraq, that stability in Iraq is going to depend on political accommodations between the various parties — the Shiite, the Sunni, the Kurds," said Obama. "We have got to redouble our diplomatic efforts, internally as well as externally. And that's why I've put forward a bill in the Senate that would start bringing our combat troops home, beginning on May 1 of this year, with a target date of getting all combat troops out of Iraq by March 31 of next year.

"I don't think there are any good options left in Iraq," he continued. "There are bad options and worse options. It is my judgment — and I think it's the judgment of most military and political experts — that the best we can hope for, at this point, is to make sure that we are seeing some sort of accommodation [among] the various factions. The only leverage we have to encourage those factions to start coming to the [negotiating] table is if we say we are not going to be there in an open-ended military commitment."

In other words, we must use the threat of our own withdrawal to push the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government into serious negotiations with the Sunni insurgents (not including jihadists such as al Qaeda). Clearly, Sen. Obama has read and absorbed the Iraq Study Group report — and understands that this "bad option" is considerably better than the worse path of escalation.

Joe Conason writes for the New York Observer ( To find out more about Joe Conason, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



0 Comments | Post Comment
Already have an account? Log in.
New Account  
Your Name:
Your E-mail:
Your Password:
Confirm Your Password:

Please allow a few minutes for your comment to be posted.

Enter the numbers to the right: comments policy
Joe Conason
Nov. `15
Su Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 1 2 3 4 5
About the author About the author
Write the author Write the author
Printer friendly format Printer friendly format
Email to friend Email to friend
View by Month
Marc Dion
Marc DionUpdated 30 Nov 2015
Mark Shields
Mark ShieldsUpdated 28 Nov 2015
diane dimond
Diane DimondUpdated 28 Nov 2015

24 May 2012 Where's the ‘Beef'? Clinton's Answer to Romney Snark

19 Jun 2015 Hillary Finally Spoke Up About Inequality -- 20 Years Ago

19 Nov 2009 What is So Patriotic About Fearmongering?