Sunday, September 09, 2007
Bush, accompanied by Secretaries Gates and Rice, "diverted" his flight to Australia last Tuesday to make a surprise visit to Camp Cupcake in Anbar Province, ostensibly to meet with Petraeus and other brass.
However, the real purpose of the visit was to spin the U.S.'s loss of Anbar. Through the magic of public relations, Bush has turned that loss into a successful counterinsurgency campaign, which by coincidence also illustrates how wonderful the "surge" has been.
Anbar today is administered not by the U.S. military, but by the Baathist forces who have fought us to a standstill there for the last three years. They're a remarkably forgiving bunch, and seem happy to cooperate with the U.S. in return for being back in charge. This despite the destruction of Fallujah and other savage acts perpetrated against them.
From the website of Middle East expert Professor Juan Cole: "These Sunni tribal sheiks were one of Saddam Hussein's central constituencies. They supported him, provided him with manpower and officers, and benefited hugely from his largesse. They and their constituencies were the ones who suffered most from the fall of Saddam, the rise of Shiite power, the growing Iranian influence, the Kurdish efforts to recover claimed territory, the adoption of a national constitution that failed to take account of Sunni interests and the looming possibility that they will be denied what they would consider a fair share of future oil revenues."
So the Baathist Sheiks of Anbar are doing what Shi'ites and others have done before them: finding a way to get the U.S. to support their objectives.
They're getting weapons and training from the Americans, ostensibly for use against al-Qaida in Iraq. But one day when they no longer need the support of U.S. forces, they will turn those weapons against the Americans, if any are still around, and reassert the total control they lost when Saddam was toppled. They're just biding their time.
This reminds me of a passage from Edward Gibbon's "Decline and Fall:" "The most important condition of peace was understood rather than expressed in the treaty. Aurelian withdrew the Roman forces from Dacia, and tacitly relinquished that great province to the Goths and vandals. His manly judgment convinced him of the solid advantages, and taught him to despise the seeming disgrace, of thus contracting the frontiers..."
Also from Juan Cole, the Mahdi Army is warning U.S. expeditionary forces not to try to re-occupy the area around Basra recently abandoned by the departing British army. British casualties from IED's were extremely heavy in 2007, and the Madrists have served notice that they're quite capable of defending themselves.
The final disposition of Iraq is beginning to take shape, and the administration's "official" version is already under construction. We will, of course, declare this disastrous humiliation a victory, and head for the exits. This is the start of the end game we're seeing. Baghdad still needs to be fully resolved, although it looks like the Shi'ites will prevail there.
Then we can come home.
Looks like Bush and Cheney won't get their oil. But I'm sure they'll figure out a way to spin that, too.