Just a few weeks ago the standard line for Democrats regarding the surge in Iraq was that they would wait until initial assessments came out in September before arriving at any conclusions on the success or failure of the military push against Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Sunni and Shi’a insurgency. Now, however, just as the surge is just beginning to take shape, the Democratic Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are in a mad rush to declare the project a total failure and calling for troop withdrawals.
Reid and Pelosi outlined their revived "retreat and defeat" plan in a joint letter this week to President Bush:
As many had foreseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results. The increase in U.S. forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation. It has not enhanced America’s national security. The unsettling reality is that instances of violence against Iraqis remain high and attacks on U.S. forces have increased. In fact, the last two months of the war were the deadliest to date for U.S. troops.
The Democrats’ return to a "retreat and defeat" strategy comes just as American forces are beginning to see some visible successes in war-ravaged Iraq. Earlier this week, Bill Roggio (who is doing some of the best reporting on what’s actually happening on the ground) reported on the uprising against Al-Qaeda in Amiriyah:
The most significant development inside Baghdad over the past week occurred in the Sunni-dominated western neighborhood of Amiriyah, where a group of local residents and Sunni insurgent groups (largely fighters from the 1920s Revolution Brigade and the Islamic Army in Iraq) banded together to eject al Qaeda from the neighborhood.
Al Qaeda in Iraq overreached in attempting to set up a Taliban-like state in the Baghdad neighborhood, and the locals rebelled. "The group sprung up last week when several local leaders called on neighborhood residents to take up arms against al Qaeda after unprovoked killings in the neighborhood," Jane Arraf reported from Baghdad last week. "At least two local imams normally opposed to the presence of American soldiers agreed to cooperate with the U.S. forces."
Over the weekend in Tikrit in Salahuddin Province – former home and final resting place of Saddam Hussein – 130 tribal elders from around Tikrit announced that they are joining US and Iraqi government efforts to fight al-Qaeda. This happened just as news broke of the capture of the purported leader of al-Qaeda in the region, Salam Mulla Mustafa Shneidkh, in a raid in Albuajail just east of Tikrit last Thursday. Four of his aides were injured during the shootout. Salahuddin Province Governor Hamad Hammud al-Qaysi told Al-Arabiya TV that there has been a growing movement to oppose al-Qaeda by the area’s tribal elders, but attacks in the Sunni-dominated region have created a tipping point against al-Qaeda.
Last Friday, the USA Today reported on the changing attitudes of both Sunni and Shi’a leaders in Diyala Province, who are beginning to work with the US military to eradicate Al-Qaeda.
The most stunning success US armed forces have seen in Iraq is in Anbar Province, which has accounted for more than one-third of military fatalities (1233) during the entire Iraq conflict. While as recently as December dozens of US troops were being killed in Anbar every month, in May Coalition fatalities had dropped to 15, the lowest since July 2005. The USA Today quoted Army Col. Mike Everett, the political division chief of the U.S. command in Baghdad, as saying: "A year ago we were about to write off Anbar province. We have turned it completely around."
And recent days has seen back-and-forth inter-insurgency fighting between the Islamic Army of Iraq and Al-Qaeda’s "Islamic State of Iraq", as reported on Monday by Evan Kohlman. As Henry Kissinger once said, "Too bad they both can’t lose."
Does all this mean that all the news in Iraq is good? Certainly not, as the bombing of the Samarra Shrine this week indicates. And last month, US fatalities in Iraq were higher (126) than they have been since November 2004 (137).
But is the glass entirely empty, as Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have pronounced (as well as their reliable allies in the establishment media, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the "Old Three" TV news networks)?
Perhaps the Democratic leadership should consult with their former Democratic, now Independent, colleague, Senator Joe Lieberman, who just returned from Iraq. While there he told CNN while visiting Baghdad:
Overall, I would say what I see here today is progress, significant progress from the last time I was here in December. And if you can see progress in war that means you’re headed in the right direction.
Predictably, those comments sent the "Retreat and Defeat" amen chorus in the leftist blogosphere into near-apoplectics (not too coincidentally, some of the same people that tried to drive Lieberman out of office).
There is still significant progress to be made to secure Iraq from our and the Iraqis enemies (Al-Qaeda, Iran, etc.), but there are hopeful signs to be seen in the leadership of Gen. Petraeus in the current surge. One key element will be how rapidly Iraqi Security Forces can be trained and put in the field to free up American troops for combat operations. It should be remembered that some of the surge troops have just arrived in theater and are not yet fully operational. But in the gravitational center of Iraq of Baghdad and it surrounding provinces, US troops are gaining some momentum against our enemies.
Then again, it’s doubtful that any of this makes any difference to Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. The Democratic duo were calling the surge a failure back in January when it was still just an idea, demonstrating their eagerness to implement their "Retreat and Defeat" strategy. It is sad to see that the Democratic Party of President Franklin D. Roosevelt has become the Democratic Party of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi. Whether they want it or not, Democrats deserve better.