Have you been keeping up with the good news out of Mosul, al Qaeda's last urban stronghold in Iraq? The good news is that it's not an al Qaeda stronghold any more. Thanks to the latest American and Iraqi offensive.
But you might not have heard about that welcome development. American
victories don't get all that much play in this country - a pattern that
dates back at least to David Halberstam's heyday as a New York Times
war correspondent and behind-the-scenes player in Vietnam.
For news of victory, Americans may have to look to the foreign
press. For example, the Times of London, which carried a piece by Marie
Colvin the other day. She reported that "American and Iraqi forces are
driving al Qaeda in Iraq out of its last redoubt in the north of the
country in the culmination of one of the most spectacular victories of
the war on terror."
Who knew? I must have overlooked the story in the New York Times.
Nor did I see it on the AP wire. And I missed it on National Public
Radio too. For much of the American media, good news is no news.
But there's hope. Reality dawns. Even at the New York Times. In a
Page One story, the Times' Steven Lee Myers reports that the Pentagon,
which has already begun withdrawing combat brigades as the Surge
achieves its purpose, is considering further reductions in American
force levels in Iraq.
To quote Mr. Myers: "Such a withdrawal would be a striking reversal
from the nadir of the war in 2006 and 2007. ... Security in Iraq has
improved vastly, as has the confidence of Iraq's government and
military and police, raising the prospect of additional reductions (in
American troop strength) that were barely conceivable a year ago."
Barely conceivable to some, anyway. Last year, Sen. Barack Obama,
who has now cinched his party's presidential nomination, was still
arguing the Surge would fail: "I am not persuaded that 20,000
additional troops in Iraq is going to solve the sectarian violence
there. In fact, I think it will do the reverse."
But don't look for any of his anti-Surge statements on Mr. Obama's
Web site, not any more. They've just been purged. And replaced by a
new, more militant stance. To borrow a phrase from Ron Ziegler, Richard
Nixon's hapless press secretary: "This is the operative statement. The
others are inoperative."
There's no longer any sign on the Web site of Mr. Obama's long
articulated, often reiterated view that American policy in Iraq is
doomed to failure. It has been tossed down the memory hole. Winston
Smith, whose job at the Ministry of Truth in "1984" was to rewrite
history, would understand perfectly. Nothing is more mutable than the
past - at least on your own Web site.
At the same time Mr. Obama was dismissing American prospects in Iraq
last year, his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary
Clinton, ridiculed the new commander in the field, telling Gen. David
Petraeus at a widely publicized hearing that it would take "a willing
suspension of disbelief" to put any faith in his projections.
Those projections now have proven even more reliable than even the
general could have hoped at the time. But I have yet to see an apology
from Mrs. Clinton for her snide remark, nor, worse, do I expect one.
Yes, victory in Iraq was barely conceivable a year ago - but only to
some. It was conceivable to a visionary new commander in the field and
an old U.S. senator named John McCain, who backed the general's plan
when that was anything but the popular thing to do.
It was easy enough to jeer at the general when all the odds seemed against him; what took political courage was to support him.
At this point it would take a willing suspension of disbelief to put
any trust in the military judgment of a Barack Obama - or the humility
of a Hillary Clinton.