Tomorrow, the Coalition of the Willing begins its fourth year in Iraq. The anniversary has been marked in many ways by many of the principles—by President George W. Bush, by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, by General George Casey--the commander of US forces in Iraq--by those worldwide who continue to oppose OIF and call for its immediate end and, most notably, by former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. With last months attack on the (Shi’a) Golden Mosque in Samarra and the resultant upswing in violence in many parts of Iraq, the question of the day is whether an Iraqi civil war is in full swing.
In his short statement about the anniversary, President Bush pays tribute to the men and women of the US military and the sacrifices they all have made:
[T]his morning, our reflections were upon the sacrifices of the men and women who wear our uniform. Ours is an amazing nation where thousands have volunteered to serve our country. They volunteered to -- many volunteered after 9/11, knowing full well that their time in the military could put them in harm's way. So, on this third anniversary, the beginning of the liberation of Iraq, I think all Americans should offer thanks to the men and women who wear the uniform, and their families who support them.He doesn’t mention the phrase ‘civil war.’ As a matter of fact, Nedra Pickler is concerned that the president didn’t mention the word ‘war’ at all, as if the absence actually means something. Other than that—along with a now-expected slant--there’s quite a bit of pertinent information in the article, including the back and forth from sources expected and otherwise as to the state of Iraq. Onward.
Stressing political accomplishments and dissing the terrorists, Secretary Rumsfeld takes the high and optimistic road about Iraq even though he, disappointingly, takes a mild shot at blogs, along with the Big Media.
Some have described the situation in Iraq as a tightening noose, noting that "time is not on our side"and that "morale is down." Others have described a "very dangerous" turn of events and are "extremely concerned."Then, the secretary, going all Godwin on us, cuts to the chase.
Who are they that have expressed these concerns? In fact, these are the exact words of terrorists discussing Iraq -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his associates -- who are describing their own situation and must be watching with fear the progress that Iraq has made over the past three years.
The terrorists seem to recognize that they are losing in Iraq. I believe that history will show that to be the case.
Fortunately, history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately.[SNIP]
Consider that in three years Iraq has gone from enduring a brutal dictatorship to electing a provisional government to ratifying a new constitution written by Iraqis to electing a permanent government last December. In each of these elections, the number of voters participating has increased significantly -- from 8.5 million in the January 2005 election to nearly 12 million in the December election -- in defiance of terrorists' threats and attacks.
Consider that if we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum -- and the free world might not have the will to face them again. Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis. It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn't have the patience to work with them as they built free countries.Former Prime Minister Allawi isn’t so optimistic about events in his country. In fact he asserts that the civil war has already started.
Well it’s unfortunate that we are in [a] civil war. We are losing a day, an average [of] fifty to sixty people throughout the country if not more - if this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is. [SNIP]
Maybe have not reached the [unintelligible; will fill in when a transcript is available] yet, but we are moving towards this point and we should avert the path of the country and avert getting there. [SNIP]
Sectarianism will spread throughout the region and even Europe and the United States would not be spared.
The former prime minister says also that there is a serious exodus of Iraqi citizens from the country.
General Casey estimates that Coalition troops have a few more years in Iraq. There will be fewer, obviously, with many of the partners withdrawing on schedule at the end of the year and US troops levels already having been reduced.
[TIM] RUSSERT[of Meet the Press]: […] I want to take you back to something you said almost exactly a year ago. “By this time next year - you know, you base all of your planning on assumptions. Assuming that the political process continues to go positively, and the Sunni are included in the political process, and the Iraqi army continues to progress and develop as we think it will, we should be able to take some fairly substantial reductions in the size of our forces.” So you said the process is positive, the troop development is positive. Has been, this is a year ago, and you said therefore we could reduce our troop levels.Additionally, the general disagrees with the former prime minister:
GEN. CASEY: Right.
MR. RUSSERT: That has not happened. So what is the problem?
GEN. CASEY: It has happened, Tim. We—right after—right before Christmas we off-ramped two brigades. We did not, we chose not to bring two additional brigades into Iraq, and our, our forces are 7,000 to 10,000 less as a result of that. And so we have started that process. And that process is a process that—again, go back to your base assumptions, as long as those two things continue to hold—that process is going to continue, I expect through 2006 and into 2007. So the process has begun.
MR. RUSSERT: Former Prime Minister Allawi said yesterday that Iraq is in civil war. Is he correct?
GEN. CASEY: The prime minister’s been out of, the former prime minister’s been out of the country, Tim. I haven’t talked to him about the security situation in, in a while, frankly. But I don’t, I don’t think he’s correct. As you can imagine, we look at this very closely, and I, I do not believe, one, that we are in a civil war right now; two, nor do I believe that a civil war is imminent or necessarily inevitable.
Perhaps he’s correct, perhaps Mr. Allawi is. But note the lprime minister’s prediction: that religious war will span the globe. If the prediction is a reasonable one, will the immediate pullout or even gradual reduction of Coalition forces completed, say, by the early 2007, hasten or hinder an Iraqi civil war or such an ominous forecast for the world? That is the question that we have to ask ourselves and the question I hope that our leaders--all of them—are asking, without regard to politics.