Four years in the making but published tonight to boost the new push for withdrawal and give Russert something to pant over tomorrow morning. Their plan: Baker-Hamilton, essentially, minus any much-needed U.S. military advisors to train the Iraqi army and with the UN naturally in the lead in negotiating a sectarian settlement. To give you a taste of how workable it is, here’s their solution to the Iranian problem. What’s the one thing we know from painful experience that won’t work on Iran? Well, let’s try that then:
Just as Iran should come under international pressure to allow Shiites in southern Iraq to develop their own independent future, Washington must help persuade Sunni powers like Syria not to intervene on behalf of Sunni Iraqis. Turkey must be kept from sending troops into Kurdish territories.
For this effort to have any remote chance, Mr. Bush must drop his resistance to talking with both Iran and Syria. Britain, France, Russia, China and other nations with influence have a responsibility to help. Civil war in Iraq is a threat to everyone, especially if it spills across Iraq’s borders.
Five years of “international pressure” plus two rounds of sanctions plus endless threats of a bombing campaign by Bush and Cheney hasn’t convinced them to stop enriching uranium. It won’t convince them to stay out of Iraq, either. The Times knows that, of course, but they’re ashamed to say what they really want — an immediate pullout regardless of the consequences to Iraq or Iraqis — so they feel obliged to offer some sort of pro forma, dead-on-arrival “solution” to cover their tracks. Pathetic. You can read the rest for yourself, if you care. But be warned that you’re in store for arguments like this —
This war diverted Pentagon resources from Afghanistan, where the military had a real chance to hunt down Al Qaeda’s leaders.
— which are directly contradicted by the lead story on their own front page at this very moment.
Since we’re Times-bashing, it’s worth mentioning the new column by their stooge ombudsman, Clark Hoyt. You may remember the rumors that Bill Keller was going to liquidate the ombudsman position after Barney Calame’s tenure expired, so allegedly unhappy was he with Calame’s criticism. He seems to have found a better solution: keep the position and fill it with a guy who’ll defend the Times three times out of four and on that rare fourth occasion will come at them from the place they don’t particularly mind being attacked from, i.e., the left. Hence tonight’s piece, which scolds the Times for its coverage of Al Qaeda — not the dearth of coverage of atrocities like the ones Yon’s been writing about this week but the excess of coverage in labeling enemy fighters “Al Qaeda” instead of “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia” or “Sunni insurgents” or “BushCo’s pretext” or whatever he prefers. Let him explain why:
There is plenty of evidence that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia is but one of the challenges facing the United States military and that overemphasizing it distorts the true picture of what is happening there. While a president running out of time and policy options may want to talk about a single enemy that Americans hate and fear in the hope of uniting the country behind him, journalists have the obligation to ask tough questions about the accuracy of his statements…
For the president, an emphasis on Al Qaeda has political advantages at a time when powerful former allies, like Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, are starting to back away from his war policy.
Indeed, just as downplaying Al Qaeda has political advantages for a media opposed to the war and eager for it to end regardless of the consequences. If Hoyt’s lament sounds familiar it’s because Greenwald was beating his own wee drum about the same thing a few weeks ago. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Hoyt got the idea for this piece from Greenwald’s sycophants spamming him with GG’s Salon column on the subject.) Bob Owens debunked him not once but twice using the military’s own press releases, but let me suggest that if there’s been an added focus in the news lately on AQ, perhaps it’s due to the fact that the military’s in the middle of a giant operation designed mainly to smash Al Qaeda. The Times itself posted a dispatch yesterday from Baquba about Sunni insurgents from the 1920s Brigades being quasi-deputized by U.S. troops because of their usefulness in helping to purge the Salafist AQ forces from parts of the city. How does Hoyt explain that distinction if, per him and Rick Ellensburg, the media’s supposedly engaged in blackballing all Sunni fighters as Al Qaeda? He doesn’t. Just like he doesn’t explain, in his haste to note that Al Qaeda in Iraq “is not believed to be under [Osama’s] operational control” and thus presumably isn’t part of the “real” war on terror as the left conceives it, why then money is reportedly flowing from Iraq to the Pakistani tribal areas — a humiliating admission by U.S. counterterror officials which supports the Times’s own point in the editorial about how the war has backfired.
That’s what he gets for cribbing from Ellensburg, whose own pathetic, agenda-driven denial about the “awakening” in Anbar is comically blown to pieces in tonight’s edition of — wait for it — the New York Times, in a piece by the typically excellent John Burns about the “astonishing success in Anbar” generally and Ramadi in particular. Of the three Times pieces linked here, that’s the one to read. Not because it’s optimistic (it isn’t) but because it puts the lie to Hoyt’s leftist complaints about the coverage. Takeaway:
Many recruits, American officers acknowledge, were previously insurgents. “There’s a lot of guys wearing blue shirts out there who were shooting at us last year,” Colonel Charlton said.
Update: One other thing. After four years of open warfare with Sunni insurgents, thanks to delicate diplomacy by military envoys and Iraqi politicians and the Sunni population’s own disgust with Al Qaeda’s Salafism and brutality, we’ve finally achieved something like a detente with some of the indigneous non-Salafist groups in Anbar and Baquba. And Hoyt’s complaint seems to be … that Bush isn’t doing enough to re-antagonize them by lumping them in with AQ in his speeches about who our enemies are. Good thinking.