The Surge to Nowhere

By Jessica Maxwell, Published in the Syracuse Post Standard

The recent interview with General Petraeus (December 23) was typical of mainstream media coverage of the surge: superficial, shortsighted and soft. Discussions of tactical military gains dominate with little attention to the big picture—the one that counts. The only war the Bush administration has any chance of winning with the surge is the information war it’s waging here at home.

We will soon enter year five of a brutal and illegal occupation. It has cost hundreds of thousands of innocent lives, devastated Iraq’s infrastructure, contributed to regional instability and contributed to the crumbling of our own infrastructure as billions of dollars in resources are squandered in corrupt contracts and false missions.

Petraeus and administration officials claim that the surge has improved security in targeted areas such as Anbar province and Baghdad. We could get into details of the ongoing violence. We could argue over what statistics to count and how. But there is really no need. Since day one, the US has always been able to quell insurgent violence in a particular region by concentrating resources and brute force—and those gains have always proven to be temporary. How many times has the US trained Iraqi security forces only to watch them melt back into the insurgency?

US forces can “take” Baghdad any time they want. That’s not really the point. The real challenge, the one that we should use to evaluate our policy, is whether the Iraqi people are moving closer to political stability, self-determination and securing their basic human rights and needs. No administration official, Petraeus included, has provided any evidence that we are closer to achieving long-term stability or justice in Iraq—or closer to a US withdrawal.

Most attacks in Iraq continue to be directed at US forces/installations or those Iraqis viewed as collaborators (police, government officials, translators). US intelligence reports state that Al-Qaida does not play a major role in Iraq. The small presence they do have can be linked to the US occupation.

Petraeus claims the US has no interest in permanent bases in Iraq. This belies the Pentagon’s intensive lobbying to eliminate a ban on permanent US military bases from several pieces of legislation in Congress. While administration officials boldly deny the obvious, millions of US tax dollars are allocated to “enduring camps”.

The surge is just another strategy to sell this war. Paying off insurgents and a bloated US military presence are unsustainable tactics. Much like the Taliban in Afghanistan (where US forces suffered their greatest losses this year since the 2001 invasion), the insurgents in Iraq can wait out the surge, and then we’ll have invested massive amounts of resources and lost countless lives only to find ourselves right back where we started…or worse.

The step needed to significantly shift the situation in Iraq is a US pullout. Iraq cannot become a self-governing, stable nation while a foreign military force occupies it. Immediate US withdrawal is not only a moral course of action; it’s the logical and strategic course of action to allow the political process to advance.

Over a year ago, the people of this country expressed our desire to end the war in Congressional elections. Since that time, the Democrats and Republicans alike have continued to fund the same failed policies. With the Presidential campaigns in full swing, we must increase the pressure.

The Syracuse Peace Council ( has been organizing opposition to the war since the fall of 2002, when we correctly predicted the debacle that has ensued. Join our efforts to end the war, on New Year’s Eve with an anti-war gathering at 5 pm at Clinton Square.

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