By: Glenn Greenwald
It has been extremely difficult over the past several months to pay any attention at all to the discussion of Iraq from our political and media stars. It is all just complete blather, and never means anything. All of these stern and worried and tough words spill endlessly from their mouths — they all proclaimed in May that September was the Day of Reckoning: there would be bipartisan, forced withdrawal if the political benchmarks weren’t met — only for the same thing to happen over and over.
The conditions are not met; Bush proclaims we are staying; and the Washington Establishment submits.
Just look at the behavior of The Washington Post’s Fred Hiatt in the last week alone to see how barren and worthless their words are.
Last Sunday, Hiatt came closer than ever before to admitting failure in Iraq, ending his Editorial by asking: “If Iraqis are not moving toward political reconciliation, what justifies a continuing commitment of U.S. troops, with the painful sacrifices in lives that entails?”
Thus, argued Hiatt, if the President cannot answer that question, and “if there is to be no political accord in the near future,” then we must change our Iraq policy to “limit troop levels to those necessary to accomplish” very specific and more modest goals.
But today, Hiatt admits that what he said just five days ago were pre-conditions for supporting Bush’s Iraq policy have not been met: “the president failed to acknowledge that, according to the standards he himself established in January, the surge of U.S. troops into Iraq has been a failure — because Iraqi political leaders did not reach the political accords that the sacrifice of American lives was supposed to make possible.”
Thus, by Hiatt’s own reasoning on Sunday, it means that there is no justification for “a continuing commitment of U.S. troops.” So does he embrace that conclusion? Of course not, because nothing he says matters; all that matters is that we stay in Iraq and do what the President wants: “Mr. Bush’s plan offers, at least, the prospect of extending recent gains against al-Qaeda in Iraq, preventing full-scale sectarian war and allowing Iraqis more time to begin moving toward a new political order. For that reason, it is preferable to a more rapid withdrawal. It’s not necessary to believe the president’s promise that U.S. troops will ‘return on success’ in order to accept the judgment of Mr. Crocker: ‘Our current course is hard. The alternatives are far worse.'”
This is how it goes endlessly with people like Hiatt: (1) If X does not happen, there is no justification for staying; (2) X has not happened; (3) we must stay.
That is why nothing they say has any meaning. Staying in Iraq is always the only real goal. Everything else is just pretext and blather to continue to do that.
Just look at the virtually unanimous consensus among our political and media class from last May, just four months ago. They all banded together to assure Americans that, come September, if the benchmarks were not met and there was no political reconciliation, that would be the end of the line for the war. Worried and principled Republicans were willing to wait until September, but come September, they would join with Democrats and end the war, or at least force a significant withdrawal.
Yet regardless of one’s views regarding the latest claims of “military progress,” everyone agrees that this allegedly necessary condition — benchmark fulfillment and political reconciliation — has not happened. It is not even a close call. As Hiatt himself said today, even Petraeus and Crocker “emphasized that political accords will be slower in coming than Washington has expected, if they are achievable at all.”
Yet it does not matter. Even though the condition they all proclaimed must be met in order to stay has not been met, they still all insist we must stay. It’s always the same:
(1) If X does not happen by Y date, there is no justification for staying, they proclaim;
(2) X has not happened;
(3) We must stay.
That is why what they say — all of their sober prognostications and warnings and analyses — is meaningless. All of the talk about “worst options” and alleged fears of what will happen if we withdraw and our “strategic interests” all just mask the simple truth that we are going to stay — even when their own premises amount to an acknowledgement that there is no point in staying — because we are staying to protect the reputations and credibility and egos of the Washington Establishment.
A full version of this column appears at Greenwald’s usual blog spot at: