Lieberman, Graham take a misguided victory lap

If they see Sunnis, Shiites and Americans fighting "shoulder to shoulder," they probably need to start laying off the hallucinogens.

By Salon Staff

Published April 7, 2008 5:05PM (EDT)

In anticipation of Gen. David Petraeus' congressional testimony, which begins tomorrow, Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., boasted in a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed today about how right they think they are. Indeed, Lieberman and Graham, two of the less restrained cheerleaders of the Bush policy in Iraq, appear comfortable taking a victory lap, convinced of their own rectitude. Let's do a little fact-checking.

No one can deny the dramatic improvements in security in Iraq achieved by Gen. Petraeus, the brave troops under his command, and the Iraqi Security Forces. From June 2007 through February 2008, deaths from ethno-sectarian violence in Baghdad have fallen approximately 90 percent. American casualties have also fallen sharply, down by 70 percent.

Those are, to be sure, encouraging numbers, but as Think Progress noted today, Lieberman and Graham conveniently skipped over numbers from March 2008 -- which they had access to, but chose to ignore. That's because Iraqi deaths and civilian casualties saw a significant increase in March, a point the pro-war senators no doubt found inconvenient.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been swept from its former strongholds in Anbar province and Baghdad. The liberation of these areas was made possible by the surge, which empowered Iraqi Muslims to reject the Islamist extremists who had previously terrorized them into submission.

I assume Lieberman and Graham realize the Awakening began months before the surge, but they found this fact inconvenient, too.

In recent months, the Iraqi government, encouraged by our Ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has passed benchmark legislation on such politically difficult issues as de-Baathification, amnesty, the budget and provincial elections. After boycotting the last round of elections, Sunnis now stand ready to vote by the millions in the provincial elections this autumn.

That the surge policy has not produced the political progress promised is so obvious, it's hardly worth emphasizing anymore. Indeed, perhaps Lieberman and Graham missed this report from the weekend: "A new assessment of U.S. policy in Iraq by the same experts who advised the original Iraq Study Group concludes that political progress is 'so slow, halting and superficial' and political fragmentation 'so pronounced' that the United States is no closer to being able to leave Iraq than it was a year ago."

Thanks to the surge, Iraq today is looking increasingly like Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare: an Arab country, in the heart of the Middle East, in which hundreds of thousands of Muslims -- both Sunni and Shiite -- are rising up and fighting, shoulder to shoulder with American soldiers, against al Qaeda and its hateful ideology.

First, I don't know what country Lieberman and Graham are watching, but if they see Sunnis, Shiites and Americans fighting "shoulder to shoulder," they probably need to start laying off the hallucinogens.

Second, far from bin Laden's "nightmare," the terrorist leader has actually said that al-Qaida's strategy "is to cripple the U.S. economy by dragging us into quagmires abroad ... A smallish number of people with no base of resources can't possibly defeat us unless we shoot ourselves in the foot repeatedly as Bush and McCain propose."

Lieberman and Graham, for some reason, seem anxious to help.

Salon Staff

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