Paul Krugman says that if Democrats remember five things when General David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week on progress in Iraq, it will help them take a firm stand on ending the war:
Time to Take a Stand, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: Here’s what will definitely happen when Gen. David Petraeus testifies before Congress next week: he’ll assert that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq — as long as you don’t count Sunnis killed by Sunnis, Shiites killed by Shiites, Iraqis killed by car bombs and people shot in the front of the head.
Here’s what I’m afraid will happen: Democrats will look at Gen. Petraeus’s uniform and medals and fall into their usual cringe. They won’t ask hard questions out of fear that someone might accuse them of attacking the military. After the testimony, they’ll desperately try to get Republicans to agree to a resolution that politely asks President Bush to maybe, possibly, withdraw some troops, if he feels like it.
There are five things I hope Democrats in Congress will remember.
First, no independent assessment has concluded that violence in Iraq is down. ... So how can the military be claiming otherwise? Apparently, the Pentagon has a double super secret formula that it uses to distinguish sectarian killings (bad) from other deaths (not important); according to press reports, all deaths from car bombs are excluded, and ... “if a bullet went through the back of the head, it’s sectarian. If it went through the front, it’s criminal.” So the number of dead is down, as long as you only count certain kinds of dead people.
Oh, and by the way: Baghdad is undergoing ethnic cleansing... When a Sunni enclave is eliminated and the death toll in that district falls because there’s nobody left to kill, that counts as progress by the Pentagon’s metric.
Second, Gen. Petraeus has a history of making wildly overoptimistic assessments of progress in Iraq that happen to be convenient for his political masters.
I’ve written before about the op-ed article Gen. Petraeus published six weeks before the 2004 election, claiming “tangible progress” in Iraq. ...
Third, any plan that depends on the White House recognizing reality is an idle fantasy. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, on Tuesday Mr. Bush told Australia’s deputy prime minister that “we’re kicking ass” in Iraq. Enough said.
Fourth, the lesson of the past six years is that Republicans will accuse Democrats of being unpatriotic no matter what the Democrats do. ...
Finally, the public hates this war and wants to see it ended. Voters are exasperated with the Democrats ... because they don’t see Congress doing anything to stop the war.
In light of all this, you have to wonder what Democrats, who ... are considering a compromise that sets a “goal” for withdrawal rather than a timetable, are thinking. All such a compromise would accomplish would be to give Republicans who like to sound moderate — but who always vote with the Bush administration when it matters — political cover.
And six or seven months from now it will be the same thing all over again. Mr. Bush will stage another photo op ...[in] Iraq. The administration will move the goal posts again, and the military will come up with new ways to cook the books and claim success.
One thing is for sure: like 2004, 2008 will be a “khaki election” in which Republicans insist that a vote for the Democrats is a vote against the troops. The only question is whether they can also, once again, claim that the Democrats are flip-floppers who can’t make up their minds.