It’s a tossup whether the mendacity associated with the decision to invade Iraq is surpassed by that coughed up subsequently. The fiction has flowed from the get-go, adding poignancy to the adage about the fog of war. Truth is indeed its first casualty.
The capacity of the Iraqi police and security forces, key to America’s exit strategy, has proven a particular source of perfidy. An endless cavalcade of senior Administration and military officials has for years bared good tidings, promising that the forces are making steady progress. Let’s recall some of the golden oldies. Just months after Baghdad fell in 2003, Centcom Commander and subsequent Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree Tommy Franks told Congress that half the number of policemen required in Iraq had already been hired. Pacification of the country seemed in hand. Indeed, Franks’ successor, John Abizaid, told lawmakers months later that due to the diligent efforts of the US forces, working alongside their Iraqi counterparts, “The preponderance of [Iraq]…has achieved a high degree of security and stability.”
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took up the cheerleading with gusto, claiming in October of 2003, for example, that progress in the training of Iraqi forces had been “swift.” Others like Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Joe Lieberman, and, of course, President Bush also waxed lyrical about the country’s increasing ability to provide for its own security. And let’s not forget John McCain. In an op-ed from last April, the straight-talking Senator cited the “growing” capacity of the forces, which, he claimed, the press overlooked.
The latest installment of mythmaking came on the occasion of this week’s congressional testimony from General Patraeus and Ambassador Crocker. The Administration and its enablers again trotted out the tired plaudits about Iraq’s security forces. But a bungled operation days earlier to suppress militia violence in Basra revealed how inadequate they truly are. The Washington Post quoted a senior US officer as saying that many of the forces were “largely ineffective.” 1,000 army and police personnel abandoned the fight entirely. Even Patraeus characterized the American-trained forces as “a very, very mixed bag across the board.”
Victory, the war’s supporters promise, is just around the corner. It’s a canard, of course, because Iraqi security forces, riddled with the same ethno-sectarian rivalries that are tearing apart the country, will never be able to stand up, allowing the US to stand down, but precious little said about the war has been truthful. In this environment, it is not surprising that the most “honest” piece of reporting capturing the quagmire that is Iraq came from the satirical magazine The Onion. Its headline on the occasion of the 4,000th US military death in the war read, “Iraq War Memorial Planners Forced to Revise Length Again.”