Good News in Iraq = Bad News for Some
Both Andrew and Mac have pointed to the NY Times piece by Brookings Institute’s Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack that claims progress is being made in Iraq. As Mac stated, it is important because of who is saying that things are looking up: “two severe critics of the Bush administration’s management of the war.” Afraid of a potential sea-change in public opinion (how politically detrimental that would be for the Dems!), opponents of the Iraq War have attempted to counter the emerging meme (to use a favorite wonky term) that highlights the anti-Bush bona fides of the authors, claiming they supported the original invasion of Iraq, support the surge, one of them is friends with General Petraeus, etc. In the same NRO symposium to which Mac contributed, Victor Davis Hanson counters this argument:
What is interesting about the essay is that both scholars were early supporters of the war to remove Saddam Hussein, then constant critics of the acknowledged mistakes of the occupation, and now somewhat confident that Gen. Petraeus can still salvage a victory. In two regards, they reflect somewhat the vast majority of the American people who approved the war, slowly soured on the peace — but now have yet to be won over again by the surge to renew their erstwhile support.
Finally, what are the opponents going to do to undermine the credibility of an anti-Iraq-invasion, liberal, Muslim congressman reports that things are looking up? (h/t Capt. Ed)
[Minnesota Democratic Rep. Keith] Ellison , a vocal critic of the Iraq war, said he still believes it was a mistake for the U.S. to invade Iraq.
“But there are 150,000 American soldiers there now, and I care very deeply about them,” said Ellison, one of six members on the all-freshman trip led by Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif. “I also care about the Iraqi people. I don’t want to see them suffer.”
The group met with Iraqi and U.S. military officials, including Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Ellison said that local leaders in Ramadi told him of how they partnered with U.S. and Iraqi military officials to virtually rid al-Qaeda from the city. Although the lawmakers had to travel in flak vests and helmets, “we did see people walking around the streets of Ramadi, going back and forth to the market.”
There have been fewer anti-U.S. sermons as the violence has been reduced, Ellison said, and religious leaders meet regularly with U.S. military officials.
“The success in Ramadi is not just because of bombs and bullets, but because the U.S. and Iraqi military and the Iraqi police are partnering with the tribal leadership and the religious leadership,” he said. “So they’re not trying to just bomb people into submission. What they’re doing is respecting the people, giving the people some control over their own lives.”
Ellison said he was particularly impressed watching Maj. Gen. Walter Gaskin, U.S. commander in the Anbar province, greeting people with “as-salama aleikum,” meaning peace be upon you.
“And they would respond back with smiles and waves,” Ellison said. “I don’t want to overplay it. There were no flowers. There was no clapping. There was no parade. But there was a general level of respect and calm that I thought was good.”
One final, semi-related note. I highly recommend Victory Caucus as a clearinghouse for the good and bad in Iraq.