Our "success in meeting these objectives now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home," the president said.
Largely gone from the president's speech Thursday was his January insistence that the Iraqi government meet 18 benchmarks and sort out its differences on the most divisive issues in Iraq.
In January, the talk was tough: "America will hold the Iraqi government to the benchmarks it has announced," Bush said then. "I've made it clear to the prime minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act."
The president was conciliatory Thursday in the face of Iraqi failure.
[. . .]
And in January, he asked Americans for "more patience, sacrifice and resolve."
In Thursday's speech, he did the same.
The above is from Nancy A. Youssef's "New Iraq plan recalls strategies past" (McClatchy Newspapers). Translation, more of the same from the addict who can't break the chain. Writing before the speech (and apparently before news of the assassination), Tony Karon notes the following of the mytical 'model' province in "Treading Water in Iraq" (Time magazine):
But the groups with which the U.S. is cooperating in Anbar are not only outside of the Iraqi government; they are actively opposed to it, seeing it as a Shi'ite entity beholden to Iran. Such cooperation helps deal with the problem of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- a brutal presence, to be sure, but still a minority element in the overall Sunni insurgency -- but it doesn't necessarily reinforce national reconciliation.
If the U.S. is forced to make such local-level arrangements to deal with local-level problems, that's because the central government is an ineffective vehicle for the U.S. agenda, or, indeed, for any sort of governance right now. Having conceded to the principle of Iraqi sovereignty, however, Washington is in no position to change Iraq's government.
Meanwhile, remember the cholera outbreak in northern Iraq? Maybe not. It's been so long since so munch of the press has filed from Iraq as dailies instead elected to follow the pre-dog & pony show and then the dog & pony show (and probably will continue with the dog show last night). The World Health Organization says it is spreading and Reuters quotes Fadela Chaib (WHO) explaining, "The cholera outbreak has now infected 16,000 people including 10 deaths in the provinces of Sulaimaniya, Kirkuk and Erbil in northern Iraq." No matter how anyone tries to play it, the reality is the US government could have (and should have) prevented it by addressing the issues of potable water and sanitation right away. That did not happen. Those were not priorities.
Meanwhile Tina Susman (Los Angeles Times) reports on a new poll that estimates Iraqi deaths have topped one million:
The figure from ORB, a British polling agency that has conducted several surveys in Iraq, followed statements this week from the U.S. military defending itself against accusations it was trying to play down Iraqi deaths to make its strategy appear successful.
The military has said civilian deaths from sectarian violence have fallen more than 55% since President Bush sent an additional 28,500 troops to Iraq this year, but it does not provide specific numbers.
According to the ORB poll, a survey of 1,461 adults suggested that the total number slain during more than four years of war was more than 1.2 million.
ORB said it drew its conclusion from responses to the question about those living under one roof: "How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003?"
Based on Iraq's estimated number of households -- 4,050,597 -- it said the 1.2 million figure was reasonable.
"The military has said" requires mentioning that the military found a new way to determine civilians deaths from sectarian violence -- shot in the front of the head or the back, as Karen DeYoung (Washington Post) reported last week and Petraeus did not issue a denial, he just played dumb. That's really required because the administration has repeatedly found new ways of 'counting' when they didn't like the numbers. That is a pattern with them.
The ORB's findings also underscore the embarrassment that is United for Peace & Justice's report which puts foward the claim of "over 600,000 plus" deaths as the highest estimate for the number of Iraqis killed in the illegal war. (It wasn't even the highest estimate in July of 2006, wasn't even the highest estimate in the Lancet study the report is allegedly utilizing.)
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