Sunday, April 20, 2008

Talking Points Lost

November's election is sure to revive the old adage that Republicans are strong on national security while Democrats lack the resolve to confront foreign threats. This narrative is based mainly on the premise that the best thing one can do to protect the country is to beat one's chest and illustrate strength and fortitude. Where that show of force is directed is not important, merely that it exists.

Thus, the diversion of resources to the debacle in Iraq is seen by those who wish to see it continue indefinitely--or at least until the United States achieves a victory that has yet to be clearly defined--as a signal to terrorists that the US means business. A sign that America is not a country to be messed with, that she is firm in her resolve and holds steadfastly to a principled defense of its right to exist. Everywhere.

That holding such a fallacious contention is demonstrably false and its tenets and presuppositions continuously shattered by the facts and realities of its real-world application is of little concern to the Bush administration, John McCain, Joe Lieberman, or Lindsey Graham. Foreign policy in their myopic worldview is that of the lunchroom or playground. If someone smudges your Pumas, you must show them you aren't afraid, regardless of the actual severity of the offense.

But, again and again, in a waterfall of revelations and realizations of an objective analysis of reality, this school of thought is picked apart piece by piece until all that is left is a small gaggle of fanatics desperately clinging to the shattered remains of a foreign policy so thoroughly debunked it is verging on comical.

This GAO report is but the latest in the school of piranhas nibbling away at the cause of the Iraqi occupation.

The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas

No comprehensive plan for meeting U.S. national security goals in the FATA has been developed, as stipulated by the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism (2003), called for by an independent commission (2004), and mandated by congressional legislation (2007).

Not only has the US not developed a workable strategy for the FATA region in Pakistan, but it has failed to do so in defiance of five years of stipulations that it must. The 9/11 Commission Recommendation Act, signed on August 3, 2007 states explicitly:

(1) REQUIREMENT FOR REPORT ON STRATEGY. Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report, in classified form if necessary, that describes the long-term strategy of the United States to engage with the Government of Pakistan to address the issues described in subparagraphs (A) through (F) of subsection (a)(2) and carry out the policies described in subsection (b) in order accomplish the goal of building a moderate, democratic Pakistan.

Like reports illustrating the lack of an al Qaeda/Saddam link or the reality of Iran's ties to the Maliki government before it, the GAO's assertion that the Iraqi Occupation has diverted resources away from the true center of al Qaeda's influence illustrates quite clearly that opponents of the war--Republicans and Democrats alike--are not merely terrorist apologists or lax on defense. Rather, they overwhelmingly see the most pressing need for American national security interests where it really lies, in the FATA lands of western Pakistan, and not where a dwindling number of Iraq War true believers caustically and unconvincingly try to insist.

The USA Today:

WASHINGTON (AP) — Terrorists are still operating freely in Pakistan along the country's Afghanistan border, despite the U.S. giving Pakistan more than $10.5 billion in military and economic aid, according to a government watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office says in a report released Thursday that the U.S. lacks a comprehensive plan to deal with the terrorist threat.


Pakistan is widely seen as the linchpin in the U.S. anti-terrorism strategy. After the U.S. invasion in Afghanistan, Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters retreated across the mountainous 373-mile border into Pakistan's unpoliced tribal areas.

Last month, CIA Director Michael Hayden said that if there were another terrorist attack against Americans, it would almost certainly originate from that region, where al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding.

To lump every opponent of the Iraqi Opposition in Iraq into the arena of Code Pink and other pacifist groups is to falsely undermine the validity of the reasoning behind the opposition.

Like the GAO, Democrats or Republican critics of the occupation of Iraq aren't simply speaking out against perceived American interests. They are pleading with the Bush administration or a potential McCain administration to look under the right rock in order to protect those interests.

To say the US has to 'fight them over there so [it] doesn't have to fight them over here' doesn't synch with the policy it's purporting to defend. If a fight 'over there' is what the US is after, it must ascertain an accurate picture of 'over there.' Every day it becomes increasingly clear, to the point that it is now blaringly obvious, that 'over there' is the tribal lands of western Pakistan, not the Shiite slums of Sadr city.

Defense, State, U.S. embassy, and Pakistani government officials recognize that relying primarily on the Pakistani military has not succeeded in neutralizing al Qaeda and preventing the establishment of a safe haven in the FATA. State’s April 2007 Country Reports on Terrorism states that, despite having Pakistani troops in the FATA and sustaining hundreds of casualties, the government of Pakistan has been unable to exert control over the area. The report concluded that Pakistan has now recognized that military operations alone will not restore security and stability to the FATA. Similarly, U.S. embassy officials in Pakistan stated that Taliban and al Qaeda elements have created a safe haven in the FATA and have used it to plan and launch attacks on Afghan, Pakistani, U.S., and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The embassy further noted that al Qaeda and the Taliban continue to recruit, train, and operate in the FATA.


al Qaeda is now using the Pakistani safe haven to put the last element necessary to launch another attack against America into place, including the identification, training, and positioning of Western operatives for an attack. It stated that al Qaeda is most likely using the FATA to plot terrorist attacks against political, economic, and infrastructure targets in America "designed to produce mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the population.

It is long past time to change the framework of this debate. Portraying opponents of US policy vis-a-vis Iraq as opponents of American self-interest is fallacious and intellectually dishonest. It has become blindingly clear that these dissenters are begging for someone, anyone, in the Bush administration to notice where those security interests lie. Like so many others, they are dismissed out of hand, only to be proven right down the road.

For six years, opponents of Bush's policy in Iraq have been proven overwhelmingly correct in their assertions with the passage of time. Whether it concerned weapons of mass destruction, the response of the Iraqi population or the lack of preparedness for extended occupation, critics of the war have been vindicated time and again. But this vindication comes much too late.

There is still time, though. There is time for the Bush administration to cease waiting to be proven wrong. There is time to change paths, time to own up to the realities of the world as it is and not as they wish it were. But time is running out. For when the vindication of the GAO's findings comes, it may not be in a form that lends the US many options.

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