Conditions in Iraq are bad. In spite of decreased levels of violence violence continues to rage. The surge has failed in its primary objective: improve conditions enough to allow a political settlement. There has been absolutely NO progress on the political front and until this is resolved there is NO success in Iraq. None. Yes, Iraqis are beginning to return from Jordan and Syria but this is because their visas and/or money ran out and they had no choice.
A Red Cross report from last month says this:
"The report documents the alarming state of Iraqi health-care facilities suffering critical shortages of staff and supplies. Many doctors, nurses and patients no longer dare to go to hospitals and clinics because they are targeted or threatened. The report also underlines that much of Iraq's vital water, sewage and electricity infrastructure is in a critical condition owing to lack of maintenance and because security constraints have impeded repair work."
This letter to President Bush by an Iraqi woman is also poignant:
“As the days pass, I have begun to feel that your words are in stark contrast to the desperate situation we are living through. You speak out and say that Iraq is headed toward democracy and stability, but in reality we sit at home terrified to even cross the street. You say that Iraq will prosper in democracy and justice while in reality no one can voice his opinion without being subject to harm or even death.”
“We sit at home terrified to even cross the street.”
The last report I saw said an average of 33 attacks are occurring every day. Though down substantially with the increased troop presence 33 incidents a day is horrific. The U.S. military is incapable of sustaining the surge and it is beginning to end. It failed because of the failure of Iraq's political leaders to take advantage of decreased violence to forge progress in establishing a real unity government. That's the only goal of significance and, without it, everything else is failure.
This is why benchmarks, nee, goals are needed. Everyone who works for a living is familiar with goals. These are the standards for which we strive and by which we are evaluated. They are what we work toward and they are written down, distributed and made visible so we all understand what is required of us to achieve success. Goals and benchmarks are basic management tools but George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress know only how to obstruct progress and legislation and not how to realize progress.
2008 starts tomorrow and we have a momentous election year. Let us not forget the war and let us not forget the death and destruction amid which the Iraqi people live every day due to our actions. Iraq must not become a backwater issue in 2008.