The presidential candidates have changed their focus since the summer. Back then, they were more concerned about the War on Iraq; now, they are focusing on the economy. Does this quick change mean that our candidates suffer from ADD? According to these candidates, the answer would be no. Instead, the candidates from both parties appear to believe the claim that the surge is working. After all, we are constantly being told that both the number of attacks and deaths are down since the surge has taken effect.
Many who oppose the war have rushed, sometimes in panic mode, to explain this apparent success. Explanations have ranged from attributing the decline in deaths to the fact that there are now fewer people to kill due to past casualties and the fact that over 4 million refugees have fled their homes to the numerous claims that American troops are now going out on fewer missions.
Those who support the war see the apparent success of the surge as a godsend. Assuming that “the ends justify the means,” the surge has finally brought what our past efforts have failed to produce: success. Now that the surge is working, they feel that we are finally on the right course and thus the surge, and the war, should sail on full-steam ahead. Is their renewed optimism justified?
The answer to this question is complicated because not all of the statistics support the surge. In particular, the websites http://www.iraqbodycount.org and http://icasualties.org, though producing somewhat contradictory results, contain data that indicates the surge is not working.
For example, the Iraq Body Count website shows that the number of civilian deaths has been gradually dwindling since it peaked in November 2006. If the count from this website is correct, then the decrease in civilian deaths started before both the surge started and had time to take effect.
The Iraq Coalition Casualties website gives a different picture. These statistics, often differing from the Iraq Body Count website, shows a consistent trend in the number of Iraqi deaths starting in 2005. That trend reveals a spike in Iraqi deaths in either the months of August or September followed by a gradual decrease for the remainder of the year. So the reduction in Iraqi deaths that started in September of this year also occurred during the years of 2005 and 2006. We should also note that since September, the number of Iraqi deaths continued to decline until January of 2008 when the number of Iraqi deaths actually increased by 1 percent. In addition, this website also shows that the surge has yet to reduce the percentage of civilian deaths in Iraq which has not dropped below 80% since April of 2006.
Regardless of what the statistics from the above websites say about the effectiveness of the surge, the last NIE on Iraq predicted that the surge would reduce the number of Iraqi deaths but that the number Iraqis killed would still remain significant. The latter part of this forecast has been supported by all statistics. Now we in the anti-war movement need to ask ourselves if the surge must fail in order for us to make our point. To the extent that we answer with a yes, the less objective we will be in analyzing the events in Iraq. And the less fair we are in dealing with the facts, the less credibility we will have when presenting our case against war.
We should all want the violence in Iraq to fall regardless of the context; but unlike our pro-war counterparts, our convictions should be based on both principles and absolute values than on immediate results. We should note what Christian Fundamentalist and social commentator Francis Schaeffer observed about those who do not hold to moral absolutes. Such people, according to Schaeffer, seek their own “personal peace and prosperity.” We should also note that one does not have to be religious to hold to moral absolutes. Indeed, Chomsky’s constant reminder of the universal principle states that the standards we apply to others must be applied to ourselves as well can be practiced by all. But what often runs counter to holding to moral absolutes is the American sacred cow: patriotism. The more patriotic one is, the less that person will hold to absolute values because loyalty to one’s country, that is what immediately benefits one’s country, will play a greater role in determining what is right and wrong than moral absolutes.
The problem with trading morals for nationalism is that it does not apply to us Americans alone; it can apply to everyone—especially when we provide such a strong role model for the world. So as patriots from other countries push their leaders to act in the best interests of their citizens, especially the wealthiest ones, our world becomes filled with countries less inclined to act with self-restraint and more inclined to act with self-interest. In a world where an ever advancing and adulterous technology has filled the world with modern weapons, the more ominous a world filled with nations placing self-interests above moral absolutes becomes.
This is what our pro-war counterparts must learn, that the War on Iraq violates moral values as were stated in both the UN Charter and the standards used at the Nuremburg Trials. But the War on Iraq is not just wrong; it significantly threatens our future regardless of its present success. We should only note that any pride and sense of security gained from even a successful surge only enables us to live in a fantasy world that awaits its doom.