Bush, in a Rose Garden news conference Friday, declined to set a threshold for determining the state of the Iraqi violence, deferring instead to the 'people on the ground' who he said, 'do not believe' that Iraq is in a civil war. "They believe the Baghdad security plan is making progress." he said. "I measure progress against the resilience of the Iraqi people . . . is the government intact . . . are they dividing?"
Bush would have been well served by listening to Col. Pete Devlin, who was cited in a WaPost report this week, describing the western Anbar province of Iraq as beyond the control of the U.S or Iraqi military; the vacuum quickly becoming filled by resistance elements who align themselves with al-Qaeda.
He should take heed of the Pentagon's Sept. 1 quarterly report to Congress on the situation on the ground in Iraq. "Death squads and terrorists are locked in mutually reinforcing cycles of sectarian strife," the report reads. Even as the sectarian violence overshadows it in importance, however, the Sunni-led insurgency, mainly against U.S. forces and the sitting Iraqi government, "remains potent and viable."
Nonetheless, Bush told reporters that his main priority is to, "Make sure unity government is able to defend itself . . . make certain that the Iraqi government is sustaining itself . . . that government take root to the extent that it can't be overturned by those who want to stop democracy from taking hold in Iraq . . . Stand up, stand down still holds."
Seven to eight thousand U.S. soldiers have been diverted to Baghdad since Bush's last visit to the Green Zone. Bush and his general's strategy now reportedly includes an Iraqi plan to build a "berm" around Baghdad; a trench that would surround the entire 50mil circumference of the Iraqi capital, where the new government's home sits precariously at the center of the U.S. 'green zone' of defense. "A berm around the city to make it harder to bring explosive devices in," Bush told reporters.
They can fill the trenches with alligators and screaming eels . . . build a fort with towers to pour boiling oil down on the insurgents . . . build a fence around the city, make Baghdad a gated community, complete with the new palace they're building there for our ambassador . . . yet, the same officials 'on the ground' report that insurgents and explosives are already in abundance inside of Baghdad.
The tighter occupation of the city has not produced the reduction in violence that the increase of troops intended. In the past two days over hundreds of bodies of executed Iraqis have been found dumped on the streets of Baghdad. Over 20 of our own troops have been killed in the last couple of days as the violence continues to escalate. Bush's increased occupation of the city is clearly not working.
"You measure progress based upon the resilience of the Iraqi people;" Bush said, "do they want there to be a unity government, or are they splitting up into factions of people warring with the head leaders, with different alternatives of governing styles and different philosophies?
In a congressional hearing Wednesday, State Dept. witness David Satterfield warned about the increasing sectarian violence, describing a state of war among factions in Iraq; a civil war in all but name. "If sectarian violence cannot be demonstrably, tangibly reduced," he said, "and that reduction sustained over the next several months -- an Iraq that represents all of its people, is a partner against terror and is at peace both at home and with its neighbors, will be difficult if not impossible to achieve."
"Killing is taking place at the hands of insurgents, he continued. "Killing is taking place at the hands of al-Qaida terrorists. Killing is taking place at the hands of extra governmental armed groups that have a sectarian color to them and a criminal color to them."
It was reported today that more than 100 Iraqi MPs signed a resolution which set a timetable for the withdrawal of the coalition troops. The resolution received the backing of 104 of the 275 MPs. "We do not want another kitchen in which decisions are cooked away from the representatives of the people, and away from the hearing of the Iraqi people," resolution sponsor Falas al-Mishaal told reporters.
Bush, though, intends to make his determination of Iraq's security needs by "listening to the words" of the terrorists. "The enemy has said that it's just a matter of time before the United States loses its nerve and withdraws from Iraq. That's what they have said," Bush warned reporters. "I take them really seriously. And I think everybody in government should take them seriously and respond accordingly."