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Reviled by most Democrats, President Bush’s 20,000-troop surge is working. Indeed, news of this policy’s success is emerging from an unlikely source: Democrats.
Despite other misgivings on Iraq, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., admitted to the Veterans of Foreign Wars on Monday: “We’ve begun to change tactics in Iraq and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it’s working.”
“The surge has resulted in a reduction of violence in many parts of Iraq,” Senate Democratic whip Dick Durbin of Illinois told journalists. “More American troops have brought more peace to more parts of Iraq.”
“The military aspects of President Bush’s new strategy in Iraq … appear to have produced some credible and positive results,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., said in a joint statement after visiting Iraq with his committee’s second-ranking Republican, Virginia’s John Warner.
Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., told PBS’ Charlie Rose: “My sense is that the tactical momentum is there with the troops, and we’ve had some success in terms of blocking insurgents moving into Baghdad.”
“The troops have met every assignment,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. “They’ve beaten the odds time and again. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to.”
War foe Rep. Brian Baird, D-Wash., recently returned from there a changed man. “We are making real and tangible progress on the ground, for one, and if we withdraw, it could have a potentially catastrophic effect on the region,” he told The Olympian newspaper. Baird now opposes troop-retreat timetables.
After visiting Iraq last month, Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., favors more operational flexibility for U.S. commanders. “I’m more willing to work to find a way forward to accommodate what the generals are saying,” he said.
Rep. Tim Mahoney, D-Fla., believes the surge “has really made a difference and really has gotten al Qaeda on their heels.”
After eight days in Iraq, Michael O’Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack of the left-leaning Brookings Institution wrote in a July 30 newspaper column:
“There is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.”
These improvements include a halving of “truck bombs and other large al Qaeda-style attacks” since the surge began in February, USA Today’s Jim Michaels reported on Aug. 13. Early August saw 74 security incidents in Anbar, down from 450-500 weekly last fall. In Ramadi, such episodes have plummeted from 120-180 weekly last summer to three the week of Aug. 6.
Pentagon officials say Iraqis are volunteering 23,000 monthly tips, quadruple August 2006’s figure.
Many of these Democrats correctly argue that the surge showcases how much American GIs have accomplished and highlights how little Iraqi politicians have achieved, especially while vacationing as their new republic endures existential challenges. As their odds of being detonated diminish, Iraqis may return to parliament tanned, rested and ready to enact an oil law, for starters.
While U.S. troops are making Iraqis more secure, al Qaeda keeps bludgeoning Iraqi hearts and minds. In Anbar, for example, predominantly foreign Islamic extremists behaved like a Taliban on the Euphrates. Last October, they declared Ramadi, Anbar’s chief city, the capital of a new Islamic state.
Iraqis there and in Diyala province soured on al Qaeda’s reforms — among them a new “war tax,” 4 p.m. curfews, kidnapping women for arranged marriages and conscripting forced labor to harvest dates and oranges.
Violators of a new smoking ban had their fingers or hands chopped off.
Al Qaeda in Iraq set one 7-year-old ablaze, sources told CNN, and otherwise murdered women and children.
“If you talk against them, they let you go at first, then come back and behead you later,” explained villager Abu Miriam. If caught being interviewed, Miriam predicted: “I will be killed. In fact, slaughtered, slaughtered with a knife.”
While al Qaeda in Iraq offers civilians such seventh-century hospitality, America recently spent $6 million to repair the water grid in Baghdad’s impoverished Sadr City. The “U.S out of Iraq” crowd should acknowledge the fundamental contrast between what we provide Iraqis and what our enemies offer them. Critics should heed Democrats who admit that, for all its faults, Bush’s surge advances the forces of running water and hobbles those who burn 7-year-olds alive.
(New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a columnist and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University. E-mail him at deroy.murdock(at)gmail.com.)