On April 2, 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney chastised Congressional Democrats for attaching "time limits, deadlines, or other arbitrary measures" on emergency funding for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But he might have revealed far more than he intended, perhaps a Freudian slip, when he observed: "You cannot win a war if you tell the enemy you are going to quit."
Simply consider the following:
(1) Almost three years ago, on May 12, 2004, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Senate committee "there is no way to militarily win in Iraq."
(2) "In reality, a civil war in Iraq began just weeks after U.S. forces toppled Saddam. Any close observer could see that then; today, only the blind deny it. Even President Bush, who is normally impervious to uncomfortable facts, recently admitted that Iraq has peered into the abyss of civil war. He ought to look a little closer. Iraqis are fighting Iraqis. Insurgents have killed far more Iraqis than Americans. That's civil war." [(Ret.) Lt. Gen. William Odom, "Cut and Run? You Bet." Foreign Policy, May/June 2006]
(3) "[T]he Iraq War has generated a stunning sevenfold increase in the yearly rate of fatal jihadist attacks, amounting to literally hundreds of additional terrorist attacks and thousands of civilian lives lost; even when terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is excluded, fatal attacks in the rest of the world have increased by more than one-third," [Mother Jones, March/April 2007]
(4) In November 2006, the American electorate registered its opposition to the war in Iraq by evicting the complicit Republican-controlled Congress that practiced stay-the-course bootlicking rather than critical oversight of Bush's war.
(5) The Iraq Study Group subsequently recommended a diplomatic offensive, to include Iran and Syria, as well as "a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will allow the United States to move forces out responsibly."
(6) After Bush repudiated Nos. 4 and 5 with a face-saving "surge" in Baghdad, esteemed military analyst Anthony Cordesman obliterated it by observing: "The minimal requirement for a successful U.S. strategy is a relatively stable and secure Iraq, not temporary U.S. military control of Baghdad." Why? Because "the U.S. needs a strategy for all of Iraq, not a single city -- particularly when a focus on control of Baghdad could mean leaving most of the country to divide on sectarian and ethnic lines." ["The New Strategy in Iraq: Uncertain Progress Towards an Unknown Goal," Center for Strategic and International Studies, March 14, 2007, p. 4]
(7) "At least 600 Iraqis died in violence last week, the deadliest period since the Baghdad security plan started in February." [Sam Dagher, "Sunnis Surge Beyond Baghdad," Christian Science Monitor, April 2, 2007]
(8) The equally esteemed former head of the Army War College, (Ret.) Major General Robert H; Scales, persuasively doomed Bush's fatally flawed "surge" by concluding: "If you haven't heard the news, I'm afraid your Army is broken, a victim of too many missions for too few soldiers for too long." Thus, "the current political catfight over withdrawal dates is made moot by the above facts. We're running out of soldiers faster than we're running out of warfighting missions. The troops will be coming home soon. There simply are too few to sustain the surge for very much longer." [Washington Times, March 30, 2007]
Given these considerations, it's difficult to avoid the following suspicions:
(1) Bush and Cheney are temporarily escalating their illegal, immoral war in Iraq in order to prolong it, and, thus, avoid being blamed for inevitable ignominious defeat that, otherwise, would occur during their watch. If they stretch it out long enough, they'll be able to claim that they left office with the prospect of victory still in sight. Most Republicans are playing along. Thus, they are willing to waste the lives of more U.S. soldiers and innocent Iraqis, not only to save their own political hides and reputations, but also to enable Republicans to subsequently accuse Democrats of losing the war.
(2) Thus, when Cheney asserts, "You cannot win a war if you tell the enemy you are going to quit," you can bet the "enemy" is as much the increasingly uneasy American public as it is Iraq's insurgents.
Walter C. Uhler is an independent scholar and freelance writer whose work has been published in numerous publications, including The Nation, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Journal of Military History, the Moscow Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. He also is President of the Russian-American International Studies Association (RAISA). He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other Articles by Walter C. Uhler
Looking at a Watch: Assessing Iran's Nuclear Program