Does this sound familiar? "As Iraqi troops stand up, U.S. troops will stand down." It's what we've been told for some time will be the "metric" of when American troops can withdraw from Iraq. The real question is: Does the administration really intend to effectuate this policy, and if it does, is it even possible? New information indicates that the answer to both questions is no.
The fact is, the Iraqi troops aren't "standing up," and the best proof is that the Pentagon, which was fond of floating figures on how many Iraqi troops were trained, has suddenly decided it won't reveal that number anymore. You'd think, for political reasons alone, the administration and its minions would want to keep feeding us the good news about how much progress is being made in Iraq (something they complain bitterly is under-reported by the traditional media).
So what's their reason for not reporting the number of trained Iraqis anymore? According to the Pentagon, it's because the number is "classified." Which, of course, begs the question: If that number is classified, why was the Pentagon regularly issuing reports stating the number of trained Iraqis? Was someone violating the law by revealing classified information when these reports were released, or were the reports the result of on-the-fly declassification?
The answer is obvious. The Iraqis either aren't being trained in the numbers we've been told or, even worse, they're not even close to the numbers needed for them to assume the burden of providing security in Iraq. And the more apparent that becomes, the more the "we'll-stand-down-when-they-stand-up" line is revealed as the sham it really is. And, not coincidentally, the more "classified" the failure of that effort will become.
That's a fairly quick turnaround, by the way. As recently as GOP head Ken Mehlman's remarkable appearance on The Daily Show on June 13th, the administration routinely sent out its flacks to tout the "classified" number of trained Iraqis. But in his own recent testimony before Congress, General Casey, our commander in Iraq, has had to admit how few Iraqi battalions are battle ready.
It's not as if we don't have graphic evidence of the Iraqis' inability or unwillingness to fight. Who can forget those dramatic pictures of trainees stripping off their uniforms, en masse, following their "graduation" ceremony in Fallujah?
A recent "pod" on the interactive television network Current TV highlighted the problem from the perspective of those soldiers on the ground who have been assigned the duty of training Iraqis. At one point in the video, entitled "Inside Iraq: Training Iraqis," the filmmaker, an army lieutenant stationed in Iraq, tells the camera that it would take, in his considered opinion, at least five years, and possibly 10, to adequately train the Iraqi military.
All of this suggests that there is minimal real interest on the part of this administration in "standing down" -- at least anytime soon. Don't forget: This war has been the greatest gravy train in history for what President Eisenhower called "the military-industrial complex." If there were any interest in bugging out of Iraq, would the government be building massive, permanent military bases in Iraq, as they are, or stoutly resisting any efforts to limit funding for such bases? And how about the continuing all-too-prevalent practice of conflating the war with the threat of terrorism (as in: "fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here")? That theme was struck most recently, in so many words, by the ever-so-complaisant House of Representatives in what was patently an election-year resolution to that effect.
Withdrawal from Iraq might also impede the revolving door that so many high-level homeland-security operatives have gone through of late, trading in their government positions for more lucrative jobs in private security consulting.
If you believe the administration has any intention of "standing down" in Iraq, then you'll believe it intends to abide by any of the hundreds of laws the president has signified his intention of disobeying. And you'll be a sucker for the next Brooklyn Bridge salesman that comes around.