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ON "POTEMKIN VILLAGES" IN IRAQ

by MARKIN Friday, Sep. 07, 2007 at 10:51 AM

COMMENTARY

Amid all the furor and maneuvering, seemingly by every governmental agency that is even marginally connected with the conflict, over the long awaited upcoming reports by General Petreaus and Ambassador Crocker concerning the effects of the Bush ‘surge’ strategy in Iraq a little story about the real effects of the troop increases drew my attention recently. Honestly, with all the bureaucratic paper ‘infighting’ it is hard to tell what the real military situation is on the ground. However, just as a matter of military tactics if you add 30, 000 fairly well-trained troops into a situation as nebulous as Iraq and as a result force a lesser trained enemy either to drop away or lurk in hiding until the coast is clear then yes, the security situation would almost have to be better. ON THE SURFACE. And that contradiction is the real point of this commentary.

As part of the justification for his troop increase last January President Bush cited an increased need for on-going security (essentially implementation of the Petreaus Plan) especially in sectarian –torn Baghdad. Well, what the President saith, the military giveth. The recent article mentioned above culled from The Boston Globe, however, pointed to the soft underbelly of what the ‘real’ increased security looks like on the ground. Those familiar with the military, and even those not familiar with that organization but who know the expression “covering your ass”, know that military commanders are famous for their little pet projects that serve to rationale all their actions. Well, head honcho Petreaus and his subalterns are not a different breed in that respect.

One of the gauges of the effectiveness of the increased security ploy has been the well-published attempt ‘reopen’ the various marketplaces key to Iraqi daily life, and a favorite target of sectarian suicide bombers and others, in and around Baghdad. The story I am describing highlighted the famous Dora market. Well, yes it is open. Before the war started in 2003 there were some 800 plus stalls and shops there. At a low point in recent times there were less than 300 open. With the heightened security that number has jumped to over three hundred and plans to have over five hundred on line in the near future are in progress. By many definitions that qualifies as a success. But here is the catch. In order for a shop to qualify as open basically an open door is all that is necessary. If your business has no or few things to sell that does not matter the military ‘counts’ that business as ‘open’. Moreover, call me jaded but by American norms one would think that a major market as here would be open early and close late. Not so. A couple of hours a day qualifies for a good day. Furthermore, as an inducement to open- come hell or high water- ‘cash grants’ are generously supplied. A little suspect, but not that unusual coming from this administration.

But here is the real kicker. Those whose work in the market, owns the shops and, most importantly, those American soldiers who guard the highly fortified market quoted in the story know and have expressed their opinions that this ‘success’ is less than meets the eye. This, however, does not divert the military from bringing every congressional delegation, governmental agency or NGO tourist to this showcase. The air these days is filled with the comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam. If one thinks back to that era and another project nicknamed the ‘strategic hamlet’ program (in its various guises, depending on authorship and administration in power) one will not be surprised to see that these guys are up to their old tricks. But remember in the end all those “Potemkin Villages’ turned to dust when the real situation became apparent after the withdrawal of American troops. That said, we better take the advise of an unnamed soldier guarding the Dora market and ‘skedaddle’. Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal from Iraq.

THIS IS PART OF A SERIES OF ARTICLES OF COMMENTARY ON THE 2006-2008 ELECTION CYCLE UNDER THE HEADLINE- FORGET THE DONKEYS, ELEPHANTS, GREENS-BUILD A WORKERS PARTY!

FOR MORE POLITICAL COMMENTARY AND BOOKS REVIEWS CHECK MY BLOG AT- Http://markinbookreview.blogspot.com/

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