Angry, Controversy-Laden Diatribe Inside
by Bob Sackamento, Tue Aug 05, 2008 at 03:42:36 AM EDT
Iraq was feeling good. He had finally rid himself of the dreaded Saddamlophocus infection, his WMD levels were amazingly low, and his Violence Eruptus had stopped flaring up. Best of all, though, he was finally going to have that reconstruction he had been waiting for since 2003.
Yes, it was lucky times for Iraq:
The month's Iraqi civilian toll, though harder to count and still wretchedly high, will also be one of the lowest since the insurgency got going in 2004; some 500-odd violent civilian deaths were reported in July, compared with a tally of 3,700 at the height of sectarian mayhem two years ago. Irrespective of the different plans of the two American presidential candidates, a reduction of American troop numbers is also happening steadily, from 171,000 in October to 145,000 at last blush. At the same time, the size of the Iraqi forces is creeping up, from 115,000 two years ago to 229,000 today. This week the province of Kadisiya, south of Baghdad, became the tenth out of 18 to come under Iraqi, rather than American, operational command.
The Iraqi army, alongside the Americans, recently began a big push against al-Qaeda-linked insurgents in the mixed-sect Diyala province, perhaps now the bloodiest, just north-east of Baghdad. Basra and Anbar provinces, in turmoil a year and a half ago, are quiet. The city of Mosul, a bloody trouble spot earlier this year, is still sharply divided, mainly between Sunnis to the west of the Tigris river and Kurds to the east, but is broadly coming under state control. Autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan remains calm and increasingly prosperous.
Iraq had been enjoying these sunny days ever since his first appointment with Dr. McCain. Despite his recent luck, though, he was plagued by a nagging concern. It was the reason he went to see Dr. McCain in the first place:
Yet political progress, though it quickened earlier this year under the tightening grip of the prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has not matched the improvements in security. Indeed, as the burning-hot summer holiday begins (parliament is about to go into recess), to be followed by the fasting month of Ramadan that will last throughout September, there is a worrying risk that the politicians will again muff their chance to make a breakthrough towards a real accommodation between Iraq's competing sects and groups.
An oil law has still not been passed that would allow for much-needed investment and should enable the Kurds to have a measure of control over management and exploration contracts in their area. But the worst recent hiccup is over a provincial elections bill that was all but agreed; it is crucial for bringing the hitherto disaffected Sunni Arabs back into the peaceful political arena by empowering them in local government in areas where they predominate, through elections originally due to be held in the autumn but now likelier in January at the earliest. This week, thanks partly to the Turkmen of Kirkuk overreaching themselves at the behest of their Turkish sponsors, the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd, felt obliged to veto a bill with some last-minute changes to it.
You see, a few years ago, Iraq was diagnosed with Politico Reconcilitis. The disease first manifested itself with an odd symptom--a purple finger. Frightened, Iraq was determined to find the right doctor. Dr. McCain proclaimed expert knowledge, and he brought a passion to the illness that was almost scary. Iraq thought to himself:
The Blue Cross Blue Shield provider booklet pulls through in the clutch once again!
After mulling Iraq's treatment options for tens of seconds, Dr. McCain prescribed a moderate dose of Surgécil. This experimental drug was in clinical trials to validate its safety and effectiveness for treating Politico Reconcilitis. The drug had previously been approved to treat Violence Eruptus.
A few months after his initial visit, Iraq returned to Dr. McCain for a follow-up. Not surprisingly, his chronic Violence Eruptus had disappeared, but the Politico Reconcilitis was as bad as ever. Although the drug failed to alleviate Iraq's Politico Reconcilitis, Dr. McCain instructed him to stay the course and continue taking it as originally prescribed. As a self-appointed expert in the disease, Dr. McCain was strict in his orders to avoid alternative treatments.
In Iraq's patient file, Dr. McCain scribbled the following:
It's an inconvenient truth for the Obama campaign that the progress in Iraq is not merely reflected in a dramatic decline in violence (most evidenced by the total absence of stories on last month's casualty figures on liberal blogs and in paper's across the country), but also in reconciliation at the national level. Again, part of the problem may stem from Obama's long absence from Iraq, which requires him to rely on the counsel of staffers like Rice more extensively than someone who has military experience and who has been in theater. But it is deeply troubling that those advisors refuse to acknowledge the changing conditions in Iraq.
After many months (and many more assurances that the Surgécil was working), the disease persisted. Iraq was finally ready for a second opinion.