Surge Lies Come Home to Haunt Us

Chicago’s South Side is indulging itself in a bit of nostalgia for the ’80s and ’90s. Michelle Obama’s hood is overrun with gang-related murders; deaths are at the same rate as US soldiers dying in both major theaters of the US’ “War on Terror.” Government must do something, declares two Illinois state senators who represent parts of the city. I know — a good old fashioned military occupation, like what worked so well in our wars and Kent State and whatnot.

“John Fritchley and LaShawn Ford, Democrats who represent the north and west sides of the city, said troops were needed to ‘stabilize communities’ in Chicago just as they had done in Iraq and Afghanistan,” explains the Telegraph.

These men are talking about the “surge,” or what those of us against the war labeled “escalation.” Iraq was in the throes of vicious violence that was killing over a thousand civilians (and who knows how many others who were labeled militants for intermittent or single acts of resistance) per month. The Bush Administration decided sending many tens of thousands more hastily trained troops into the mix would be a great idea, ignoring the fact that much of the violence was likely due to the presence of foreign troops. The troops were sent >> fast-forward >> violence is down in Iraq! The surge worked!

What’s missing in that fast-forward blip is what really happened in 2007. Many — most? –Americans can’t usually be bothered with the truth, especially when it’s all long and stuff. Recap:

1) Sadr ordered his men to stand down, apparently sickened by the recent violence between his followers, and other Shi’ites and the government.
2) The Awakening (Sahwa) councils, Sunni groups who were revolting against al-Qaeda-in-Iraq’s senseless slaughters, began receiving large sums of money from the US to only fight AQI, and not US troops as well, as they had been doing. The verdict is yet out on what happens when the money stops and Maliki, or whoever is in power, decides to turn on this now-well-trained movement.
3) This is the big one: the ethnic cleansing of Baghdad was essentially complete. No more violence was necessary for many partisan sectarians. Juan Cole did some extra parsing of this in 2008.

All of these pointy complicated facts were mushed into a smooth ball for easier digestion — our Glorious Soldiers had won the day. If you disagree you’re a commie or a terrorist symp who hates America. This actually succeeded in convincing some antiwar types, if I recall.

Candidate Obama, however, seemed not to be fooled. Then, when it was no longer politically tenable, he changed his mind. We now know this is Obama’s typical flip-flopping treachery, but this was one of his first major public instances. And now he’s got his own surge.

For their parts, reports the Chicago Tribune, the mayor and the governor oppose adding another layer of force to Chicago’s already well-armored police.

“You have to look at long-term solutions. You can’t just put something temporary in there,” said Mayor Richard Daley. “People have to get involved in their community, family by family and block by block.”

Chicago police are trained in the state and federal constitutions, says Mark Donahue, president of the city’s police union.

“With the guard coming in, it’s making a statement that your constitutional rights will be diminished,” Donahue said. “They don’t have the training that Chicago police officers do.”

The governor can send the Guard troops in, but in this case will only do so at Daley’s request.

So should we add PTSD-affected soldiers to the ranks of possibly also-traumatized police on the admittedly well-armed but nonetheless civilian streets of Chi-town? That’s a surge I don’t see working well. But maybe when the violence ends once everyone kills each other, they’ll proclaim another “mission accomplished.”

If troops end up occupying our cities, it will be thanks to simplistic lies told by men with authoritarian minds. We can blame President Barack Obama for backing up Bush’s surge fairy tales and painting military intervention a panacea for all threats, foreign and domestic. It’s now okay for Americans across the political spectrum to trust guns and bombs as an organizing principle of civilization.