"Iraqi leaders must step up to achieve key political milestones," Khalilzad said. "Key political forces must make difficult decisions in the coming weeks to reach agreement on a number of issues."Over at WaPo, Debbi Wilgoren and Howard Schneider write another one of those easy-bake Iraq recipes, this time entitled, "U.S. Officials: Iraqi Security Could Be Ready in 12-18 Months." They will be ready for putting a stop to conflict, disarming militias, encouraging a "national compact," bringing parties to the table, self-sufficiency, bridging divides, taking steps, building timetables, making committments, easing situations, coming together. They will be ready, in other words, to take precisely the same vague, tenuous steps they took prior to their last elections and constitutions, and to precisely the same ends, which is to say no end at all. Were it not so ordinary, I'd call it extraordinary that some of our nation's principle reporters on US policy abroad report all this without mention of the fact that the same story appeared last year, the year before that, the year before that.
The most fantastical quotation comes in the final paragraphs of the article:
In response to a question from a reporter, Khalilzad said that the current situation -- however bleak -- was better for Iraq than the reign of Saddam Hussein.Translated: it is better to be killed by not-the-government than by the government. It remains tendentious, to say the least, to continue to claim that Hussein's dictatorship was deadlier than the currently ongoing internecine conflict. But why be coy? It remains false. And though I'm rarely one to offer up defenses of centralized governments, I will say this: even the most mercurial dicatatorial power is more predictable than the chaos of a multipolar civil war. In the most viciously Stalinist absolutism, there are nonetheless steps you can take to mitigate your chances of disappearing; there are nonetheless actions you can take to ameliorate the threat of death or imprisonment; there are nonetheless systems of oppression and repression that can be gamed and understood. None of these offers more than a tissue of protection, perhaps, but there it is, nonetheless. And even if you don't take such steps, even if you engage in revolutionary subversion, at least you know, when the black-gloved hands come for you in the middle of the night, why it is they've come.
"During Saddam, thousands upon thousands of Iraqis were killed as a result of government policy," Khalilzad said. "Now these killings are taking place by the terrorists, by death squad, and the government is trying to bring that to an end."
I've been harping on the same point too much recently, but it really bears repeating: At this point, even offering up as a conversational caveat that yes, for the thousandth time, Saddam Hussein was a "murderous dictator," is engaging the common moral cowardice, based in exceptionalism, that says, No matter what the U.S. does, its actions retain some measure of inherent righteousness. If we hold any continued moral superiority over Iraq's former dictator, it's only because we haven't--yet!--launched a bloody regional conflict with Iran, but, hey, we're working on it.