IN THE NEWS
Vice President Cheney's statement that the Iraqi insurgency was in its final throes was so odd that it raises the question of why he said it. The signs are all there that the various insurgent groups are not being crushed: the number and lethality of attacks; the estimated size of the insurgent organizations; the continued inability of the Iraqi army to operate on its own against them; continued security measures based on the supposition that the insurgents have infiltrated the police, army, and other parts of the government.
While past insurgencies, like the Huks in the Philippines, have tumbled quickly (i.e., within a few years) from a position of strength, there are no signs today that anything like that is happening in Iraq. In fact, in today's press conference, the leaders of the United States and Iraq repeated their position that there will be no timetable for the withdrawal of American forces. Clearly, some threat is keeping them there. During Congressional testimony, US Central Command (CENTCOM) commander General John Abizaid stated clearly that the Iraqi insurgents are anything but defeated.
Why did Cheney say what he did? Frankly, I don't know, and I don't think his motives are necessarily the important issue. Instead of trying to peer into Cheney's brain, it's worth remembering the powerful role the Vice President plays in this Administration. His statements complicate the work of others like Abizaid, who had to carefully word what he said. Behind the scenes and at the public podium, Cheney's comment distorts the decision-making process, making a hard job even harder.