I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"Victory" in Iraq

Scott McClellan was asked this morning at his daily press gathering how the White House defines"victory" in Iraq, and this is what he said:

Q And I have one more question. How do you define "complete" -- how does the President define "complete victory in Iraq"?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, he actually defines "victory" in his remarks. He talked about that today. Victory is when [1] the terrorists and Saddam loyalists no longer threaten Iraq's democracy. Victory is [2] when the Iraqi security forces can protect their citizens. And victory is achieved [3] when Iraq is not a safe haven from which terrorists can plot attacks against America and others in the civilized world.

That's quite an ambitious definition. From which of these prongs for measuring success are we the least far away? Hard to say, because we seem so far from all three. Number (3) seems the hardest to achieve, and I doubt we can ever achieve it. Are we really going to make Iraq a place where Al Qaeda and other assorted terrorists can't freely operate? As I've said before, the Israelis couldn't achieve that after ruling for 35 years over a territory which is a small fraction of what Iraq is. And prongs (1) and (2) don't appear to be exactly around the corner either.

Regardless of which you think is the hardest of these goals to achieve, this definition of "victory" -- if the White House is serious about achieving it, and that's a big, big "if" -- means that we have several years to go still with our occupation of Iraq, at least.

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