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The dreadful news is that yesterday 10 U.S. Marines were killed and 11 wounded by a roadside bomb near Fallujah.

Ten men. Ten sons. Ten friends. Some of them may have been husbands and fathers. This adds up to more heartbreak that can be measured, to sorrow that will follow many people through the rest of their lives. It will follow some even to the day when “Fallujah” is a barely remembered name in history books, like Khe Sanh or Chosin.

This is from page 23 of the glorious “National Strategy for Victory” document:

Significant progress has been made in wresting territory from enemy control. During much of 2004, major parts of Iraq and important urban centers were no-go areas for Iraqi and Coalition forces. Fallujah, Najaf, and Samara were under enemy control. Today, these cities are under Iraqi government control, and the political process is taking hold. Outside of major urban areas, Iraqi and Coalition forces are clearing out hard core enemy elements, maintaining a security presence, and building local institutions to advance local reconstruction and civil society.

Or, maybe not.

Another Marine, “Cpl. Joshua D. Snyder, 20, of Hampstead, Md., died of wounds from small-arms fire while conducting combat operations in the city on Wednesday,” MSNBC reports. If Fallujah is indeed under “Iraqi government control,” it seems Iraqi government control needs some work.

This was in today’s Paul Krugman column:

During much of 2004, the document tells us: “Fallujah, Najaf, and Samara were under enemy control. Today, these cities are under Iraqi government control.”

Najaf was never controlled by the “enemy,” if that means the people we’re currently fighting. It was briefly controlled by Moktada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. The United States once vowed to destroy that militia, but these days it’s as strong as ever. And according to The New York Times, Mr. Sadr has now become a “kingmaker in Iraqi politics.” So what sort of victory did we win, exactly, in Najaf?

Moreover, in what sense is Najaf now under government control? According to The Christian Science Monitor, “Sadr supporters and many Najaf residents say an armed Badr Brigade” – the militia of a Shiite group that opposes Mr. Sadr and his supporters – “still exists as the Najaf police force.”

Meanwhile, this is the third time that coalition forces have driven the insurgents out of Samara. On the two previous occasions, the insurgents came back after the Americans left. And there, too, it’s stretching things to say that the city is under Iraqi government control: according to The Associated Press, only 100 of the city’s 700 policemen show up for work on most days.

An editorial in yesterday’s Mercury News said there is reason to be skeptical.

The administration has deceived Americans about the reasons for, and progress of, the war. Two years ago, Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld assured Americans over and over that the insurgents were in their last throes. That wasn’t true then, and it’s not true now. Resistance has grown steadily, to the point that on Wednesday Bush said that terrorists have made Iraq “the central front in their war against humanity.”

The picture on the ground is more confusing and troubling than Bush acknowledges. With the growth of the Iraqi security forces comes the worry that they have been infiltrated by Shiite militias loyal to Iran or to anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The New York Times reported that Iraqis in uniform have been terrorizing Sunni neighborhoods and assassinating leaders.

On Wednesday, two experts from the Army War College who eerily predicted U.S. postwar troubles in Iraq offered a counterpoint to Bush’s optimism. W. Andrew Terrill and Conrad C. Crane wrote, “It appears increasingly unlikely that U.S., Iraqi and coalition forces will crush the insurgency prior to the beginning of a phased U.S. and coalition withdrawal.”

And, “It is no longer clear that the United States will be able to create (Iraqi) military and police forces that can secure the entire country no matter how long U.S. forces remain.”

Last week Dan Balz wrote in the Washington Post that

Bush’s historical burden is that there is no recent precedent for a leader using persuasion to reverse a steady downward slide for a military venture of the sort he is facing. Only clear evidence of success in Iraq is likely to alleviate widespread unease about the central project of this presidency, public opinion experts and political strategists say.

Bush is going to continue his Bullshit Campaign, fudging claims of “success” the same way he fudged claims of WMDs to stampede America into war. But I think that until there’s some evidence of success, he’s going to be wasting his time.