Note: I'm leaving this post on top for the morning; newer posts are below.
Those who claim that the surge strategy in Iraq has paid no dividends because it hasn't met Congressional benchmarks may wish to skip to the next post. The Iraqi National Assembly has passed one of the two most critical benchmarks that the American government had pressed for Baghdad to adopt, the de-Baathification reform that will allow Sunnis to once again enter government jobs:
Iraq's parliament adopted legislation Saturday on the reinstatement of former Baath party supporters to government jobs, a benchmark sought by the United States as a key step toward national reconciliation.
The voting was carried out by a show of hands on each of the law's 30 clauses. The bill, officially called the "Accountability and Justice" law, seeks to relax restrictions on the right of members of Saddam Hussein's now-dissolved Baath party to fill government posts. It is also designed to reinstate thousands of Baathists in government jobs from which they had been dismissed because of their ties to the party.
Without doubt, this is a critical step towards national reconciliation. It moves the official position of the Iraqi government from group think to individual responsibility. Those who committed serious crimes during the Saddam Hussein years will still face prosecution, but membership in the Ba'ath party will not disqualify Sunnis any longer from employment in the government.
This allows Sunnis to retake their jobs and join the Shi'ites and Kurds in administering government functions, especially in Sunni areas. It gives them a stake in the new, representative government instead of being shut out of it. Sunnis will now have every reason to support the central government in Baghdad rather than attempting to undermine it to get back what they lost in the fall of Saddam, and they won't need to again adopt the fascist Ba'ath principles to do so.
This looks like progress to me. It's progress that wouldn't have come without lowering the violence and removing the provocations and depredations of al-Qaeda in Iraq. That wouldn't have happened at all had we not ramped up our efforts and taken a much more aggressive posture against the terrorists -- and the Sunnis would not have cooperated if we hadn't signaled so strongly that we intended to beat AQI and stick it out.
I wonder how the anti-war crowd will spin this. My guesses:
1. It's too late -- the sky is already falling!
2. Too many people have died to make freedom worth it.
3. (crickets chirping)
Or is there spin I missed?
UPDATE & BUMP: My radio partner Mitch Berg adds, "Halliburton! HALLIBURTON!" (Say it like Shatner shouts "KHAN!" in Star Trek II). Also, it's probably a bad day for Lubbock On-Line to run a letter to the editor calling Michelle Malkin "Bush's Asian-babe PR shill" for supporting the surge.
UPDATE II: Moe Lane takes Door #3, and notes the original AP spin on the legislation as "pro-Baath". Jules Crittenden thinks that Hell must have frozen over, or snow fell on Baghdad, for such a development to occur. Oh, wait ....