Reading today's stories about what's happening in parts of Iraq as the British prepare to leave, I couldn't help but have a flashback to 40 years ago, when I came back to The World after 17 months in Vietnam.

As a Marine combat correspondent, I'd seen a good share of the I Corps, south of the Demilitarized Zone, writing both about combat operations and "good news" about the "pacification" program designed to win over the civilian population and woo them away from the Viet Cong.

In September 1967, I believed we were making some progress, albeit slow -- not so much on the battlefield, but in the battle for "hearts and minds."

On the color-coded maps back at division headquarters, it all looked very promising.

Five months later, back in the States, it was stunning to read accounts of the enemy's Tet offensive, when it turned out that hardly any of those so-called "pacified" areas were secure at all.

Some of my buddies and I, who were there in the early years of the war, joke about it now. "When we left, we were winning. Those guys who came later screwed it all up," we say.

But we were never winning.

And we are not winning in Iraq.

If we needed any more evidence, the news about the British withdrawal should provide it.

What will be the right wing spin on this? Do we need a surge in Basra? The Washington Post reports:

As British forces pull back from Basra in southern Iraq, Shiite militias there have escalated a violent battle against each other for political supremacy and control over oil resources, deepening concerns among some U.S. officials in Baghdad that elements of Iraq's Shiite-dominated national government will turn on one another once U.S. troops begin to draw down.

Three major Shiite political groups are locked in a bloody conflict that has left the city in the hands of militias and criminal gangs, whose control extends to municipal offices and neighborhood streets. The city is plagued by "the systematic misuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias that increasingly intermingle with political actors," a recent report by the International Crisis Group said...

... "it's hard now to paint Basra as a success story," said a senior U.S. official in Baghdad with long experience in the south. Instead, it has become a different model, one that U.S. officials with experience in the region are concerned will be replicated throughout the Iraqi Shiite homeland from Baghdad to the Persian Gulf. A recent series of war games commissioned by the Pentagon also warned of civil war among Shiites after a reduction in U.S. forces....

"The British have basically been defeated in the south," a senior U.S. intelligence official said recently in Baghdad. They are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as "surrounded like cowboys and Indians" by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain's remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months.

Less than six months ago, when the British announced their plans to pull troops out, none other than Dick Cheney, who lied to get us into the war and continues to lie to keep us there, had this good news:

Vice President Dick Cheney said the move was actually good news and a sign of progress in Iraq.

"Well, I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well," Cheney told ABC News' Jonathan Karl.

"In fact, I talked to a friend just the other day who had driven to Baghdad down to Basra, seven hours, found the situation dramatically improved from a year or so ago, sort of validated the British view they had made progress in southern Iraq and that they can therefore reduce their force levels," Cheney said.

Here's what one conservative blogger -- one you don't see linked by the pro-war crowd -- had to say at the time:

But let’s not delude ourselves that the war is going super peachy, and that the Brits leaving is a sign of all the wonderful progress we’ve been making. That’s bullshit, it’s a bald-faced lie. That was the point of the post, Cheney’s perfect record of lying his fucking ass off. Republican or not, conservative or not, I don’t like being directly lied to. I know that political messages have to be massaged and coated slick with bullshit, so I’m not a purist in this regard, but what Cheney does is just flat-out wrong. It’s Orwellian doublespeak, providing a convenient cover for administration apologists. “Oh look, there’s nothing wrong in Iraq! The Brits leaving is a good thing, it’s a sign of how well things are going!” I mean, fuck! This sounds like the goddamned Chinese communists explaining how the famine in their country is actually evidence of how well their collectivized agriculture program is working.

I’m more than willing to support a long, ugly, brutal mission, because I think it’s vitally important for American national security. But, in return, I expect to be told the fucking truth, not Cheney’s bullshit and spin. That’s what got us into the situation we’re in now, and I’m just flat-out sick of hearing it. When Bush announced that Cheney was going to be his running mate you couldn’t have found anyone more pleased than me. I always admired the man because of his performance as SecDef during the Gulf War. When 9/11 happened I thought that it was damn near providential that Bush and Cheney were in charge, because we were going to strike back and kick some ass. How wrong that all turned out to be.

I’m done trusting anything that comes out of that man’s mouth. If he told me that 2+2=4 I’d have to get a calculator out and confirm it.

That's a good place to start. But let's not limit it to Cheney. As the pro-war bullshit flows -- and it will build in volume to a deluge as the Sept. 15 "progress" report approaches -- we all need to keep that calculator handy.

Submitted by xoff on