Barack Obama says it best: There are no good options in Iraq, only bad ones and worse ones.
Then there’s the worst one. The Decider-in-Chief laid it on the line for us last night. We’ve gone from Operation Enduring Freedom to Operation Enduring Bleed’em. A stay-the-course “enduring relationship with our ally” while they fight off Al Qaeda — those really bad guys who want to bring down Iraq’s duly elected government. Iraqi leaders, he tells us, want us to stay. They want this enduring relationship to go on and on and on. Dubya didn’t say how enduring this occupation is going to be. Unless we count on the reference he made to the next president taking over as Commander-in-Chief of the 130,000 troops on the ground come January 2009.
BUT. General Petraeus says we can begin bringing our troops home. It’s the drawdown at last. We’re all on the same page now. Angry Democrats in Congress, an even angrier American public and those skittish Republicans on the Hill, we can all say we’re friends again because George W. Bush says so. He’s bringing over 5,000 troops home by Christmas! The fact that about half of them were already scheduled to leave Iraq doesn’t mean a thing. After all, he didn’t extend their tours. He’s decided things are going so well in Iraq that another 20,000 or so troops will come home by next summer! The way he figures it, we’ll have about 30,000 fewer troops on the ground before you can say “This isn’t a drawdown, Mr. President! This is the end of your surge — and the Army told you they cannot maintain it past March anyway! Don’t feed us a mouthful of crap and call it caviar!”
All we’re going to need, he says, to buy the hardworking Iraqi government a little more time and breathing room so they can finally get it right, is the same troop level we had nine months ago. Before the surge. And that government deserves all the time we’ll give ’em. Sure, they’ve failed to meet most of the Bush benchmarks; sure, they took the entire month of August off for a collective vacation from all that exhausting commitment to concilliation, benchmark-meeting and democracy stuff. Sure, American troops on the ground (without a vacation in sight) bought that recreational month of August with their own blood. But, hey, the surge is working and our troops are coming home! Eventually.
After Dubya made his early September six hour long stealth visit to a safe-as-can-be meet-up with U.S. troops and friendly Sunnis, he left, one happy fella, on his way to the APEC summit in Australia. Australian Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile met him as he arrived in Sydney, politely asking the POTUS how things were going in Iraq.
“We’re kicking ass,” the ever-eloquent Bush quipped.
Another lofty pronouncement for posterity. We can add this one to the string of Beware! and All goes well! wisdoms we’ve been spoon fed since the early days of selling the war:
* 9/11! Al Qaeda! Iraq!
* Imminnent threat!
* Shock and Awe’ll do it!
* They’re gonna love us for this!
* Mission Accomplished!
* Well, looting and shooting in the streets just goes to show ya how messy freedom can be!
* What insurgency?
* Oh. That one. Well, it’s in its last throes!
* A surge’ll fix this — just wait until September!
* Well…I’m an October/November kind of guy!
* We need another six months — just wait until March!
We’ve heard it all before. In 1967-68 General William Westmoreland, tasked with re-marketing an unpopular, bloody quagnire in Vietnam, told us we were winning the war. “We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. Shortly after this pronouncement we got slammed with the infamous Tet Offensive and it was all downhill from there. It was a lousy case of the White House using military brass as a shield then, and nothing is different now. General Petraeus, tasked with pulling an Iraq War rabbit out of his hat, gets stuck trying to stall for time before Congress. It was a shameful abuse. Petraeus has already told us there is no military solution; it’s a diplomatic win or nothing and soldiers, no matter how brave, effective or patriotic, are not nation builders.
Conventional wisdom: The new Bush “strategery” for Iraq? Toss the public a bone, kick this eroded can down the road, stay the course, play for time and run out the clock. Pass off this Iraq fiasco to the next president, let him (or her) deal with the inevitable “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” scenario. He’ll be gone. Clearing brush in Crawford and saying it’s too bad the new guy/gal in the WH dropped the ball.
Dubya’s absolutely right about one thing. Somebody’s ass is getting kicked here. At $2 billion a week, the economic ass-kicking is ours. Yours and mine. In the unthinkable ass-kicking of irreparable loss, it’s our troops on the ground getting the proverbial boot; it’s their blood being spilled for politics, for one man’s legacy.
There are more amputees coming home from this war than from any other since the Civil War.
They stand up, we stand down. That was the deal and we’ve been told for over four years that we are almost there. To date, neither the Iraqi government nor their military can get on their feet.
What’s changing significantly and permanently on the ground in Iraq? Nothing but the body count.