Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Bush Defends Iraq War Policy

Bush Defends Iraq War Policy
 Some lawmakers from both parties are urging Bush to set a timetable for withdrawal, or at least lay out a strategy for leaving.
 Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a fellow Republican, has said the stay-the-course strategy isn't working.
 Asked about this Tuesday, presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said, "We respect Sen. Hagel. He's a decorated Vietnam war veteran. But we couldn't disagree more."
 "There has been significant progress in Iraq," Bartlett told NBC"s "Today" show. "But make no mistake, we're up against a very difficult enemy and it's very critical that we do win this war."

Didn't we already win it once? When Baghdad fell? Or was it when Saddam was captured? Or maybe it was the purple-fingered first-election thing.

Part of the problem is that the stated objective of the war was something that was impossible to do: rid Iraq of WMDs. Because of the lies about the necessity of urgent action, the war was doomed to failure.

Yet Bush still seems to cling to the hope that there may come some definable, observable "victory" moment; perhaps something filmworthy, ideally involving trumpet fanfares, collapsing fortresses, cheering multitudes. Ain't gonna happen, man.

The best we can hope for is a decrease in the rate at which those resentful of the U.S./coalition occupation join the ranks of the resistance. Even that appears less and less likely, as time progresses.

"When Iraqis stand up, we will stand down," Bush has repeatedly promised, tying his willingness to withdraw troops to the ability of Iraqi security forces to deal with those who oppose the new order. Will that be the measure of victory? Is it achievable? Maybe it all depends on what the definition of "stand up" is.

The White House claims some progress in the area of security training, but when pressed, concedes that it considers few, if any, Iraqi security forces capable of acting without coalition backup.

One might expect that as Iraqi forces are gradually trained, U.S. forces could be gradually withdrawn; yet there is no announced target date for an initial draw-down amounting to even one squadron. Instead, U.S. troop strength in Iraq is expected to increase, rather than decrease, over the short term.

By that measure, victory appears ever more distant, and the term "quagmire", however resented by defenders of "staying the course", ever more appropriate.

It's easy to sympathize with the likes of Cindy Sheehan, who demands of Bush, in essence, "start giving us the straight story, or get us out of Iraq". Should we expect less than the straight story from those who would have us trust them as our leaders?


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