Rattling the Cage: It's Bush vs. America - and Bush wins

American voters turned adamantly against the war in Iraq, and yet Bush refuses to bow to reality.

  • Previous 200 talkbacks What's going on in Washington now is unbelievable - Bush is getting away with it. He's escalating the war in Iraq. He's sending 21,500 more soldiers over there. Nobody's stopping him, nobody's going to, either - not the Democrats, not the new Republican realists and not American public opinion, where Bush is heading down to Nixon's Watergate level. The war in Iraq is a four-year, runaway disaster, the American voters turned adamantly against it in the November elections, the vaunted James Baker-led panel recommended what most everybody wants - a careful withdrawal, or as careful a withdrawal as possible. In the face of all that, it was just assumed Bush would have to bow to reality. No way. The exact opposite is happening. Not only is Bush not starting to get the troops out, he's not content to stand pat with the troops he's got there now. No, he's sending over more. The war in Iraq is one of the worst blunders in American history, and the man responsible is now digging America in deeper. And America is letting him do it. You watch these clowns in Congress, these eunuchs who don't have the balls to even pass what a Bush ally laughed off as a "confetti resolution" - a symbolic statement that wouldn't force Bush to withdraw but would at least officially express Congress's opinion in favor of withdrawal. But they can't even agree on that - they're afraid the White House will accuse them of demoralizing the troops, of encouraging the enemy. It would be too politically risky. Such a statement wouldn't have stopped Bush anyway. The only way Congress can prevent Bush from escalating the war is by refusing to pay the cost of sending the extra troops in. But only a few senators and congressmen are willing to take that step because then the White House would accuse Congress of leaving the troops to die, of taking away their guns and uniforms and everything. It's bullshit, of course. The only thing that would be taken away is Bush's right to send over those 21,500 more soldiers. But it's not going to happen; the fear of White House propaganda has all but a few politicians paralyzed, and the White House knows it. The administration isn't even worried. "We are moving forward," Dick Cheney told CNN about Bush's decision to escalate. "Congress has control over the purse strings, they have the right, obviously, if they want, to cut off funding, but in terms of this effort, the president has made his decision." In America, the dogs bark but the caravan moves on. Right over the cliff. MEANWHILE, the administration's argument for moving forward has cleverly changed. Bush and his mouthpieces have stopped braying about "victory," because nobody will buy that anymore, it'll only hold them up to ridicule. No, America isn't fighting to win in Iraq now, because whatever victory might look like, it's nowhere on the horizon. Instead, America is fighting to avoid defeat, which is very easy to visualize. Defeat will come when America leaves Iraq with the country still exploding, with the killing still going on in all directions, with America still hated by everyone (except the Kurds), and with nothing but further atomization, slaughter and radicalism ahead. That's defeat. And that, warns the pro-war camp, will leave the entire Middle East in danger of being pulled into the Iraqi conflict. Even worse, it will leave America disgraced and its enemies emboldened. So, they argue, America has no choice but to fight on. The 21,500-plan is called a "surge" - a euphemism for "escalation" that lets people think this is just temporary, that the extra troops being sent into Iraq will be home soon. The idea is that these new troops, being deployed in new ways, will make the difference in the war, that they will bring a turning point toward security on the Iraqi streets and national unity in the Iraqi government. I'm not being too original when I say this is impossible. In the best case, the extra troops might make Baghdad somewhat less lethal; they might bring the daily nationwide body count down from 100 or so to 80, or 70. But security they're not going to bring. And this is in the best case. Another possibility is that they will make no difference at all. Still another is that they will make things worse. But even if the new troops really make a dent in the murder rate, does anybody think that whatever security and stability gains might be made from the "surge" would remain in place after America's withdrawal? In other words, is there anything these additional soldiers can achieve that would change the consequences of an American pull-out, that would make those consequences any different from what they would be if those 21,500 soldiers were kept home? Does anybody have a good idea for anything at all that the US can do in Iraq over the next two years, or five years, or 10 years, that would make the downside of an American withdrawal any less steep than it would be after the gradual withdrawal, beginning now, that most Americans want? I haven't heard such an idea, and I don't believe it exists. While optimists may come up with feasible plans for improving Iraqi conditions under America's occupation, no one can come up with a feasible plan for holding Iraq together after American troops are gone. So by staving off the withdrawal, the Bush administration's escalation of the war is just delaying America's inevitable defeat. The only lasting difference the surge will make is to increase the number of American soldiers getting killed and maimed. The majority of senators and congressmen, Democrats and Republicans both, now understand this. And since they understand, but lack the courage to use their power to force Bush to wind down this war, the American blood about to be spilled for nothing will be on their hands, too.