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Joe Galloway Sep 13

Extending the war, kicking that can down the road, was President Bush’s only strategic objective last January when he came up with the idea of escalating the number of American troops in Iraq from 130,000 to today’s 170,000. Put simply, the Decider wants to hand off the decision to pull the plug on his unwinnable war to someone else, anyone else. Four and a half years after this president ordered the invasion of Iraq in a gross act of arrogance and ignorance based on faulty, bogus and politically twisted intelligence –and after repeatedly changing the rationales and objectives of the war as each has failed in turn– we’re going to continue this war because George W. Bush is incapable of admitting that he was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Leaving aside all the happy talk we heard this week about how much better the security picture is in Baghdad, the fact is that the escalation or surge has failed utterly. The stated purpose of this exercise was to buy breathing room for the faltering government of Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki and the paralyzed Iraqi parliament to make progress toward national reconciliation.

The Iraqi government’s job was to use this breathing room, bought at the cost of American lives and American treasure, to step back from sectarian murder and civil war, which it’s failed to do, may be totally incapable of doing and may not even be interested in doing.

Every American commander in Iraq has stated the obvious from Day One: This war cannot be won militarily. It cannot be won by American troops. It cannot be won by wishful thinking. It can only be won by the Iraqis themselves, and their definition of victory is built on dreams of bloody revenge and the slaughter of innocents.

When our president talks of peace returning to the streets of Baghdad, he mistakes the silence of empty, abandoned homes and sectarian cleansing for progress. He confuses the segregation of Shia and Sunni, each in their own ghettos behind tall concrete walls, for progress. More than 3 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes and neighborhoods into exile, internal or external, and this he calls success.

He and the two yes-men, Petraeus and Crocker, crowed about victory in Anbar province as though American tactics and strategy had something to do with a revolutionary turnaround among Sunni tribal sheiks who, long after even the U.S. Marines were admitting defeat in Anbar, acted in their own self-interest and struck against the al Qaeda in Iraq operatives who were killing their people, their own children.

This week, one of the key authors of that change, a man President Bush singled out on his secret fly-by-night visit to Anbar, was blown apart by the enemy near his own home.

All the while, Prime Minister Maliki and his majority Shia government grit their teeth at the spectacle of their American allies supporting and financing and even recruiting the hated Sunnis into the army and police forces, thus making them a harder nut to crack when the night of the long knives, the dark night of Shia revenge, eventually arrives.

The president announced that he was taking Gen. Petraeus’ advice and ordering the beginning of 10-month gradual drawdown of the extra 30,000 troops of the surge _ a drawdown that everyone knew was inevitable simply because our Army and Marine Corps cannot sustain that level of troops in Iraq beyond next March.

On the schedule the president laid down this week, we’ll still have some 138,000 troops on the ground in Iraq next July, and 100,000 on January 20, 2009, when Bush’s successor will take office, and he made it clear that he hopes to have agreements in place to ensure an American military presence there for many years to come.

Will Bush get away with this? From all the evidence at hand, the answer, sadly, is yes. Only the Democrats in Congress stand in his way, and they have yet to find their spines, or a semblance of moral courage, or even a sufficient understanding of the Constitution and its clauses on war making and war-financing, to override The Decider.

It’s a long journey from now to January 20, 2009, and the blood of many Americans and even more Iraqis will flow freely and stain the hands of those who allow this insane war to continue at the behest of a stubborn, unseeing, unthinking man from Crawford, Texas.

Joseph L. Galloway

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