No sooner had Sens. Hagel and Biden announced
their resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the Bush surge of 21,500
troops to Iraq was not in the national interest than the stampede was on. By
day's end, Sens. Dodd, Clinton, Bayh, Levin and Obama and ex-Sen. John Edwards
had all made or issued statements calling for reversing course or getting out.
You can't run a war by committee, said Vice President Cheney.
True. George Washington did not request a vote of confidence from the Continental
Congress before crossing the Delaware, and Douglas MacArthur did not consult
Capitol Hill before landing at Inchon.
But Congress is not trying to run a war. Congress is trying to get out
of Iraq and get on record opposing the "surge." Congress is running after popular
And if the surge does not succeed in six months in quelling the sectarian
violence in Baghdad, there will be no more troops, and the Americans will start
down the road to Kuwait. And, unlike 2003, there will be no embedded and exhilarated
journalists riding with them.
To the older generation, the American way of abandonment is familiar. JFK's
New Frontiersmen marched us, flags flying, into Vietnam. But, as the body count
rose to 200 a week, the "Best and Brightest" suddenly discovered this was a
"civil war," "Nixon's war" and the Saigon regime was "corrupt and dictatorial."
So, with a clean conscience, they cut off funds and averted their gaze as Pol
Pot's holocaust ensued.
Our Vietnamese friends who did not make it out on the choppers, or survive
the hellish crossing of the South China Sea by raft, wound up shot in the street
or sent to "re-education camps."
Nouri al-Maliki can see what is coming.
As Condi flies about the Middle East in a security bubble, telling the
press he is living on "borrowed time," and Bush tells PBS of his revulsion at
the botched hanging of Saddam Hussein, Maliki is showing the same signs of independence
he demonstrated when he refused Bush's invitation to dine with him and the King
of Jordan. Give me the guns and equipment and go home, he seems to be saying
to the White House.
Put me down on Maliki's side. It is he who is taking the real risk here
– with his life. It is he who is likely to learn what Kissinger meant when
he observed that in this world, while it is often dangerous to be an enemy of
the United States, to be a friend is fatal.
Will the surge work? Can it work? Certainly, adding thousands of the toughest
cops in America to the LAPD would reduce gang violence in South Central. So,
it may work for a time.
Yet in the long run it is hard to see how the surge succeeds. We are four
years into this war, and the bloodletting in Baghdad is rising. Our presence
has never been more resented. In America, the war has already been lost. Even
Bush admits that staying the course means "slow failure." And a rapid withdrawal,
as urged by the Baker-Hamilton commission, means "expedited failure."
Even should the surge succeed for a time, it may only push the inevitable
into another year.
And consider what it is we are asking Maliki to do.
We want him to use Sunni and Kurdish brigades of the Iraqi Army, in concert
with the US Army, to smash the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr, the most popular
Shi'ite leader in the country and the principal political support of Maliki. We
are asking Maliki to turn on his ruthless Shi'ite patron and bet his future on
an America whose people want all US troops home, the earlier the better.
For Maliki to implement fully the US conditions would make him a mortal
enemy of Moqtada and millions of Shi'ites, and possibly result in his assassination.
Whatever legacy Bush faces, he is not staring down a gun barrel at that.
It is over. What we need to face now are the consequence of the folly of
Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice in launching this unnecessary and unprovoked
war, the folly of the neocon snake oil salesmen who bamboozled the media into
believing in this insane crusade to bring democracy to Baghdad in the belly
of Bradley fighting vehicles and the folly of the Democratic establishment in
handing Bush a blank check for war out of political fear of being called unpatriotic.
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