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  • Someone Tell the President the War is Over

    Someone Tell the President the War Is Over

    By FRANK RICH
    Published: August 14, 2005

    LIKE the Japanese soldier marooned on an island for years after V-J Day, President Bush may be the last person in the country to learn that for Americans, if not Iraqis, the war in Iraq is over. "We will stay the course," he insistently tells us from his Texas ranch. What do you mean we, white man?

    A president can't stay the course when his own citizens (let alone his own allies) won't stay with him. The approval rate for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq plunged to 34 percent in last weekend's Newsweek poll - a match for the 32 percent that approved L.B.J.'s handling of Vietnam in early March 1968. (The two presidents' overall approval ratings have also converged: 41 percent for Johnson then, 42 percent for Bush now.) On March 31, 1968, as L.B.J.'s ratings plummeted further, he announced he wouldn't seek re-election, commencing our long extrication from that quagmire.

    But our current Texas president has even outdone his predecessor; Mr. Bush has lost not only the country but also his army. Neither bonuses nor fudged standards nor the faking of high school diplomas has solved the recruitment shortfall. Now Jake Tapper of ABC News reports that the armed forces are so eager for bodies they will flout "don't ask, don't tell" and hang on to gay soldiers who tell, even if they tell the press.

    The president's cable cadre is in disarray as well. At Fox News Bill O'Reilly is trashing Donald Rumsfeld for his incompetence, and Ann Coulter is chiding Mr. O'Reilly for being a defeatist. In an emblematic gesture akin to waving a white flag, Robert Novak walked off a CNN set and possibly out of a job rather than answer questions about his role in smearing the man who helped expose the administration's prewar inflation of Saddam W.M.D.'s. (On this sinking ship, it's hard to know which rat to root for.)

    As if the right-wing pundit crackup isn't unsettling enough, Mr. Bush's top war strategists, starting with Mr. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, have of late tried to rebrand the war in Iraq as what the defense secretary calls "a global struggle against violent extremism." A struggle is what you have with your landlord. When the war's über-managers start using euphemisms for a conflict this lethal, it's a clear sign that the battle to keep the Iraq war afloat with the American public is lost.

    That battle crashed past the tipping point this month in Ohio. There's historical symmetry in that. It was in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, that Mr. Bush gave the fateful address that sped Congressional ratification of the war just days later. The speech was a miasma of self-delusion, half-truths and hype. The president said that "we know that Iraq and Al Qaeda have had high-level contacts that go back a decade," an exaggeration based on evidence that the Senate Intelligence Committee would later find far from conclusive. He said that Saddam "could have a nuclear weapon in less than a year" were he able to secure "an amount of highly enriched uranium a little larger than a single softball." Our own National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1 quoted State Department findings that claims of Iraqi pursuit of uranium in Africa were "highly dubious."

    It was on these false premises - that Iraq was both a collaborator on 9/11 and about to inflict mushroom clouds on America - that honorable and brave young Americans were sent off to fight. Among them were the 19 marine reservists from a single suburban Cleveland battalion slaughtered in just three days at the start of this month. As they perished, another Ohio marine reservist who had served in Iraq came close to winning a Congressional election in southern Ohio. Paul Hackett, a Democrat who called the president a "chicken hawk," received 48 percent of the vote in exactly the kind of bedrock conservative Ohio district that decided the 2004 election for Mr. Bush.

    These are the tea leaves that all Republicans, not just Chuck Hagel, are reading now. Newt Gingrich called the Hackett near-victory "a wake-up call." The resolutely pro-war New York Post editorial page begged Mr. Bush (to no avail) to "show some leadership" by showing up in Ohio to salute the fallen and their families. A Bush loyalist, Senator George Allen of Virginia, instructed the president to meet with Cindy Sheehan, the mother camping out in Crawford, as "a matter of courtesy and decency." Or, to translate his Washingtonese, as a matter of politics. Only someone as adrift from reality as Mr. Bush would need to be told that a vacationing president can't win a standoff with a grief-stricken parent commandeering TV cameras and the blogosphere 24/7.

    Such political imperatives are rapidly bringing about the war's end. That's inevitable for a war of choice, not necessity, that was conceived in politics from the start. Iraq was a Bush administration idée fixe before there was a 9/11. Within hours of that horrible trauma, according to Richard Clarke's "Against All Enemies," Mr. Rumsfeld was proposing Iraq as a battlefield, not because the enemy that attacked America was there, but because it offered "better targets" than the shadowy terrorist redoubts of Afghanistan. It was easier to take out Saddam - and burnish Mr. Bush's credentials as a slam-dunk "war president," suitable for a "Top Gun" victory jig - than to shut down Al Qaeda and smoke out its leader "dead or alive."

    But just as politics are a bad motive for choosing a war, so they can be a doomed engine for running a war. In an interview with Tim Russert early last year, Mr. Bush said, "The thing about the Vietnam War that troubles me, as I look back, was it was a political war," adding that the "essential" lesson he learned from Vietnam was to not have "politicians making military decisions." But by then Mr. Bush had disastrously ignored that very lesson; he had let Mr. Rumsfeld publicly rebuke the Army's chief of staff, Eric Shinseki, after the general dared tell the truth: that several hundred thousand troops would be required to secure Iraq. To this day it's our failure to provide that security that has turned the country into the terrorist haven it hadn't been before 9/11 - "the central front in the war on terror," as Mr. Bush keeps reminding us, as if that might make us forget he's the one who recklessly created it.

    The endgame for American involvement in Iraq will be of a piece with the rest of this sorry history. "It makes no sense for the commander in chief to put out a timetable" for withdrawal, Mr. Bush declared on the same day that 14 of those Ohio troops were killed by a roadside bomb in Haditha. But even as he spoke, the war's actual commander, Gen. George Casey, had already publicly set a timetable for "some fairly substantial reductions" to start next spring. Officially this calendar is tied to the next round of Iraqi elections, but it's quite another election this administration has in mind. The priority now is less to save Jessica Lynch (or Iraqi democracy) than to save Rick Santorum and every other endangered Republican facing voters in November 2006.

    Nothing that happens on the ground in Iraq can turn around the fate of this war in America: not a shotgun constitution rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline, not another Iraqi election, not higher terrorist body counts, not another battle for Falluja (where insurgents may again regroup, The Los Angeles Times reported last week). A citizenry that was asked to accept tax cuts, not sacrifice, at the war's inception is hardly in the mood to start sacrificing now. There will be neither the volunteers nor the money required to field the wholesale additional American troops that might bolster the security situation in Iraq.

    WHAT lies ahead now in Iraq instead is not victory, which Mr. Bush has never clearly defined anyway, but an exit (or triage) strategy that may echo Johnson's March 1968 plan for retreat from Vietnam: some kind of negotiations (in this case, with Sunni elements of the insurgency), followed by more inflated claims about the readiness of the local troops-in-training, whom we'll then throw to the wolves. Such an outcome may lead to even greater disaster, but this administration long ago squandered the credibility needed to make the difficult case that more human and financial resources might prevent Iraq from continuing its descent into civil war and its devolution into jihad central.

    Thus the president's claim on Thursday that "no decision has been made yet" about withdrawing troops from Iraq can be taken exactly as seriously as the vice president's preceding fantasy that the insurgency is in its "last throes." The country has already made the decision for Mr. Bush. We're outta there. Now comes the hard task of identifying the leaders who can pick up the pieces of the fiasco that has made us more vulnerable, not less, to the terrorists who struck us four years ago next month.
    From this day forward, I no longer shall tinker with the machinery of death.

    For more than 20 years I have endeavored-indeed, I have struggled-along with a majority of this Court, to develop procedural & substantive rules that would lend more than the mere appearance of fairness to the death penalty endeavor.


    I feel morally and intellectually obligated simply to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed.

    The path the Court has chosen lessens us all. I dissent.

  • #2
    I agree with that article 100%. I see absolutely no purpose for us being in Iraq. IMO, this has turned into an ego, or a legacy item for GWB. Unfortunately for many American families, his ego trip is causing too many young people to take a trip back home in coffins draped with our flag.
    Make America Great For Once.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by The Kev@Aug 14 2005, 07:25 AM
      I agree with that article 100%. I see absolutely no purpose for us being in Iraq. IMO, this has turned into an ego, or a legacy item for GWB. Unfortunately for many American families, his ego trip is causing too many young people to take a trip back home in coffins draped with our flag.

      IMPEACH BUSH!

      I'll post this again for effect, as these words are more than appropriate.

      Disposable Heroes...By Metallica.

      http://www.lyricsondemand.com/m/metallical...roeslyrics.html

      Comment


      • #4
        Don't get me wrong, I fully support our troops. They're just following some misguided orders. I'm for them doing whatever it takes to stay alive.
        Make America Great For Once.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by The Kev@Aug 14 2005, 08:11 AM
          Don't get me wrong, I fully support our troops. They're just following some misguided orders. I'm for them doing whatever it takes to stay alive.

          Maybe one of them could "accidentally" snipe Rummy.

          There's been plenty of friendly fire deaths....

          Back to the soldiers, when do they start making plans for the Iraq Memorial wall, and where should I send my $100?

          I've got the perfect location for that wall....CRAWFORD, TX. :angry:

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by The Kev@Aug 14 2005, 07:25 AM
            IMO, this has turned into an ego, or a legacy item for GWB.
            It will definitely be his legacy.

            You need an overwhelming justification, a clear objective and a plan to get there before commiting lives to a military action. Vietnam had the first, arguably, and second but failed the third. W and his clan went ahead lacking all three.

            "Stay the course" is what's so freaking aggravating. He can't admit the whole thing was bungled, and until he does we'll never find a solution. JJ.

            Comment


            • #7
              I'm willing to cut George some slack about Iraq. He may not know it's over yet since he's been on vacation. Maybe someone will update him on his return.

              Being president is hard work.

              THE PRESIDENCY: Loafing alone in his greatness
              By Kevin Horrigan
              Of the Post-Dispatch
              08/14/2005

              As they say at the ol' ballpark, records are made to be broken, but then there are the Holy Grails: the 56-game hitting streak, the 100-point night, the 215-point season, the 335 days of vacation at a presidential ranch. The great ones - DiMaggio, Chamberlain, Gretzky and Reagan - put the records where they couldn't be touched.

              Or so we thought. We misunderestimated George Walker Bush, a man with the heart of a champion and the work ethic of a French civil servant.

              Today marks the 335th day, or part of a day, that Bush will spend at his ranch in Texas since becoming president. According to figures compiled by Mark Knoller, CBS Radio's veteran White House correspondent, this ties a record previously thought to be unassailable: Ronald Reagan's 335 presidential ranch days.

              More amazingly, it took President Reagan 2,922 days - two full terms - to amass his record. Bush caught him on only the 1,667th day of his presidency. Put another way, Reagan spent 11.4 percent of his presidency at his Rancho del Cielo near Santa Barbara, Calif. To date, Bush has spent a full 20 percent of his presidency at his place near Crawford, Texas. Advertisement

              As a connoisseur of the leisure arts, I find Bush's achievement to be far more remarkable than Reagan's:

              - No. 1: McLennan County, Texas, is a much less hospitable venue than Santa Barbara, California.

              - No. 2: At 59, Bush is 15 years younger than Reagan was in the fifth year of his presidency and, presumably, should need less rest.

              - No. 3: Bush also overcame the rest-and-recuperation advantage Reagan endured as a consequence of being wounded in a 1981 assassination attempt.

              According to one of his biographers, Edmund Morris, Reagan usually didn't start work much before 9 a.m. and knocked off by 6 p.m.. He liked to spend evenings in a robe and pajamas watching television or writing letters. "I know they say hard work never killed anybody," President Reagan liked to joke. "But I figure, why take a chance?"

              At the White House now, Bush gets to his desk about 7:15 a.m. and clocks out around 6 p.m. During the day, he often plays hooky for two-hour workouts in the White House gym or sneaks off to go bike riding or running at a military base or the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland.

              Like most great men of leisure, the president is proud of his achievements and bravely endures the wisecracks. First Lady Laura Bush cracked up the Gridiron Dinner this year by deadpanning, "I said to him the other day, 'George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you're going to have to stay up later.' I am married to the president of the United States, and here's our typical evening: Nine o'clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I'm watching 'Desperate Housewives.' With Lynne Cheney."

              Former Attorney General John Ashcroft once quipped that the president is committed "to working 24/7 - 24 hours a week, 7 months a year."

              Like Babe Ruth calling his shot, Bush himself once brashly told reporters, "I'm going to answer some questions, and then I'm going to head home and take a nap."

              Bush insists that shorter, more efficient work days - interspersed with lots of time for "recreating" - is sound management practice. In this, he is ironically much like the French, who are guaranteed five weeks of vacation a year, plus another 12 paid holidays, and only recently (and reluctantly) moved away from a 35-hour work-week.

              Lesser vacationers than Bush might quail at being compared with the French, especially when many Americans must work two jobs to make ends meet and when soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq patrol all day in 120-degree heat, catch a few hours sleep and then pull night guard duty.

              Indeed, nervous White House image-makers have taken pains to schedule public events most days during the president's sojourn in Crawford, the idea being to demonstrate that this is a "working" vacation. He gets a daily security briefing, meets with economic advisers and sometimes takes a short day-trip to make a speech.

              Bush is now on pace to shatter Reagan's all-time, all-locale presidential vacation record of 436 days, a mark that no one thought would ever be broken At the pace he's loafing, by the time Jan. 20, 2009, comes along, Bush will be alone in his greatness and can devote himself full-time to goofing off at the ranch.

              By the way, I could find no reference to the ranch having a name or to the Bush cattle bearing a brand. Perhaps it could be a "W" lying on its side. That would make it the Lazy W.


              Sponsor of Alex Pieterangelo.

              ..."I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered." George Best

              Comment


              • #8
                It is hard work, but mission accomplished. His oil bosses are happy.
                No president wants war. Everything you may have heard is that, but it's just simply not true
                President George W. Bush, March 21, 2006

                I'm a war president
                President George W. Bush, February 8, 2004

                Comment


                • #9
                  By Kevin Horrigan
                  Puh-leeze.

                  Certainly you can find a decent Molly Ivins column instead.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Reggie Cleveland@Aug 18 2005, 07:46 AM
                    By Kevin Horrigan
                    Puh-leeze.

                    Certainly you can find a decent Molly Ivins column instead.

                    "Hello, my name is Reggie Cleveland, and I'm totally incapable of substantive rebuttal by this point, so I thought I'd get to the ad hominem attacks right away."
                    Official sponsor of the St. Louis Cardinals

                    "This is a heavyweight bout indeed."--John Rooney, Oct. 27, 2011

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Give me a break, you snivelling fool.

                      Horrigan's an asshole, always has been, and I'd dismiss his comments all the same if he were backing my side. What the fuck does anyone care what Kevin Lardass has to say about anything?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Reggie Cleveland@Aug 18 2005, 08:36 AM
                        Give me a break, you snivelling fool.

                        Horrigan's an asshole, always has been, and I'd dismiss his comments all the same if he were backing my side. What the fuck does anyone care what Kevin Lardass has to say about anything?

                        Dude, I know the plummeting approval ratings for Bush and the Iraq debacle have you down, but you should save the ad hominems for later in the thread. Don't want to break out the heavy artillery right away.
                        Official sponsor of the St. Louis Cardinals

                        "This is a heavyweight bout indeed."--John Rooney, Oct. 27, 2011

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Unlike many here, I don't base my personal opinions on poll numbers. If the war is right, it's right. If it's wrong, it's wrong. I couldn't care less what the numbers ju jour say either way.

                          And I'll rag Kevin Horrigan until the end of time. You're probably too young to know what an asshole sportswriter he used to be.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Reggie, I look at it this way: We can't win, and we can't leave.

                            It's a quagmire.
                            "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."
                            --Albert Einstein

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              No, we can't "win" in the conventional sense. Stability is what we're after, regardless of how many car bombs go off now or later. The work of building a government can still proceed.

                              Bush has done an absolutely shit job of communicating what the war is about. He (like all politicians, and not without some good reasons) didn't trust the American public, and that's almost always a mistake.

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