*13 American soldiers have died in Iraq so far in 2007
How depressing it becomes to write about this week after week. I listened to the President's speech, of course, although most of it had already been released, so I knew what to expect. After taking weeks to come up with his bold, new plan (we were supposed to have had this speech back in December), all Bush could deliver was more of the same - "stay the course" revisited. More assertions that this time will be different. Why? Because Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki has "promised". This would be the man who has never lived up to one single thing he has promised in the past. And probably, because he can't - because those promises weren't his to begin with but words put in his mouth by our government. Not what he wanted but what we want. The man doesn't have the power nor the authority to comply with what we demand. He doesn't have control of the country or the country's army or the various factions, not even of the Shiites, of which he is one. We have insisted that he turn the Iraqi army and police force on Muqtada Al Sadr, the radical Shiite leader of the Mahdi Army. This is like asking George Bush to turn on the evangelicals in this country, the very evangelicals who made him president in the first place and who still form the strongest base of his support. Al Maliki may pay lip service to taking on Al Sadr but I doubt he will take serious action.
So we will throw 21,500 more of our sons and daughters into the tragedy that Iraq has become. The ones who go to Bagdhad will be embedded with the Iraqis, living with them in the same dangerous environment, utilizing the same crappy equipment, never really knowing if the soldiers with whom they are partnering actually have the same goals or if they are really militia in official uniforms but with the mission of simply wiping out Sunnis. And Iraq has said that the Pesh Merga, the Khurdish police, will be coming to Bagdhad to help bring peace to the city. What would the Pesh Merga's agenda be? Remember, that the Sunnis under Saddam performed genocide on the Kurds so it's very possible that, like the previously-brutalized Shiites, the Kurds might just get off on the retaliation of killing as many Sunni as they can. And since the Sunnis probably aren't going to just lie down and take their punishment, they will be fighting mightily to survive. And in the middle of all this sectarian hate will be our guys, less of them than there are uniformed cops in New York City, trying valiantly to somehow mediate a tribal bloodbath.
And all of this presupposes that the insurgency will cooperate with us, which they probably won't. I doubt if they agreeably stand and fight with American troops, letting us win the kind of battles in which we excel. More likely, they will simply fade away and live to fight another day, after American sentiment has finally forced a withdrawal of our troops - another day when it will be Iraqi against Iraqi. Or they will take their weapons and start trouble in the places that we aren't.
Defense Secretary Gates has said that "this time" the American military will be free to do whatever needs to be done. No longer will they be forbidden to enter certain neighborhoods, no longer will they be called on to release "politically connected" prisoners, no longer will they have to hold their fire on the say so of the Iraqis. But I didn't know these were the previous conditions, did you? Not when we'd always been told that our soldiers would never be put under the command of non-American authority. Although I did wonder when Iraq ordered us to stand down, removing roadblocks meant to help us rescue an American soldier. Whatever happened to him, by the way?
Defense Secretary Gates also told Congress that we should know within "two months" if Iraq was living up to its guarantees. But then what? What if Al Maliki wobbles and wavers and fails to step up to the plate? President Bush said he would "lose the support of the American people." Well, hate to tell you, but that has already happened. So what would be the actual, tangible consequence? We don't know. George Bush didn't enunciate any other "or else". And Secretary of State Condi Rice, testifying before Senators, said she didn't believe in thinking about Plan B, you simply have to make Plan A work. I suppose that means that we will proceed with yet another version of Plan A if this particular Plan A (is it Plan A #5?) doesn't pan out.
I believe this administration has no intention of ever leaving Iraq. Like other leaders before him, Bush's ego will not allow him to admit defeat, no matter how many people die for his arrogance. Consider Lyndon Johnson in Vietnam, Richard Nixon in Vietnam. The Congress either doesn't have the constitutional authority or the guts to force Bush to call it quits so it will drag on until he's gone. It will be for the next president (who will have campaigned on the issue) to bring our soldiers home.
I have resigned myself to this scenario. Bush will have his way in Iraq until the end. But another frightening element of Bush's speech were his provocative statements against Syria and Iran. We will interrupt "networks". We are sending a carrier group to the Persian Gulf. We are shipping Patriot missiles to the area. At this point, the most I'm just hoping for is that this president leaves office without getting us into yet another war.