Bush has been proclaiming Iraq at a turning point for years. "Turning point" is a frequent and recurring talking point, often taken up by the full chorus of the president ("We've reached another great turning point," Nov. 6, 2003; "A turning point will come in less than two weeks," June 18, 2004), vice president ("I think about when we look back and get some historical perspective on this period, I'll believe that the period we were in through 2005 was, in fact, a turning point," Feb. 7, 2006), secretary of state and secretary of defense, and ringing down the echo chamber.That's right, after the latest "turning point" we still have an Iraq that is tearing itself apart at the seams. We still have "an Iraqi state without a social contract, a government without a center, a prime minister without power and an American president without a strategy". But "victory" is still Bush's mantra even though no one seems to know what that means or how to get there.
This latest "turning point" reveals an Iraqi state without a social contract, a government without a center, a prime minister without power and an American president without a strategy. Each sectarian group maintains its own militia. Each leader's influence rests on these armed bands, separate armies of tens of thousands of men. The militias have infiltrated and taken over key units of the Iraqi army and local police, using them as death squads, protection rackets and deterrent forces against enemies. Reliable statistics are impossible, but knowledgeable reporters estimate there are about 40 assassinations a day in Iraq. Ethnic cleansing is sweeping the country. From Kirkuk in the north to Baghdad in the middle to Basra in the south, Kurds are driving out Turkmen and Arabs, Shiites are killing Sunnis, and the insurgency enjoys near unanimous support among Sunnis. Contrary to Bush's blanket rhetoric about "terrorists" and constant reference to the insurgency as "the enemy," "foreign fighters are a small component of the insurgency," according to Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Patrick Cockburn, one of the most accurate and intrepid journalists in Iraq, wrote last week in the Independent of London that "the overall security situation in Iraq is far worse than it was a year ago. Baghdad and central Iraq, where Shia, Sunni and Kurd are mixed, is in the grip of a civil war fought by assassins and death squads. As in Bosnia in 1992, each community is pulling back into enclaves where it is the overwhelming majority and able to defend itself."
In his speech on Monday referring to another "turning point," President Bush twice spoke of "victory." "Victory" is the constant theme he has adopted since last summer, when he hired public opinion specialist Peter Feaver for the National Security Council. Feaver's research claims that the public will sustain military casualties so long as it is persuaded that they will lead to "victory." Bush clings to this P.R. formula to explain, at least to himself, the decline of his political fortunes. "Because we're at war, and war unsettles people," he said in an interview with NBC News last week. To make sense of the disconcerting war, he imposes his familiar framework of us vs. them, "the enemy" who gets "on your TV screen by killing innocent people" against himself.Bush and Rove based everything on the war in Iraq and now:
In his Monday speech, Bush reverted yet again to citing Sept. 11, 2001, as the ultimate justification for the Iraq war. Defiant in the face of terrorists, he repeated whole paragraphs from his 2004 campaign stump speech. "That's just the lessons of September the 11th that I refuse to forget," he said. Stung by the dissent of the former commanders of the U.S. Army in Iraq who have demanded the firing of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Bush reassured the audience that he listens to generals. "I make my mind up based not upon politics or political opinion polls, but based upon what the commanders on the ground tell me is going on," he said.
Yet currently serving U.S. military commanders have been explicitly telling him for more than two years, and making public their view, that there is no purely military solution in Iraq. For example, Gen. John Abizaid, the U.S. commander, said on April 12, 2004: "There is not a purely U.S. military solution to any of the particular problems that we're facing here in Iraq today."
But while war may be the game changer for Bush's desire to put in place a one-party state, forge a permanent Republican majority, redefine the Constitution and the relationships of the branches of the federal government, and concentrate power in the executive, Bush has only the rhetoric of "victory." He has not stated what would happen the day after "victory." Although a victory parade would be his political nightmare, now the absence of victory is his nightmare. With every proclaimed "turning point," "victory" becomes ever more evanescent. He has no policy for victory and no politics beyond victory.
Talk about yawns, this is Condi Rice and Josh Bolton's reaction to the Bush/Blair show last night.
Reuters Photo, Hat tip to Steve Soto