U.S. to Hand Iraq a New Timetable on Security Role
WASHINGTON, Oct. 21 — The Bush administration is drafting a timetable for the Iraqi government to address sectarian divisions and assume a larger role in securing the country, senior American officials said.Of course the administration will insist that it is not a timetable and that they continue to stay the course.
Details of the blueprint, which is to be presented to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki before the end of the year and would be carried out over the next year and beyond, are still being devised. But the officials said that for the first time Iraq was likely to be asked to agree to a schedule of specific milestones, like disarming sectarian militias, and to a broad set of other political, economic and military benchmarks intended to stabilize the country.
The Times also has an excellent editorial this morning, Blowing in the Wind, brought from behind "the wall" by our friends at Truthout.
The generals who told President Bush before the war that Donald Rumsfeld's shock-and-awe fantasy would not work were not enough to persuade him to change his strategy in Iraq. The rise of the insurgency did not do the trick. Nor did month after month of mounting military and civilian casualties on all sides, the emergence of a near civil war, the collapse of reconstruction efforts or the seeming inability of either Iraqi or American forces to secure contested parts of Iraq, including Baghdad, for any significant period.The reason for "this sudden change of heart" was of course politics. The political realists can recognize what the adolescent in chief can't; the occupation is over and a majority of Americans realize it. It won't really matter if the Democrats take the House and/or the Senate "stay the course" as a policy is through. So in an attempt to minimize the political damage they are hinting they will "change the course". The politics of this life and death issue on the part of the administration should offend all Americans.
So what finally, after all this time, caused Mr. Bush to very publicly consult with his generals to consider a change in tactics in Iraq? The president, who says he never reads political polls, is worried that his party could lose some of its iron grip on power in the Congressional elections next month.
It is not necessarily a bad thing when a politician takes stock of his positions in the teeth of an election. Our elected leaders are expected to heed the will of the American people. And this page has been part of a chorus of pleas for Mr. Bush to come up with a more realistic approach to Iraq.
But the way this sudden change of heart has come about, after months in which Mr. Bush has brushed off all criticism of his policies as either misguided, politically motivated or downright disloyal to America, is maddening. For far too long, the White House has looked upon the war as a tactical puzzle for campaign strategists. The early notion of combining Iraq and the war on terror as an argument for re-electing Republicans robbed the nation of any serious chance for a bipartisan discussion of these life-and-death issues. More recently, the administration seems to have been working under the assumption that its only obligations were to hang on, talk tough and pass the problem on to the next president.
The way the Bush team is stage-managing the president's supposed change of heart about "staying the course" is unfair to the Americans who have taken him at his word that real progress is being made in Iraq - a dwindling but still significant number of people, some of whom have sons and daughters serving in the conflict. It is a disservice to the troops, who were never sent to Iraq in sufficient numbers to protect themselves or the Iraqi people. And it is a disservice to all Americans, who have waited so long for Mr. Bush to act that all that is left are a series of unpleasant choices.
And it is happening in the midst of a particularly ugly, and especially vacuous, election season. There is probably no worse time to begin a serious discussion about Iraq policy than two weeks before a close, bitter election. But now that the discussion has begun, it must continue, as honestly and openly as possible. It is time for the American people to confront all the things that the president never had the guts to tell them about for three and a half years.