Still No Way Out
There has been so much horrible news out of Iraq for so long that it is natural to want to celebrate better news. Sending another 30,000 American troops into Iraq has made life better: attacks are down, as are the number of American and Iraqi casualties. Some refugees are even venturing home. The news has cheered Americans and dampened Democrats’ enthusiasm for keeping up the pressure on Iraq policy. Unfortunately, it is just as important to look at what has not happened since President Bush announced his surge: Iraq’s leaders are no closer to making the political deals that are the only hope for building a self-sustaining peace.And then we have this from the man who would be king.
Without a serious effort at national conciliation, American troops are just holding down the lid on a pressure cooker. Iraq’s rival militias, the insurgents, the bitter sectarian resentments and the meddling neighbors haven’t gone anywhere. Consider this all too familiar horror: yesterday, police said they pulled six bodies from the Tigris River about 25 miles south of Baghdad. They were handcuffed and showed signs of having been tortured. And five, including a child, had been beheaded.
Perhaps 160,000 American troops could hold down the overall casualty numbers indefinitely, but they cannot wipe away that sort of hatred. That’s the job of Iraq’s leaders. Either way, the American military doesn’t have enough troops for such an occupation without end, and the American Treasury can’t keep spending $10 billion a month to maintain it.
Mr. Bush’s escalation was sold as a way to buy Iraqi politicians breathing room to finally address the problems driving the sectarian violence: by agreeing on an equitable division of oil wealth, rules for provincial elections and ways to bring more Sunnis and former Baath Party members into the Shiite-dominated government.
Instead, Iraq’s politicians — and their American backers — have squandered the time and the best efforts of American troops. Mr. Bush’s generals are so frustrated that they’ve begun to complain publicly about the fecklessness of Iraq’s leaders. The ever-feckless White House, rather than looking for ways to compel Iraq’s leaders to perform, is lessening the pressure.
On Monday, Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed a declaration pledging that their governments would put in place a long-term political and security pact sometime next year. "The shape and size of any long-term, or longer than 2008, U.S. presence in Iraq will be a key matter for negotiation between the two parties, Iraq and the United States," Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, the White House official in charge of Iraq war matters, said at the briefing unveiling the agreement.Of course this will be an empty and meaningless agreement since it won't be approved by either the US Congress or the Iraqi Parliament. Both Bush a al-Maliki are at least smart enough to know they will never get that kind of approval. Bush has thrown the Republican candidates another boat anchor - they either have to distance themselves from the agreement and piss off the 24 percenters they need to win the nomination or piss off everyone else and lose the general election. The best way for the Democrats to handle this issue is to point out that without congressional approval it is non-binding.
What Bush will almost surely be pushing for is permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, enshrined in a pact he can sign a few months before he leaves office. And here, as they used to say, is the beauty part: As far as Bush is concerned, he doesn't have to seek congressional ratification for such an enduring commitment of American force, treasure and lives.
Meanwhile it would appear the the Demcrats may have finally grown a pair.
Pelosi won't budge on troop pullback dates in war funding bill
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A top Democrat who had hinted that a compromise on war funding was possible appeared to back away from the idea Friday as the Democratic congressional leadership refused to consider it.It's about time.
On Thursday, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, said he and the White House Iraq coordinator Gen. Douglas Lute discussed a compromise in which Congress would provide additional funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if the administration accepted readiness standards for the troops sent into battle and a ban on the use of torture.
The Democrats' part of the compromise would be to extend the time period in which they would demand that troops be withdrawn from Iraq, Murtha said.
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi showed no sign of accepting such a compromise and said the Democratic Congress would not pass a war funding bill other than the one that had already passed the House.
"We have provided every penny that is currently necessary to fund Defense Department operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world," Pelosi said. "It is President Bush and his Republican allies in the Senate who are preventing extra funds from reaching our troops."
On Friday, Murtha appeared to back away from supporting the compromise, saying "the fact remains that the war in Iraq cannot be won militarily" and that the Iraqi government has failed to capitalize on "window of opportunity" created by the additional U.S. troops.
Murtha and called for "an orderly redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as practicable."
"The House of Representatives has passed a $50 billion funding bill that provides the president, our troops, and our nation with a responsible plan for bringing our troops home," Murtha said. "The president should heed the advice of the American people and allow this funding bill to become law."