Friday, March 30, 2007

W. is running out of time on Iraq: Time for something riskier?

It looks like W.'s news surge plan is going pretty much the way of the last four or five surges. In scenes reminiscent of operation Pull Together Forward I and II from last summer and fall, the military touts progress and urges patience and then over 300 people get killed blown up or shot in just four days. Yesterday, on the heels of the multiple massacres in supposedly secure Tal Afar on Tuesday and Wednesday, five suicide bombers killed 122 people and wounded 150. On top of that, another 178 Iraqis were otherwise killed or found dead around the country. [AP]

Ah, but the surge hasn't quite got going yet; now they say the 30,000 extra troops will be in country by June. Remember when it was going to be 21,500 soldiers in country by May? Whenever the troops do get there the total number of US forces in Iraq will be about 165,000. Ironically, that's almost the exact number of GIs we had in Iraq in 2003 after the invasion -- we're back to square one. My question is, if we already know that we started out with grossly insufficient troop levels to secure the newly liberated Iraq in 2003, when the insurgency was in its infancy, what makes anyone think the same numbers now will do a lick of good with a full blown rebellion -- and with a brutal sectarian civil war thrown in just for fun?

W. is rallying the faithful, though: For the first time in his presidency he had the entire GOP caucus over to the White House for a visit yesterday. Just as the Senate passed the war spending bill calling for a withdrawal by March of next year, W. was urging his fellow Republicans in Congress to pull together forward. He's going to use his veto for only the second time to prevent any pullout language and as the WaPo explains: "As long as Republicans stick with him, Democrats will be unable to muster the two-thirds majority they need to overturn his veto."

The question is will they stick with him? If Karl Rove read this quote in the WaPo from an un-named GOP House member, understanding the thinking behind the little White House pow wow becomes clear: "We've toed the line enough for this president, and we have gotten no thanks or gratitude. By and large, Republicans are sick of defending an ungrateful president."

Ouch! You think they're panicking just a bit down there at 1600? Oh, I'm sure W.'s speech to the congressmen reassured them and they can be counted on to hold the line, right? Peter Baker writes that when John Boehner "turned to his colleagues to ask if they would stay with Bush, they gave him a standing ovation." Yes, mission accomplished!

"But," Baker writes,” two Republican lawmakers, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush spent much of his talk stressing that he still believes in the ideals of freedom and democracy for Iraq, and exhorting lawmakers to disregard the polls and the editorial pages that have scoffed at those notions."

OK, he probably should have just left it at fighting the pork in the bill and left out all that stuff about freedom and democracy. I hope, though, that the Republicans go right ahead and ignore the polls and editorial pages and plunge right to the bottom with the unsinkable George W. Bush.

I'm thinking time is not on W.'s side. God knows what the situation in Iraq will be like by the time Congress gets back from its recess on April 16th . . . or the situation in Iran for that matter. As I pointed out a while back, between April 14th and 18th the Farmer's Almanac says there will be a new moon. What better chance to take advantage of dark moonless nights to launch shock and awe? I'm sure we can engineer some sort of incident in the Gulf or the Strait of Hormuz to get this show on the road, it's been done before. If Karl Rove senses the headcount isn't going his way on over turning a presidential veto, who knows what they might do? And if Al Gonzales can hang on until then -- which is looking more and more unlikely -- his big day in Congress on the 17th might not go that bad after all.


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