The Decline of the Bush Presidency and the War in Iraq
The last half of 2005 has been a bad time for President George W. Bush. First the righteous outcry of Cindy Sheehan, demanding to know what noble cause her son died for in Iraq resulting in a reinforcement of the anti-war movement. Then came the disastrous relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. And now, as November is on its way to drawing to a close, demands for withdrawal from Iraq are growing stronger, while Bush’s popularity is resting at less than 40%, the lowest in his 5 year presidency.
Calls for withdrawal from Iraq began with the proposal of Representative John Murtha, a hawkish Democrat in the House. Although normally a proponent of the war in Iraq, Rep. Murtha called for a pullout from Iraq according to a well thought out six month timetable. It seemed a reasonable plan.
Unfortunately for Rep. Murtha, the Republicans would not stand for a reasonable debate. Instead, Murtha’s plan was ammended by Representative John Hunter, Republican, to call for immediate withdrawal from Iraq: a stand almost no one supports. In mockery of the spirit of debate this sham proposal was put onto the House floor and voted down, with only three Democrats daring to support it.
At the same time as this political farce was going on, General Casey, commanding general in Iraq, submitted a withdrawal plan to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. This plan, although being done over a longer period of time than Murtha’s six months, would begin as early as January 2006, just over a month away.
The most vocal call for withdrawal came on the 21st of November, 2005, just three days after the vote on the abridged plan of Murtha’s. It came from the leaders of the Iraqi government, representing all three factions in Iraq: the Sunnis, the Shiites and the Kurds. Iraqi leaders demanded a pullout timetable for US occupying forces, essentially blamed the rampant terrorism in Iraq on the Coalition forces and offered legitimacy to feelings of insurgents who are against foreign occupation.
This is a major move in the war in Iraq on the part of the newly created Iraqi government. The time has come, they argue, for Iraqis to take complete control of Iraq and for the US, UK and other foreign forces in Iraq to leave.
How the United States will respond to this call is still uncertain. Obviously the Bush Administration will have to agree with what the Iraqis are saying on one level. On the one hand, that is what they have been saying their goal is all along: to create a sovereign, independent, democratic Iraq. But will their calls fit with the US agenda? That remains to be seen.
Iraq: A No-Win Situation
What Americans such as Rep. Murtha have realizes is that Iraq is a no-win situation. If we stay, what are we really going to accomplish? We will never be able to defeat the insurgency (if we could we would have by now). Our presence in Iraq is a beacon for terrorism. And with the attacks in Jordan earlier in November being done by Iraqis, it seems that this terrorism brewing in the post-Saddam Iraq is now spreading into neighboring countries.
As long as we are there are going to be problems. The Iraqi leaders have realized this as well, blaming the presence of Coalition forces in Iraq for the terrorism that is so rampant there. But if we withdraw without accomplishing all of our “goals” (Whatever those might be, Bush has never been terribly clear on defining them), then many will have said that we lost. A cut and run.
Neither option looks good for America, but in the end something has to be done. We can’t keep going down this course we are on, it is just going to spiral ever downward into disaster. I think just about everyone involved in any reasonable way recognizes this reality. Now it is just time for the Bush Administration to see the facts in front of their faces.
Withdrawal is the only option for the United States now. Not immediate withdrawal, that is a given. But some sort of timely withdrawal, one set to a specific timetable with no wiggle room (the Bush Administration loves wiggle room). Pulling out our troops is the only way for there to be any hope of stabilizing the region, as well as saving the lives of American troops and contractors.
We already have two potential timetables for pullout, that set forth by Rep. Murtha and that set forth by General Casey. I am sure that others can and will be devised. But action has to be taken soon, because the Iraqi quagmire is bringing this country down, and the longer it lasts the worse it will be. No one wants another Vietnam. And don’t forget what happened to the Soviets in Afghanistan. It is almost impossible to defeat a homegrown insurgency. The soldiers of the American Revolution realized that. They didn’t have to defeat the British, they just had to wait them out until they finally got tired of it. It took eight long years but it finally came. The same truth holds true in Iraq.
It’s time to get serious about deciding what we are doing in Iraq. The Bush Administration doesn’t know. The American people surely don’t know. The Iraqi people don’t know. Pullout now, save as much face as you can, and let the new Iraqi democracy flourish. That is what this is supposedly all about in the first place.
The Iraqi leaders in making this declaration have actually made it much easier for the Bush Administration. They are taking a stand, and saying that they are ready now. We need to end this. Bush will never get a better opportunity to pull out gracefully than now. He should take it. If not, we are in for even more trouble than we are already in.