8/15/2005

Bush about to place tail between legs and run back home ?

More interesting stuff from Asia times:

At his news conference, our never-never-land president nonetheless spoke several times of being pleased to announce "progress" in Iraq. ("And we're making progress training the Iraqis. Oh, I know it's hard for some Americans to see that progress, but we are making progress.")

He spoke as well of attempts to ease the burden on the no-longer-weekend warriors of the National Guard and the Reserves (who are taking unprecedented casualties in August). He said: "We've also taken steps to improve the call-up process for our Guard and for our Reserves. We've provided them with earlier notifications. We've given them greater certainty about the length of their tours. We minimized the number of extensions and repeat mobilizations." Unfortunately, at just this moment, Joint Chiefs head Myers was speaking of the possibility of calling soldiers back for their third tours of duty in Iraq: "There's the possibility of people going back for a third term, sure. That's always out there. We are at war."

"Pulling the troops out would send a terrible signal to the enemy," the president insisted as he turned to the matter of withdrawal in his news conference. He then dismissed drawdown maneuvers as "speculation and rumors"; and, on being confronted by a reporter with the statements of his own military men, added, "I suspect what you were hearing was speculation based upon progress that some are seeing in Iraq as to whether or not the Iraqis will be able to take the fight to the enemy."

While that may sound vague, it was, nonetheless, the sound of a president (who, along with his secretary of defense, has always promised to abide by whatever his generals in the field wanted) disputing those commanders in public. General Casey was also reportedly "rebuked" in private for his withdrawal comments. Our commanders in Iraq are, of course, the official realists in this war, having long ago given up on the idea that the insurgency could ever be defeated by force of US arms and worrying as they do about those "wheels coming off" the American military machine.

In fact, the Bush administration's occupation of Iraq - as Howard Zinn put the matter recently, "We liberated Iraq from Saddam Hussein, but not from us." - is threatening to prove one of the great asymmetric catastrophes in recent military history. A rag-tag bunch of insurgents, now estimated in the tens of thousands, using garage-door openers and cell phones to set off roadside bombs and egg-timers to fire mortars at US bases (lest they be around when the return fire comes in), have fought the US military to at least a draw. We're talking about a military that, not so long ago, was being touted as the most powerful force not just on this planet at this moment but on any planet in all of galactic history.

Previously, such rumors of withdrawal followed by a quiet hike in troop strength in Iraq might have been simply another clever administration attempt to manipulate the public and have it both ways. At the moment, however, they seem to be a sign not of manipulation but of confusion, discord and uncertainty about what to do next. If the public was left confused by such "conflicting signals" about an Iraqi withdrawal, wrote Peter Baker of the Washington Post, "it may be no more unsure than the administration itself, as some government officials involved in Iraq policy privately acknowledge." An unnamed "military officer in Washington" typically commented to Anne E Kornblut of the New York Times, "We need to stick to one message. This vacillation creates confusion for the American public.

Even administration officials are now evidently "significantly lowering expectations" and thinking about how exactly to jump off the sinking Iraqi ship. The president, beseeching "the public to stick with his strategy despite continuing mayhem on the ground", is, Baker commented, "trying to buy time". But buy time for what? This is the question that has essentially paralyzed Bush's top officials as they face a world suddenly not in their control.

Asia Times Online :: Asian News, Business and Economy.

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