Won't Run, Will Bug Out

AUSTIN, Texas -- Sheesh, it's hard to keep up with this administration. Just a few days ago, we were going to stick it out, no matter what. Like Horton the Elephant, we would be faithful, 100 percent -- never give up, never surrender.

Now we're going to bug out before next year's election, Paul Bremer has been called in for an emergency confab, troops must be down to 105,000 by spring. The CIA, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, has sent a report from Baghdad saying the whole thing's going south. We're back to bombing Baghdad. Forget a constitution, we have to hand it all over to the Iraqis right away.

I'm glad all this bug-out stuff is coming from the administration -- if some liberal said it, we'd all be accused of treason.

Here's the problem in a nutshell: Just a few weeks ago, the Bush administration set out to persuade us all that the glass in Iraq is not half-empty, it is half-full. And indeed, this may be so, but that's a conclusion that depends on one's point of view. But the one thing we do know without regard to point of view, politics, spin or public relations is that the number of attacks against American troops have been steadily increasing from 20 to 25 to 30 a day.

Now this may be, as President Bush has said in a weirdly Panglossian moment, evidence of our progress. He's the only president we've got, and if he says it's progress, it must be, right? For all I know (never having been to Iraq), what we're witnessing is indeed increased desperation on the part of the attackers. This would be easier to diagnose if only we knew who was attacking us.

According to the experts, we are being attacked by: A) remnant Sadden Hussein loyalists, B) anti-American terrorists and jihadists from all over hell and gone who are now gathering in Iraq because it's easier to knock off Americans there or C) Iraqis of no particular flavor who really dislike being invaded by a foreign power and then occupied by same. According to the CIA memo acquired by the Inquirer, even the Shiites in the south now see us as an occupying power.

Here's what I think is the real problem. It's not so much that the number of attacks on Americans per day in Iraq has been creeping up. It's that after these successful attacks on convoys, choppers or patrols, hundreds of Iraqis gather around the smoking results and cheer. Call me alarmist, but I think that's a bad sign. I suspect they do not like being occupied by a foreign power. They do not seem to think our intentions are benevolent.

To be sure, a good public relations campaign, masterminded by Karl Rove and other geniuses, could probably solve this unfortunate problem of perception in Iraq (it has worked so well here), EXCEPT, we don't have enough people who even speak the language to mount a p.r. campaign, or for that matter, to direct traffic, train cops, get intelligence or anything else we need to do.

So, here's the Bush administration with this sudden new emphasis on us getting the hell out of there. If you think I am going to disagree or make fun of them for doing such a 180, you are sadly mistaken. We have seen the 180 many times before with Bush, usually when reality intrudes on ideology.

Bug out before the election next year, that's fine by me. I don't like seeing Americans killed by people we thought we had gone to help. I suspect this is the ultimate no-win situation -- the sooner we're out, the better. I do hold a grudge against all those folks in the administration who convinced most Americans that his war was a dandy idea. There was no nuclear weapons program. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Saddam Hussein had no ties to Al Qaeda, and if anyone sees an outbreak of peace and democracy in Middle East, let me know.

I don't think the Bush administration lied to us about Iraq. I think it's worse than that. I think they fooled themselves. I think they were conned by Ahmad Chalabi. I think they indulged in wishful thinking to a point of near criminality. I think they decided anyone who didn't agree with them was an enemy, anti-American, disloyal. In other words, I think they're criminally stupid.

Since I keep trying to find helpful suggestions from any source, let's see if a fast political handover will help any. But there are already signs that the Iraqi Governing Council, which we appointed, is either in trouble or nonfunctional -- so why don't we try that bottom-up method of democratization I've been mentioning, with proportional representation for Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites mandatory as the elections move up. Anyone for grass-roots?


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