Wednesday, November 30, 2005

"By Golly..."

... quoth your Rumsfeld, Bush (and I paraphrase him from here on, because I didn't have a notepad to hand when I caught the broadcast of his remarks) "why can't you people believe in the incredible progress we're making in Iraq? Why, the Iraqis are very nearly ready to take over their own security." The report that followed, based on interviews with both American and Iraqi officials on the ground over there, failed to share your Rumsfeld's enthusiasm, Bush. By virtually any standard, they have a long, long way to go before they can handle things alone. Even your right-wing supporter, Bill O'Reilly has lost patience: he has a good point when he challenges rosy assessments like your Rumsfeld's. It takes six weeks, O'Reilly claims, to train an American soldier and get him into battle. And we've been training "these folks" for three years, and they're still not ready. So when will they be, he demands to know.

Then there's your new series of speeches, Bush. From what I heard this morning about the first of them, at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, you have nothing new to say. Desperate, it seems, to reclaim the political high ground, you have even put out a report outlining your strategy in Iraq (back-dating it to reassure the American people that the plan has been in place all along!) And your Rumsfeld and your Rice are busy out there pushing a newly-coined set of words to bring us all along: "clear, hold, and build." Nice sound-bite, Bush.

And then your Rumsfeld plays around with more new words to describe the enemy in Iraq. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, he wants to retire the word "insurgents" in favor of "enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government." "These people don't have a legitimate gripe," he said. "This is a group of people who don't deserve the word 'insurgency.'" His Pentagon folks are having a tough time keeping track of the change, it seems. On the same podium as your Rumsfeld, Marine Gen. Peter Pace let slip the offending nomenclature, and felt obliged to apologize. But he added, "I can't think of a better word right now."

But it's not about words, really, is it, Bush? Your people keep trying to find the palatable phrase, the one that will make the other guy look bad, and you look good. But you all keep saying the same old thing, and it won't wash. Your speech this morning was just another fancy way of saying, Stay the course. I hate to agree (even half-way) with the likes of Bill O'Reilly. He thinks it's all so simple, so clear: stop fooling around with excuses, go ahead and win. That's a part of his appeal, I think. He reduces everything to the simplest terms, the simplest solution, and that appeals to minds that reject the complexity of the real world. But it's not so simple. What you've created over there is a military, social, political, cultural and religious morass, and it won't be easy to "win". It won't be easy to extricate ourselves without leaving murderous sectarian chaos behind us. And, Rumsfeld's rosy assessments notwithstanding, I believe it's going to take a long, long time.

Meantime, while you and Rumsfeld talk, more innocent Iraqis are killed, and the hostage strategy seems to be back in vogue amongst the insurgency. Four Christian activists and, separately, a German archaeologist and aid worker with her driver. It's a dire situation, Bush, and I think that you have steered us into dangerous, turbulent waters over which you have virtually no control. You're way out of your depth there, and I see you flailing about like a man about to drown. By golly, by gosh, and by gum.

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