Saturday, October 21, 2006

How many will die in Iraq until after the elections so the White House can save face?

The tough guy talk is now on hold. Rumsfeld and Chenney are locked away somewhere out of public view until after the elections. And President Bush concedes “it’s tough” for American policy in Iraq.

This from the Associated Press:

President Bush conceded Friday that "right now it's tough" for American
forces in Iraq, but the White House said he would not change U.S. strategy in
the face of pre-election polls that show voters are upset.

With Republicans anxious about the potential loss of Congress - and
with conditions seemingly deteriorating in Iraq - Bush addressed the question of
whether he would alter his policies.

"We are constantly adjusting our tactics so that we achieve the
objective, and right now it's tough, it's tough," Bush said in an Associated
Press interview.

Despite calls for change, Bush said, "Our goal has not changed. Our
goal is a country that can defend, sustain and govern itself, a country that
which will serve as an ally in this war. Our tactics are adjusting."

Of course, as Andrew Sullivan points out, democracy is now missing from the goals. Back to the AP:

Presidential spokesman Tony Snow said that while Bush might change
tactics, he would not change his overall strategy.

"He's not somebody who gets jumpy at polls," Snow said of Bush.

Bush, at a political fundraiser in Washington for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, railed against Democrats who criticize the war.
Calling the Democrats the party of "cut and run," Bush said voters need to ask:
"Which political party has a strategy for victory in this war on terror?'"

Good question. The answer is obviously not the Republican Party. The AP continues:
As of Friday, the U.S. combat death toll in Iraq during October
stood at 75 - possibly heading for the highest for any month in nearly two
years. Now in its fourth year, the war has claimed the lives of at least 2,786
Americans. Approval of Bush's handling of Iraq has dipped to 37 percent among
likely voters in the AP-Ipsos poll early this month, down slightly from 41
percent last month.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the Iraqi government must
become less reliant on the United States to handle security. He also said U.S.
officials are working with the Iraqis to develop projections on when that might

"It's their country, they're going to have to govern it, they're going to have to provide security for it, and they're going to have to do it sooner rather than later," Rumsfeld said.

"The biggest mistake would be to not pass things over to the Iraqis, create a dependency on their part, instead of developing strength and capacity and competence," he said.

Doubts about the effectiveness of current tactics have risen, and the U.S. military has said its two-month drive to crush insurgent and militia violence in Baghdad has fallen short. Attacks in Baghdad rose by 22 percent in the first three weeks of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, compared with the three previous weeks.

On Friday, the Shiite militia run by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr briefly seized control of the southern Iraqi city of Amarah in one of the most brazen acts of defiance yet by the country's powerful, unofficial armies. Tom Casey, deputy spokesman at the State Department, said the United States was urging the Iraqis to make sure that security in Amarah was returned to the government.

"The flare-up of violence in Amarah points out that our strategy to quell the violence in that country is failing," said Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee.

The Baker-Hamilton commission will likely strongly recommend some major change in course and we can only hope this includes the firing of Donald Rumsfeld. Whether you are angry for the reasoning for going into Iraq or supported the invasion but are upset about the failure to stabilize the situation and achieve “victory” or are upset with the current strategy of just muddling along with no clear objective and withdrawal plan, you should be angry at the mastermind and executor of this whole mess – Donald Rumsfeld.

Unfortunately, the Baker-Hamilton commission will hold their recommendations until after the U.S. elections three weeks away. Changes in policy or strategy that could make a life or death difference for our soldiers or Iraqi civilians is being held back so the White House can safe face before the election. I would like to know what the White House will be saying to the families of those soldiers who will lose their lives in the next three weeks.

To keep track of those American soldiers dying in the coming weeks, Spencer Ackerman is printing the Pentagon press releases with the names of the dead on his blog. Just look for the title of “What gives you the right to fuck with our lives.”

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