Sunday, August 20, 2006

Who will shoulder the blame?

The conventional wisdom is that sectarian violence is as bad now as it's ever been in Iraq, since we freed the Iraqi people and liberated the country. The official story is that we invaded Iraq because they harbor terrorists and it is now the front line in the war on terror. Three years ago, the press reported over and over that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction in violation of orders and in defiance of sanctions, and as such, we needed to free a people from an oppressive leader. Over and over we heard that we had won, or we are winning, or the enemy is desparate which shows they're near the breaking point, or they were on their last legs, or whatever. Yet still there is an insurgency. Still, the Iraqi people are not united. Still American soldiers are fighting in a country where the president touted "Mission Accomplished" over three years ago.

To suggest it's time to leave is to suggest defeat, according to the president, his staff, and many dedicated Neocons. But what alternative is suggested? What new plans are being implemented? If things are getting worse (which is one of only two possibilities when the leadership says things are as bad as they've ever been), then shouldn't something new be tried? Is it not folly to believe that we can force two groups historically at odds with each other to get along because we said so? Didn't we learn that was impossible with the mess in Yugoslavia?

For a large portion of this country, the question is not if Iraq will slip into civil war, but when; the thought being that we're only delaying the inevitable. If that's the case, then who will shoulder the blame for a failure in Iraq? For all his other wrongs, few people blame Nixon for our failures in Vietnam. That falls on LBJ, who saw to continue even after it was clear to most that things were not turning out the right way. It stands to reason that the failure that Iraq seemingly will become is going to be Bush's.

Here's a president who wants to be remembered as a 21st century Harry S Truman. The major difference is that with Truman, he told you what he thought and he had a reputation for honesty. His greatest redemption was that he turned out to be right, and it was his credibility that made him remembered as one of the all time greats. President Bush doesn't have that. There have been too many staged moments, too many not quite truths, or truths from a certain point of view, or truths behind other errors, too many soundbites, too many poor decisions, too much infringement on people's liberties. In short, he's too late.

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