Peter Baker reports in the WaPo that Bush has set a timetable for Iraqi troop independence -- i.e., for U.S. troop withdrawal -- that pretends he’ll bring the troops home right after the November elections.
President Bush vowed for the first time yesterday to turn over most of Iraq to newly trained Iraqi troops by the end of this year, setting a specific benchmark as he kicked off a fresh drive to reassure Americans alarmed by the recent burst of sectarian violence.
Bush, who until now has resisted concrete timelines as the Iraq war dragged on longer than he expected, outlined the target in the first of a series of speeches intended to lay out his strategy for victory. While acknowledging grim developments on the ground, Bush declared "real progress" in standing up Iraqi forces capable of defending their nation.
I call bullshit. This is Nixonian politicking of the crassest, cruellest kind. The only troops coming home are those already due to do, some after two or three tours in-country. And after the election, forces “beyond his control” will force Bush to ramp troop levels back up. The Iraqis remain incapable of competent self-defense -- a Pentagon report last month showed that the number of Iraqi units rated "Level 1," or fully independent of U.S. help, has fallen from one to zero, according to the Post -- and the recent sectarian violence only lengthened our timetable there. After the mosque bombings, assassinations, political stumbles, and what the administration claims is increasing interference from Iran, no serious, well-informed person actually believes that Iraq is anywhere close to self-sufficiency, or that Bush plans to bring our troops home soon. The only reason Bush is raising our soldiers’ and their families’ hopes is to bolster Republican chances in November. And raising false hope based on self-serving propaganda is a damnable thing to do, even for a Republican politician.
I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so. Months ago. Last November, when the Republicans started scrambling to catch up to John Murtha. (Hey!! Democrats!! See what happens when you lead?!?) This pretense at facilitating troop withdrawals is vintage Rove; after being lied to enough, even I can start to see the patterns. Let’s see whether our elected representatives, troops, and high-powered journalists are as prescient as I am, and whether the voters will recognize propaganda in time to reject it in November.
Oh, and to close the loop back to the VichyDems theme: let’s keep an eye on this guy:
"This was a step in the right direction," Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), a centrist Democrat invited to the speech, said in an interview afterward. "Benchmarks set clear, defined goals, and if we see more and more Iraqis being trained and put on the ground, then that means we can bring more Americans home."
Rule no. 1 for Democrats: never, ever attend a policy speech given by this President. He had 100% Democratic support on 9-12, but since then he’s systematically eroded any basis for bipartisanship or trust. Any Democratic face I see at one of his staged events, I’m likely to switch from D to V.