Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Preparing for withdrawal

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, has announced that "he may call for more troops to be sent to Baghdad, possibly by increasing the overall U.S. presence in Iraq".

But don't misunderstand what's going on here. John McCain and the neocon hawks may want troop levels to be substantially increased, but there is neither the military might nor the political will for that to happen. Instead, the U.S. is preparing to pull out of Iraq or at the very least to decrease its troop levels substantially. Indeed, Casey "said he now believed Iraqi forces would be ready to take over security responsibility from the Americans no sooner than late 2007 or early 2008". This paln, such as it is one yet, "pushes back the withdrawal," but, with winning the war in its current form no longer a possibility, withdrawal is inevitable.

This is the groundwork: tough talk on doing more to establish order, encouraging words about how well the Iraqi forces are doing and how close they are to being ready to take over security responsibility, denials that Iraq is descending ever further into uncontrollable chaos, and, looking ahead to the end, a loose timetable for withdrawal. This will be, if it is not already, the new "stay-the-course" strategy, the new spin in defence of the management of the war, as well as of the war itself.

Bush will never say the war was lost, nor that it didn't work out quite as planned. Rather, he and the war's supporters will say that they did what they could to bring democracy and freedom to Iraq, that the Iraqis are ready to take over, perhaps even that the Iraqis have asked the U.S. to leave, and that all is as well as could be expected (and if it isn't, it's the Iraqis' fault).

And that will be that. Hands will be washed, responsibility will not be taken, and Iraq will be left with the mess Bush made.

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