Thursday, June 15, 2006

2,500 deaths and climbing

By J. Kingston Pierce

Unbelievable. It was less than two months ago that I wrote about the 2,400th death of a U.S. soldier in Iraq, and already the official fatality count has climbed to 2,500, with another 113 fatalities among soldiers from the few other countries still willing to participate in this misbegotten adventure, and untold tens of thousands of Iraqis having perished in what’s become a civil war provoked by George W. Bush’s unilateral invasion of that Middle Eastern nation back in 2003. White House press secretary Tony Snow essentially dismissed the significance of today’s tragic milestone, saying during his press briefing this morning, “It’s a number, and every time there’s one of these 500 benchmarks, people want something.” But, Tony, there’s not a parent in this country, charged with burying a son or daughter lost in the Iraq war, who doesn’t “want something.” They want a swift end to this conflict. Most want a clear accounting of the mistakes, lies, and incompetence that led up to the war, and which have only increased the fatality counts since. None of us want this fighting to continue for years, until it fall into the laps of “future Presidents and future governments of Iraq,” as Bush predicts it will. As Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report puts it so succinctly, “We want U.S. casualties to not reach 2,501.”

The national news media, so many of which were complicit in selling Bush’s trumped-up war on Saddam Hussein to the public, appear rather
perplexed that last week’s much-vaunted killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, allegedly the head of an Al Qaeda contingent in Iraq, hasn’t done more to boost Bush’s political fortunes. (Salon’s War Room blog observes that “since Zarqawi’s death was announced, Bush’s approval ratings are up one point [NBC/Wall Street Journal], up two points [Gallup], and down two points [CBS]. The Wall Street Journal calls Bush’s standing with the public ‘essentially unchanged’; while the president’s approval rating ticked up one point in its latest poll, so too did his disapproval rating.”) But they shouldn’t be surprised. Not when 59 percent of Americans say “the United States made a mistake in going to war in Iraq,” a Pew Research poll shows that people in European and Muslim nations see U.S. policy toward Iraq as “a bigger threat to world peace than Iran’s nuclear program,” and Americans are more determinedly questioning the efficacy of spending $8 billion a month (or a total of $319 billion so far) on a war that most of them say won’t democratize Iraq, anyway.

Senators on Capitol Hill today
voted not to call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of this year. But such gamesmanship and posturing by Bush’s Republican water-carriers won’t make the Iraq mistake go away. It won’t change the fact that Americans have lost confidence both in the prez and in the GOP--certainly a bad turn from their point of view, given that Republicans must defend their dominance of the U.S. government in November’s midterm elections. GOPers hope to turn this unfriendly tide by pushing thoroughly unnecessary constitutional amendments (one to install prejudice--in the form of a ban on same-sex marriage--in America’s most sacred founding document, another to safeguard the U.S. flag from phantom desecrators). But such obvious time-wasting won’t distract voters from the fact that Republicans have gotten the United States into a quagmire of a war, and they have no idea how to get us out of it. Nor are they even trying. Yeah, yeah, Bush will undoubtedly make some politically driven statements in the run-up to November about withdrawing a handful of troops from Iraq; and Karl Rove (the O.J. Simpson of modern American politics--known to have done wrong, but still unprosecuted) will direct endangered Republicans to weep crocodile tears over the deaths of U.S. soldiers half a world away. However, the chances of America avoiding the death of a 2,501st, or a 2,502nd, or a 2,600th soldier on the Iraq front lines is nil, so long as debate over this war is driven by political defensiveness, rather than good sense and foresight.

On the other hand, it’s conceivable (though downright reprehensible) that the White House doesn’t really want this war to end, at least not on Bush’s watch. If the prez can just avoid being either
censured or impeached over the next year and a half, and can prevent opposition Democrats from assuming control of one or the other chambers of Congress (which would likely result in his financial resources being curbed, and the curtailment of his ability to escalate the Iraq hostilities or start a nuclear war with Iran), he can hand responsibility for this ill-conceived conflict over to the next Oval Office occupant. Should that man or woman be a Democrat (and odds are pretty good that it will be), Republicans could then spend the ensuing four years attacking him or her for not resolving the Iraq war, and maybe on that wave of criticism worm their way back into the White House in 2013. And if Bush’s successor is a Republican? Well, at least Dubya will have skated out from under responsibility for the war’s resolution, just as he’s skated out from under responsibility for business failures and military service in the past.

Iraq War Has Mournful Milestones,” by Tom Raum (AP); “‘Mission Accomplished’ in a Business Suit,” by Sidney Blumenthal (Salon); “2,500 and Counting,” by Steve Young (The Huffington Post); “So Republicans Are for Amnesty for Terrorists Who Murder U.S. Soldiers, but They Oppose Amnesty for Mexicans Seeking a Better Life in America?” by John Aravosis (AMERICAblog); “Iraq’s Pentagon Papers,” by Daniel Ellsberg (Los Angeles Times).

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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