That amazing abdication of responsibility for the direction and scope of our military involvement in Iraq was also an invitation for his handpicked generals to create their own rationale for remaining in Iraq and 'moving forward', instead of adhering to some clear direction from those charged with carrying out the will of the American people. It is not the right of 'generals in the field' to make the determination about whether our nation's defenders should continue to fight and die as mere mercenaries of some foreign government. That right to commit forces is still the job of Congress, despite the Executive's own responsibility for managing them in their deployment. Yet, Bush has conjured his own convenient ploy to hide behind the military as they find a 'way forward' in Iraq, and dig our troops even deeper into the muck surrounding Iraq's civil war.
This weekend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, told FOX news that he's not ready to pull the American prop out from under the beleaguered Iraqi regime in September, despite the utter lack of progress Iraqi have made in achieving the political stability which has become the administration's main justification for escalating our presence and increasing their assaults on the communities actively resisting the Iraqi regime's presumptive rule.
Offering his opinion that the occupation could still produce a 'stable, democratic government' in Iraq, Petraeus told FOX that, "We are ahead of where we thought, I thought, we would be at this point in time, and then we are behind where we might have been in some other areas."
But he also offered his view that, " . . . it's up to the policymakers and to the legislators to determine the course ahead."
Petraeus's assessment, offered months ahead of the September review of the 'progress' of the occupation he's promised, is typical of a military commander tasked with finding a way to endure on the battlefield. Generals will always find a way forward, but it's just not their job to decide whether or not to continue on. The job of deciding where and when our forces are deployed is clearly the responsibility of our legislators, and Bush is charged with carrying out that legislative will.
Bush and his generals, however, have created a dynamic where they have assumed they're entitled to direct an automatic response to what they've determined are 'threats' to our 'national security' from Iraq. The White House's initial claim that something or the other in Iraq posed some sort of threat to the U.S. has already been played out and discredited in the justifications the Bush administration used to invade and occupy the sovereign nation, and in the utter lack of evidence found after the invasion to support their claims of WMDs or harbors for terrorists.
In place of that lack of evidence that Iraqis threatened anyone outside of their own borders, the Bush administration cobbled together a line about 'spreading democracy' and pursuing a 'freedom agenda' where our nation's defenders were tasked with nation-building in Iraq and a defense of a foreign regime which is not pledged to our mutual defense like the countries of NATO, for instance, and is actively resisting all of the political reforms Bush claims are essential to our eventual exit.
To substitute for that absence of anything in Iraq which could remotely be used to justify our troops fighting and dying in defense a foreign government, the Bush cabal has elevated those elements in Iraq who identify themselves by the moniker of the al-Qaeda fugitives Bush has let run free for five years since the 9-11 attacks, to claim that those elements of the Iraqi resistance now pose a threat to our own country worthy of our continued military presence in the supposedly sovereign nation.
Aside from General Petraeus' contention that the occupation could still produce a 'stable, democratic government,' there is still the open question of whether or not the U.S. should be engaged in battling for the present one against Iraqis resisting the U.S. enabled regime.
We've heard all of the warnings that the collapse of the installed Iraqi government would have a 'ripple effect' on other countries in the region; that the formation of a stable democracy in Iraq would influence other countries to follow their own path to democracy. But, we've heard very little about the pernicious effect our own destabilizing presence there has had on the very elements that Petraeus and the administration now regard as 'enemies' that would 'follow our troops home' if we walked away from Iraq.
It is the conclusion of Bush's own intelligence agencies that our occupation not only created and encouraged those elements of armed resistance who've allied themselves with Bush's nemesis, al-Qaeda, but the occupation is actually 'fueling jihad' as more and more Iraqis and others are drawn to fight our forces 'there' as Bush challenged when he called for them to 'bring it on.' The resistance has increased, as predicted by the administration, in response to our own increase of force. Still, Petraeus and others insist that our very forces which are aggravating Iraqis to violent expressions of liberty and self-determination can be, nonetheless, effective in eliminating that provoked 'threat' if we just double-down our force presence and dig in for the long haul.
Generals will always find a 'way forward' on the battlefield, but it should be the determination of our civilian leadership - which carries their mandate directly from the American people - just who our forces will be tasked with laying down their lives to defend or fight against; not the military.
Just pointing to the resistance to Bush's own swaggering advance in Iraq as a threat doesn't give the military, or Bush, the automatic right to assume carte blanche in declaring perpetual war against those elements of resistance. The question of defending against those elements of Iraqi resistance, which the Bush cabal insists are akin to the original 9-11 suspects, is part and parcel of any decision on whether to continue the escalated defense of the Iraqi regime.
That ultimate question of whether to continue to defend the Maliki regime is for our legislators to decide, not for generals 'in the field' to determine as they press on. And, the question is certainly not Bush's to decide alone. Despite the imperious role he's assumed since 9-11 as our nation's 'protector' as he elevates the Iraqi al-Qaeda to a level of concern he's neglected to apply to the fugitives in Afghanistan, Bush and his generals are still subject to the judgment of Congress and the American people who have become increasingly opposed to continuing.
As General Petraeus told FOX news, that judgment is still "up to the policymakers and to the legislators to determine the course ahead." Despite any assessment from the 'generals in the field' that we continue past September in Iraq, possibly escalating our involvement even further, the judgment of our legislators - the majority of them increasingly in favor of ending the occupation by a date certain - should prevail. Bush and his military should not be allowed to substitute those judgments of our legislators, representative of the will of the American people that the occupation should end, with their own biased determination to continue.