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The Soldiers Speak. Will President Bush Listen?

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For now, we've become the piņata of Iraqi politics, something for Iraqi demagogues to bash to boost their own legitimacy. Moktada al-Sadr, one of the scariest Iraqi leaders, has very shrewdly used his denunciations of the U.S. to boost his own political following and influence across Iraq; that's our gift to him, a consequence of our myopia. And many ordinary Iraqis are buying into this scapegoating of the U.S. Edward Wong, one of my intrepid Times colleagues in Baghdad, quoted a clothing merchant named Abdul-Qader Ali as saying: "I can tell you the main reason behind all our woes -- it is America. Everything that is going on between Sunnis and Shiites, the troublemaker in the middle is America."

Will a timetable work? I don't know, but it's a better bet than our present policy of whistling in the dark. And it's what the troops favor -- and they're the ones who have Iraq combat experience. It's time our commander in chief stopped stage-managing his troops and listened to them.

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At www.topplebush.com

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