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Iraq - Ain't But One Way Out Baby

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Elmore James' blues classic begins,

Ain't but one way out baby,
and lord I just can't go out the door.
Cause there's a man down there,
might be your man I don't know.

The US is trapped in Iraq. According to George Bush there's only one way out, through the front door doing whatever it takes to "win."

Lord you got me trapped woman,
up on the second floor;
If I get by this time
I won't be trapped no more.

To understand how we came to be trapped "up on the second floor," it's informative to consider the three American views of Iraq. Polls tells us that 34 percent of the electorate, mostly Republicans, think things are just dandy in Iraq. They expect that we'll eventually win if we hang tough. The 66 percent who disagree have two explanations for how we got here. Many feel that the invasion of Iraq might have been a good idea at least they are willing to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt but the occupation was terribly bungled and now there is no way for us to prevail. The remainder feels that the White House is filled with nincompoops who can't manage their way out of a paper bag. They always felt that the invasion of Iraq would result in disaster.

These three perspectives translate into three visions of how we get out of Iraq. The one-third of the electorate who has total confidence in Bush feels that we should stay the course; they want to go out the front door. The remainder shares the sentiment in the song,

Lord, I'm foolish to be here in the first place"
Ain't no way in the world,
I'm going out that front door
Cause there's a man down there,
might be your man I don't know.

Some in the "occupation has been bungled" group buy the President's claim that we'll be able to leave once the Iraqi security forces are trained although they are rapidly losing confidence that this is going to happen. The last group wants us to get out at the earliest possible moment; they see Iraq as a sinking ship that is threatening to take our security down with it.

The question that looms before Americans is how are we going to get out of Iraq? Will we go out the front door, as Dubya insists? Or will we find another way; "raise your window baby, so I can ease out soft and slow?" That's the question that will dominate the Congressional elections in November.

In the months ahead, GOP stalwarts will argue that President Bush and his cronies are doing a fine job protecting America. They'll defend the Administration's "fight them there, not here" policy and gloss over compelling evidence that our homeland security is a joke. They'll take the position, "gotta go out the front door, baby."

Those of us who have lost confidence in the Administration, who have long believed that the war in Iraq was a ghastly mistake and see daily revelations as more evidence that the Administration has lost its marbles, will push for a rapid withdrawal. "Open the window, I'm outta here."

The question is how will voters in "the occupation has been bungled" segment vote? Will they continue to support Republican or Democratic Representatives or Senators who parrot the Administration stance? Or will they change horses, vote for challengers who demand a real plan for withdrawal?

From here it appears that voters are disenchanted with more than Presidential policies in Iraq. Recent polls indicate a rising tide of negative feeling about Dubya, a new awareness that he and his cronies haven't merely made mistakes; they have been asleep at the wheel of the good ship USA. The March 8 Gallup Polls show that 44 percent of Americans "strongly disapprove" of the job Bush is doing; the lowest presidential ratings since those of Dick Nixon. More and more voters appear to have made the judgement that Iraq, Katrina, and other incidents aren't aberrations. They're part of a pattern of incompetence.

Given this trend, the best stance for Democratic Congressional candidates is to take a clear stance against the war in Iraq and demonstrate their competence with a realistic plan for withdrawal. From this perspective, any Democrat Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel who equivocates about Iraq, is doing a disservice to the Party.

Like the blues song suggests, there's just one reasonable way out of Iraq. And that way ain't through the front door further immersion in a civil war, which is liable to go on for years and years. That way is out the window, baby.
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Bob Burnett is a Berkeley writer. In a previous life he was one of the executive founders of Cisco Systems.
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