What has the Occupation achieved? Despite the loss of over 2300 American lives, the country remains in a state of anarchy. The Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq (read pro-Iranian fundamentalists) won the elections three months ago, but no government has been formed. Barbers and liquor salespeople are routinely murdered by Shia militias which dominate the country, as the drinking of alcohol and trimming of hair are deemed anti-Islamic, as they were under the Taliban in Afghanistan. Executions by death squads recently exceeded death by bombings in Iraq, apparently showing a preference among Iraq's Shia rulers for an El Salavador-style approach to dealing with any perceived source of resistance.
Without any security in Iraq, the country has been given over to the type of people Bush claimed to be liberating Iraqis from. As a matter of fact, by perpetuating a visible but ineffective occupation, the US has managed to aggravate Iraqis and encourage resistance.
Where will continued Occupation take us? The casualty rate could continue to rise; included in this number must be the over 17,000 seriously wounded so far, for whom we must devote medical resources life-long. Delaying our departure from Iraq for another 3 years or so could double this number. 34,000+ permanently disabled young Americans is not a victory, it's a shameful disgrace.
However mighty the sacrifices of our troops, blindly staying the course will only force greater losses, with no improvement in security. Amplified by routine exchanges of violence, all the ongoing occupation can produce is greater discontent among the Occupied. Iraqi discontent translates into sympathy for anti-US (pro-Iranian) politicians, if not outright support for the insurgency.
As the occupation and its Shia brigades try ever harder to crush the insurgency, the sheer brutality of anti-guerilla tactics will harden resistance, as it has in any war of occupation. So no amount of force will achieve victory.
Perhaps not, if an ongoing occupation was their intent all along. The failure to achieve a secure Iraq seems to bother the war's architects and the war mongers and profiteers not in the least. And why should casualties cause them any source of concern, as generals and war contractors make plans for more war and more profit? Able to chalk up our losses to "terrorists," the people responsible for getting us into this mess bear few consequences of its failure. Rice, Cheney and Rumsfeld wax on about the progress being made there, while too terrified to step outside the fortified green zone out of fear they'll be attacked.
These bleating chickenhawks stay far from combat zones, comfortable in the security they're provided at the expense of taxpayers and brave soldiers, even as they beckon their vassals forward into the fray. Bush and his sycophantic lackeys who so eagerly embraced the war claim to be pleased with the results of their war. They continue to rattle sabers at Iran, oblivious they are as to the consequences of attacking that country, which could include more acts of resistance in Iraq, re-igniting civil war in Lebanon, and completely over-extending our military.
Yet why should our "leaders" care about the consequences of their actions? Bush and his cabal have yet to face the music--cleaning up the mess in Iraq will be left to future Presidents, according to Bush. Without accountability, or even the slightest possibility of losing office, the Bush crowd can prattle on like a paper tiger, and disregard the subsequent retaliation sure to come from those they've angered.
The absence of any withdrawal plan should be a red flag because this means Iraq can't be won. Without goals, Iraq can't be lost, which would be defined as the failure to achieve a package of planned objectives within a specific period of time. Bush's "not during my Presidency" commitment to ongoing occupation shows there is purpose in the war, even if it is nothing other than perpetuating the presence of American troops in the strategic heart of the oil-rich Middle East.
The conservative icon Ronald Reagan understood the consequences of miltary action abroad (at least in the Middle East) when he pulled the Marines out of Lebanon in 1982. At the time, the pressing and practical need to prevent the future loss of American lives far exceeded whatever damage such a pullout posed to the national pride. Perhaps memories of the escalation trap in Vietnam remained fresh in Reagan's day; the self-described conservatives of today slander talk of any potential pullout from Iraq, labelling it "self-defeatist."
Unfortunately, Bush will keep us in Iraq, even as the casualties mount and his claims of progress grow increasingly deluded. Bush doesn't change his mind and will remain committed indefinitely, "no matter what it takes," and as a result remains oblivious to the consequences of his policies in Iraq, especially those realities that contradict the Administration's claims of progress or victory ahead.
While Bush can't claim victory by any objective standard--any setting of goals has been vigorously avoided so far--he can't be accused of losing, which, in the neo-cons' increasingly confused logic, would represent Vietnam-era defeatism. In a perception-is-everything White House (and an image carefully cultivated to match) any admission of failure is tantamount to caving in to the "enemy," so the war must go on.