My, how time flies. It seems like only yesterday that we were teetering on the brink of annihilation, worrying whether or not Saddam Hussein would use his phantom weapons of mass destruction and his imaginary al Qaeda connections to bring the "Great Satan" to its knees.
The U.S. began its invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, and by May 1 President Bush was already announcing the end of "major combat operations." Standing proudly on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, beneath a banner emblazoned with the words "Mission Accomplished," he stated, "In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed." He praised the military, saying, "Because of you, our nation is more secure. Because of you, the tyrant has fallen, and Iraq is free."
That was a defining moment for the president. The critics who doubted his decision to invade a sovereign country that had never once attacked the U.S. seemed to have been put in their place.
But the naysayers and the Bush-haters wouldn't be silenced that easily. Surely the fall of Hussein's Ba'athist regime would cause instability in the region, create a power vacuum, and lead to sectarian violence between the Islamic factions. Worst case scenario: the U.S. would find itself caught in the middle of a bloody civil war.
On November 19, 2003, President Bush addressed that very issue with a reporter from the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper in London: "The political track is developing and it's developing well, because certain things didn't happen. One, there was no great huge refugee flows. Two, there wasn't the sectarian violence. Remember, these were all - some of the predictions. I'm not suggesting you were making these predictions, but others might have been making predictions about sectarian violence. You remember that prediction. Or refugee flows. Or hunger - food shortages throughout the country. And none of that happened."
Things seemed to be going the president's way. Less than one month later, America learned that Saddam Hussein had been captured. It appeared that even our moderately pessimistic predictions had been proven false, and that the war was turning out to be the cakewalk the neocons had promised.
At that time - and for the next year-and-a-half - sending more troops to Iraq was out of the question, even for the chicken hawks in Washington. In June of 2005, Bush said, "Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever, when we are, in fact, working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave." (If you recall, that speech was around the same time Vice President Dick Cheney was on TV reassuring America that the increasing violence in Iraq was merely a sign that the insurgency was "in the last throes" - which means that what we're seeing now must be the insurgency's death twitches.)
But while the situation hasn't changed much in Iraq since then, the administration's handling of it - especially after the Democratic takeover of Congress - has changed. Not content with the current rate of American casualties, the commander in chief has now decided to send in more troops. In a January 10 address to the nation, President Bush announced that he had "committed more than 20,000 additional American troops" to the unconstitutional conflict - the vast majority of them to be deployed to the supposedly liberated city of Baghdad.
You see, a troop "surge" is needed to quell the heretofore nonexistent sectarian violence between Sunni and Shia Muslims and various other groups. Here's what the president had to say about this sudden shift in strategy: "[C]learly one aspect of this war that has not gone right is the sectarian violence inside Baghdad - a violent reaction by both Sunni and Shia to each other that has caused a lot of loss of life, as well as some movements in neighborhoods inside of Baghdad.
"There are a couple of theaters inside of Iraq, war theaters. One, of course, is Baghdad, itself, where the sectarian violence is brutal. And we've got to help them - we've got to help the Maliki government stop it and crack it and prevent it from spreading, in order to be successful."
Unfortunately, more troops can only mean more American and Iraqi deaths. Think the Middle East is a mess now? As far as the president is concerned, the party's just getting started. After all, we still have the burgeoning nuclear superpower of Iran to worry about.
So, it looks as if the Bush administration will be declaring victory in Iraq a little while longer. But don't worry. I'm sure they will let you know when that victory is in the last throes, and when your sons and daughters can start coming home.