"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." -- Beckett
Bush no longer has his compliant Congress with his republican enablers in the majority to roll over any meaningful opposition to his ambitious presidency. More importantly, Bush no longer enjoys whatever benefit of doubt over his handling of Iraq and other foreign affairs Americans were willing to give him when he stood for reelection in 2004. That lack of trust and confidence should make all the difference in the world when Bush slinks back to Congress to get more money and approval for his bloody occupation.
Bush sent our soldiers to Iraq when he had the benefit of a lopsided legislature in the control of his republican majority. Those are the votes which allowed Bush to leap ahead with his invasion, and those were the votes which enabled Bush to continue his occupation in the face of the growing public disapproval which climbed steadily upwards right after the 2004 election which allowed him back in office. With Bush's overall approval rating at about 30%, and with approval of his handling of his Iraq disaster even lower, the once-cocky frat boy has even lost the manufactured aura of commander of our armed forces and defender of the world that he assumed after the 9-11 attacks and enhanced as he's exploited the sacrifices of the troops in his command as they've been made to prosecute his manufactured "war on terror" in Iraq.
After months and months, and millions of dollars spent behind the lives of our soldiers in Iraq, Bush was finally forced to discard his rhetoric about WMD's as his justification for the invasion. After Saddam was captured and imprisoned, Bush no longer had the benefit of using the former strongman as a scapegoat to hang the blame on for the resistant violence coming from Iraqis toward the new, propped-up regime. After months of sectarian violence, and an admission by his generals that his bogeymen (individuals in Iraq associating themselves with al-Qaeda) made up less than 2% of the total militarized resistance, Bush was no longer able to credibly claim that the violence in Iraq was the direct product of the terrorist group our government holds responsible for the 9-11 attacks.
Now, after the election which removed his legislative majority, Bush is left to justify his continuing occupation as a defense of what he calls 'democracy' in Iraq in the form of the new U.S. compliant regime. But, with 3000 of our soldiers killed and tens of thousands more maimed in Iraq - all sacrificed to his nation-building fiasco - Bush has no levers left anymore with which to frighten or intimidate Americans into letting him continue, unabated, with his discredited, blundering militarism.
Democratic leaders made it clear in a letter to Bush this week that they weren't about to be sold an escalation the same tired strategy as a "way forward" in Iraq. "After nearly four years of combat, tens of thousands of US casualties, and over $300 billion dollars, it is time to bring the war to a close," they wrote. "We, therefore, strongly encourage you to reject any plans that call for our getting our troops any deeper into Iraq."
"Surging forces is a strategy that you have already tried and that has already failed," they told Bush. "Like many current and former military leaders, we believe that trying again would be a serious mistake."
Two years ago, there was the prospect of Iraqi elections and the promise of an Iraqi constitution, which Bush held up in front of the Democratic candidate's protests over his refusal to outline an exit plan for our troops as an excuse to hold them in place there. Now, all of the pretenders to Saddam's throne have ascended to power and have assumed their positions of authority to lord over the Iraqis, and the Iraqi constitution has been drawn and approved. Problem is, the continuing violence has served as an excuse for the Maliki regime to repeatedly declare a national emergency and to suspend their new political charter.
There has been no 'reconciliation' between the various factions in Iraq, despite Prime Minister Maliki's repeated appeals. It should be more than obvious to everyone that the U.S. military defense of the Maliki regime - with our soldiers operating on one side of the multi-fronted civil conflict - can only fuel the tensions which keep the groups struggling for power and influence. If the millions of Iraqi citizens (over 7 million in Baghdad alone) decide they don't approve of the new regime, there's nothing our troops can do to shove Bush's version of democracy down their throats.
Bush wants to "surge" forward in Iraq with an influx of additional troops, and to dig in around the embattled Iraqi government in Baghdad. At the same time, as the NYT reported today, with the aid of the token reinforcements, Bush would have our soldiers increase their patrols of the Iraqi neighborhoods; policing and busting down doors along with their Iraqi apprentices. The rest of his escalation would reportedly center on the Anbar province, the center of the 'Sunni Triangle', the location of the Ramadi and Fallujah neighborhoods which were the site of the early battles between U.S./Iraqi forces and the resistance. There is nothing more that our soldiers can do fighting and dying in these areas, except, to kill more Iraqis; the very individuals Bush claims to be liberating with his aggression.
The American opinion of our soldiers' prospects in Iraq have been shaped by the reality of the increasingly high numbers of those maimed and killed, but, those opinions have also been shaped by the fact that there is nothing left untried, or unknown for Bush to point to and promise Americans the moon. We've learned that elections aren't democracy, nor are those who manage to get elected necessarily going to govern democratically. And, we've learned that exposing a civilian population to a historical dose of American 'shock and awe' doesn't guarantee us a reception of flowers or frightened obedience from the hapless, unarmed residents who find themselves in the way.
There is nothing Bush can tell us, when he finally gets enough gall to unveils his planned "way forward" in Iraq, which would convince anyone already opposed to the occupation to agree that he should continue. Go forward in Iraq to fight the terrorists? The ones who Bush vowed to apprehend, "dead or alive" have found 'safe haven' in Afghanistan from which they've repeatedly launched their propaganda at will and influenced a new generation of combatants opposed to the U.S. by the fact of their freedom. Defend democracy? There is no democracy to be found in Iraq to defend.
However, there are more than enough avenues of democracy to defend here in the U.S. as our Democratic legislators exercise their new authority. There are more levers of that authority for Bush to respond to than just direct resolutions and fiddling with the war funds. Bush's republican partners in Congress will soon be pressuring him to move off of his Iraq fiasco to enable them to deliver on the other needs and concerns of their constituencies which they will need Democratic votes and accommodation to achieve. All of the posturing and bravado coming from the White House as they shuffle personnel and policy will fall flat when it comes to face the reality of an obstinate Democratic majority with the purse strings firmly in hand before the next presidential contest.
It will take more than the same old 'fear and smear' tactics which worked to Bush's advantage in 2004. They didn't work this last November because the republican argument for all of their military muckraking is bankrupt with the American people. They just don't get it. Americans demanded a 'way out' of Iraq, not a "way forward" as Bush is set to sell. We're just not buying it.