President Bush concludes his latest speech on the war in Iraq with this comment.
"The day will come when Iraq is a capable partner of the United States. The day will come when Iraq is a stable democracy that helps fight our common enemies and promote our common interests in the Middle East. And when that day arrives, you'll (our troops) come home with pride in your success, and the gratitude of your whole nation."
With this the administration's intentions become just a bit more obvious. And the clarity is chilling.
Notice the subtle shift in describing our intentions. Iraq just became something distinct from "The War On Terror" to this extent: It can now be openly conceived of as a beachhead for the next adventure against "our common enemies" in the Mideast. We are no longer merely securing Iraq as a democracy, or even limiting the mission to neutralizing any perceived threat from al-Qaeda in Iraq. We haven't even made peace for Iraq a part of our new definition of success. Our mission will be accomplished in Iraq only when that country stands aligned against our "common" enemies.
The task now is focus upon distinguishing that enemy and defining Iraq as opposed and in common.
Towards that end the President tells us he has instructed Ambassador Crocker to tour the Middle East on his way back to Baghdad. In much the same way Vice President Cheney did recently, and in exact opposition to bipartisan recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (remember them?), the ambassador will be speaking to everyone in the region except Iran and Syria (the two largest directly bordering nations).
Towards that same end, the President continues to characterize the recent actions in Basra as offensives against "Iranian backed" militias, neglecting to note that the forces we backed, along with the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Miliki, also trace support from sources in Iran. He alludes to a vague possibility of peaceful coexistence for Iraq and Iran should the Iranian regime "make the right choices" and then goes on to list Iran as one of the two "greatest threats to America in this new century."
More than a year ago, as he announced the "surge" of forces in Iraq, President Bush listed what Iraq might accomplish for itself in the "breathing space" we secured with some 30,000 more American soldiers in harm's way. We were also told these gains would allow the larger mission to at least start to come to a close, that major force reductions would begin. Now, we are given another understanding. Logistically the surge must conclude in July, and only then will we pause for some indeterminate length of time, after we "pause" we will then "assess."
Then we might know if Iraq is sufficiently prepared to "fight our common enemies in the region."
Five years and 4000 lives gone, a constantly shifting definition of the mission at hand, and President Bush thanks our troops for what they "have made possible" in Iraq. The truly disturbing aspect is what that possibility is in George Bush's understanding of it: this terrible war, only to make possible the next one.