Bush has launched a 'major assault' in Iraq today against 'extremists' in, mainly, Sunni communities which, he claims, harbor al-Qaeda. Those assaults, dubbed 'Operation Phantom Strike,' are being conducted by U.S. forces aligned with Sunnis who've been spending part of their time (until very recently) engaged in attacks against the Maliki regime and its U.S. defenders.
If it weren't for the actual tragedy of the lives lost and disrupted as a result of these staged assaults on Iraqis, we could laugh off the farce of Bush chasing his tail as he pretends to actually have some useful purpose behind the new offensive beyond the feathering of the 'progress' of his escalation which he and his generals measure by the degree Iraqis have been repressed and cowed by the iron fist of the U.S. military into accepting the assumed rule of the Maliki regime.
At some point Bush has to be held to account for at least one of his shifting justifications for continuing his Iraq occupation. Despite the thorough discrediting of the initial lies about WMD's and al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq that Bush sold to Americans with a straight face and crooked hands as he pressed forward with his illegal invasion, Bush is still being allowed to offer even more rationales for remaining as he shrugs off the demonstrated will of the electorate and unilaterally escalates his occupation.
It should be clear to anyone who has watched this president's aversion to truthfulness throughout his term, that he has no intention of owning up to any development or reality which contradicts the strategic excuses and calculated dodges that his administration presents to the public as national policy. That lowered expectation has been accepted by legislators who've attempted to confront Bush to the degree and effect that our national debate (and their own) now mirrors the tortured, defensive unreality that the lame-duck loser has managed to bind the nation with as he's plundered, squandered, and destroyed everything he's charged with protecting and upholding.
Those lies and contradictions are so glaring, however, as to obscure whatever shine the administration is working to apply to the tarnished Iraqi regime they helped install. The most obvious is the extent that the Maliki regime has drawn closer to Iran, even as Bush works to undermine their neighborly relationship which has produced economic agreements as well as pledges to ensure each other's security. The August 8th image of Maliki and the Iranian president emerging from their meeting holding hands is an undeniable refutation of whatever threat Bush claims Iran poses to Iraqis.
There's even less solace for Bush in the normalization of economic ties between the two former enemies this week as Iran and Iraq inked a deal on an oil pipeline which would carry oil from Iraqi oil fields to refineries in Iran. There's likely even more nervousness from the administration carpetbaggers as Iraq's Oil Minister, after declaring that no country would get dibs on Iraq's oil, nonetheless, acknowledged that Russia would be first in line for a piece of the oil pie because of their existing contracts on what's turning out to be one of Iraq's most potentially lucrative oil fields.
Despite the gridlock which has infected the Iraqi government, there may yet be hope that the Maliki regime will play along with the Bush administration's new script and cobble together a compliant legislature, as Maliki ,today, threatened to replace the Sunni bloc who has completely vacated the government, with those Sunni leaders who are aligning right now with our forces in these contrived assaults against the administration's al-Qaeda specter. Convenient, huh?
That realignment will not, by any means, satisfy the Sunni bloc who've walked away from the government. They're still convinced the Shiite-dominated Maliki regime is bent on their destruction. And, that Sunni bloc isn't the only faction in the parliament who walked. Seventeen ministerial posts in his government are empty. That 'crisis' of confidence in his regime prompted Maliki today to call for a conference between key Sunnis and Kurds to take place in the 'next few days.' The invitees include President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, a moderate Sunni, Vice President Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shiite, and Massoud Barzani, the leader of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
Whatever the intentions of the Maliki regime, it can't serve his efforts at reconciliation to have Bush flailing our forces all around Iraq in defense against whatever nemesis he conjures. Bush needs a defining fight and a vanquished enemy in Iraq to accompany the upcoming report due Congress in September on the effects of his 'surge,' and he's angling our forces to attract deadly brawls whose casualties will facilitate his planned determination to continue his cynical occupation.
A successful repression of resisting Iraqis will serve to represent the 'progress' Bush needs to highlight; a escalation of American deaths will serve his generals' vengeful insistence that Lt. Gen. James Dubik, in charge of training and equipping Iraqi forces revealed in his answer to reporters about the sacrifice of lives over defense of Iraqi ground: "It was fought over and died for," he said, "and there's no reason to give it back right now."
To even an inexperienced observer, Bush's new assault on Iraqis looks like a deliberate provocation designed to counter Maliki's reconciliation efforts. To Iraqis, it almost certainly must look like just another attack on them - it can't really make any difference that our bullets, bombs, and oppression were actually intended for Bush's phantoms.