Not Like a Virgin

It’s kind of like virginity. It is hard to get back.” — John Zogby on President Bush regaining public trust

Steven Thomma of Knight Ridder writes that “Bush has lost his aura of invincibility” and Republicans are losing cohesion and direction. “‘There’s been an erosion of power at high levels,’ California Institute of Technology’s Alvarez said. “They’re not able to focus on maintaining the kind of cohesion that has been their hallmark since 2000. They’re not able to put the energy into cracking the whip.'”

House Republicans looked back in form last night as they pulled a political stunt to block serious discussion of Congressman Murtha’s Iraq redeployment proposal. However, seems to me yesterday’s episode in cowardice and misdirection could easily backfire on the Republicans. In spite of the GOP’s shameless mockery of his serious proposal, I don’t believe John Murtha is going away. Much depends on whether Dems get some spine and back him up. Early yesterday that looked iffy, but last night’s House debacle may have pissed off enough of ’em that maybe they’ll finally form a line of battle and start fighting together.

One of Congressman’s Murtha’s points, that Iraqis are not going to “stand up” as long as we’re there to do the standing for ’em, has a nice “tough love” ring to it that could be very appealing to a lot of Americans. It even sounds kinda conservative; it makes me think of old conservative arguments about welfare dependency — that some people won’t get serious about working as long as they can live on the public dole. Considering that at least 60 percent of the public has turned against the war, I think Murtha’s is a much stronger argument than Bush’s mushy “As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down,” which leaves control of when we leave in the hands of Iraqis.

In fact, as Christopher Dickey writes in Newsweek, the U.S. isn’t in much control of anything in Iraq.

The Bush administration no longer sets the agenda in Iraq, in fact, and hasn’t for at least two years. The watershed came in November 2003 when there was a dramatic spike in U.S. casualties and Washington suddenly scrambled together a policy for transferring sovereignty back to Iraqis instead of pocketing it indefinitely for the Pentagon and the oil companies, as originally intended. The American invasion, which was supposed to be proactive, has led to an occupation that is entirely reactive, and it’s clear—or ought to be—that the castles in the air constructed by Wolfowitz and his friends have been blown away by facts on the ground.

Dickey contrasts Bushie empty rhetoric with John Murtha:

Murtha makes a point that ought to be obvious, but that this administration constantly struggles to obscure: “Our military captured Saddam Hussein, and captured or killed his closest associates. But the war continues to intensify. Deaths and injuries are growing, with over 2,079 confirmed American deaths. Over 15,500 have been seriously injured and it is estimated that over 50,000 will suffer from battle fatigue. There have been reports of at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths.” Meanwhile “our reconstruction efforts have been crippled by the security situation. Only $9 billion of the $18 billion appropriated for reconstruction has been spent. Unemployment remains at about 60 percent. Clean water is scarce. Only $500 million of the $2.2 billion appropriated for water projects have been spent. And most importantly, insurgent incidents have increased from about 150 per week to over 700 in the last year.”

Murtha’s argument that only a withdrawal of American forces can improve the situation was greeted by troops I know on the ground, and also by the White House, with genuine consternation. There is a plan, they say. In President George W. Bush’s phrase, “as Iraqis stand up, Americans will stand down.” And the military keeps compiling metrics to show something like that is happening. But it’s not enough, and Murtha puts his finger on the essential problem: as long as the Americans are there to bear the burden of the fighting, the Iraqis who are supposed to stand up don’t really see any need. As Murtha put it in mil-speak: “I believe with a U.S. troop redeployment, the Iraq security forces will be incentivized to take control.”

This is critical:

In fact, standing down is not about pulling out. So topsy-turvy is the policy at this point that we’re not going to imagine leaving until the Iraqi government demands that we go—and you can be sure the Iraqis who are now taking power will do just that. When? As soon as they and their Iranian allies have consolidated their hold on the southern three fourths of the country and its oil.

That’s what our sons and daughters are dying for, folks. God bless America.

William Arkins blogs at The Washington Post (if the blog doesn’t appear on your screen, scroll down):

Congressman John Murtha’s speech on Iraq yesterday is another turning point in the Iraq debate. The President and Vice President may argue that politicians are playing politics and their feelings may be hurt that their competence and motives are called into question, but when one of the Pentagon’s best friends speaks out against continuing the Iraq enterprise, the voices at the White House seem ever more puny and defensive.

Arkin does on to argue in support of Murtha’s proposal. This is just part of it:

… the U.S. military has demonstrated that it can do little to stem the ever growing hard core sectarian violence in Iraq. Our best hope to restore some degree of peace between the Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds in Iraq is to remove ourselves from the crosshairs, contain the violence as best we can to inside Iraq’s borders, and work internationally, diplomatically and politically to assist the three groups to find a way to live together. That enterprise might fail, but 140,000 U.S. troops is hardly a sufficient number to contain the consequences.

Good point; our presence in Iraq is fueling violence, but we don’t have enough troops over there to control or contain the violence. Brilliant. In truth, we need either to put a whole lot more military resources into Iraq to establish some control, or find new ways to deal with Iraq that doesn’t require the presence of our troops. I vote for the latter.

5 thoughts on “Not Like a Virgin

  1. “we need either to put a whole lot more military resources into Iraq to establish some control”

    It’s a false choice, since we don’t have those resources.

    Short story: Back in 1973 I was stationed in Japan, working day-mid-swing shifts two days at a time with three days off. Suddenly the Chief of Naval Ops decreed that everybody who was scheduled to get out in May (I think…doesn’t matter) could leave in March instead. This was probably for budgetary reasons. We lost an entire crew of people (30-odd). We had to work one dayshift, come back eight hours later to work the midshift, and eight hours after that for a swing shift. We then got a single day off.That went on for about two months, and we were exhausted the entire time. And this was just radioteletype work; nobody was shooting at us or blowing up cars outside the base.

    When people are stretched thin, they don’t work as well.

  2. It was a shame how they twisted Murtha’s genuine attempt at a solution for the Iraqi debacle and especially sickening to see Jean Schmiitt with her venom sac brimming making her debut with such elegance. Maybe in another year or two when wind has gone out of America’s sails and the Kurds have played their rope-a-dope to full advantage they’ll declare their autonomy and there wont be any American fighting spirit to stand in their way. Iraq is a lost cause if America expects one big happy united Iraq standing as a beacon of democracy and freedom in the middle east.What a bunch of mindless scum who inhabit the halls of congress in the present day. They can wallow in patriotic sentiments all they want but it won’t be my legs getting blown off in Iraq nor theirs either. courage isn’t courage under the cover of safety. it’s cowardice….so let’s not cut and run my fellow heroes.

  3. Maha, I think that’s the crux of this whole nasty, smelly mess. We don’t have any sort of plan. As others have pointed out more eloquently than I, Bush’s plan isn’t a plan, it’s a slogan. And the marketing campaign isn’t going real well. Maybe they should get Bill Cosby to do some commercials.

  4. Congressman Murtha makes a good point about the costs of the war, but his estimate of Iraqi casualties is probably from, and is probably low. This Website depends on online media reports, and may underestimate the true number of casualties. Nevertheless, most discussions of the cost of the war include its estimate or similar estimates. In contrast, a group from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of health did interviews in 988 Iraqi households from January 2002 to Sept 2004 and concluded that there were 100,000 deaths attributable to the war. This estimate did not include Fallujah, which had a very high casualty rate. Their article is available in medical libraries: Roberts, L. et al. Mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: cluster sample survey. Lancet 2004; 364:857-64. Imagine what the death toll is now, more than a year after the survey was taken.

  5. Oh, in case anybody missed the latest body count..5 soldiers killed and 11 wounded TODAY..They can kill all the American soldiers and I still won’t cut and run in the war on terror. I’ll stand with our troops till the last ounce of their blood is spilled. God bless America.

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