Iraqis Unite!

There’s hope for a united Iraq after all. Hassan Fattah writes in Tuesday’s New York Times:

For the first time, Iraq’s political factions on Monday collectively called for a timetable for withdrawal of foreign forces, in a moment of consensus that comes as the Bush administration battles pressure at home to commit itself to a pullout schedule.

The announcement, made at the conclusion of a reconciliation conference here backed by the Arab League, was a public reaching out by Shiites, who now dominate Iraq’s government, to Sunni Arabs on the eve of parliamentary elections that have been put on shaky ground by weeks of sectarian violence.

About 100 Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish leaders, many of whom will run in the election on Dec. 15, signed a closing memorandum on Monday that “demands a withdrawal of foreign troops on a specified timetable, dependent on an immediate national program for rebuilding the security forces,” the statement said.

I guess they really can work together and agree on something.

The television pundits still talk about staying in Iraq another two or three years, but I think we’ll be out in a matter of months (see “Speaking With One Voice,” below). The only question is, will it be an orderly and honorable withdrawal or something more ignominious? The Bushies and their rightie supporters will be the last people on the planet to realize that a withdrawal will happen, but once they catch on they’ll find some way to argue that withdrawal was the plan all along.

Earth to Tweety: Ya Think?

Get this:

Four years after 9/11 and the “crazy zeitgeist” that permeated the United States, most Americans have still not learned to know their enemies instead of just hating them, U.S. political journalist Chris Matthews says.

In a speech to political science students at the University of Toronto yesterday, the host of the CNBC current affairs show Hardball had plenty of harsh words for U.S. President George W. Bush, as well as the political climate that has characterized his country for the past few years.

“The period between 9/11 and Iraq was not a good time for America. There wasn’t a robust discussion of what we were doing,” Matthews said.

As I remember, the period between 9/11 and Iraq marked the time I swore off watching Hardball because of the crap Tweety was presenting in lieu of a robust discussion.

Speaking With One Voice

I just got a call from someone representing The Friends of John Kerry. The FoJK are pushing a petition to bring 20,000 troops home from Iraq by Christmas. I declined to sign the petition, even though of course I want troops home by Christmas. I told the Friend that I want the Dems to stop competing with each other and get together behind a single, basic plan. They don’t have to agree on the fine details, but with the Bush Administration and the Republican Party in dissaray, it’s time for the Dems to speak with one voice.

Jeffrey Laurenti writes for The Century Foundation:

The near hysterical reaction of the Bush administration to Representative John Murtha’s call for a swift American pullout from Iraq, lumping the hawkish Pennsylvania Democrat with “Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party,” underscores the war planners’ acute awareness that Murtha has breached a crucial dike. They must brace themselves for a storm surge of opposition to their Iraq project in coming months that could leave them politically stranded.

Murtha’s move renders obsolete the cautious half-steps that centrist Democrats have advanced to differentiate themselves from Bush on Iraq, but which the administration has consistently been able to co-opt. The standing ovation that Murtha’s House colleagues gave him in the closed-door Democratic caucus suggests the depth of their disenchantment, though most are not themselves ready yet to embrace his proposal publicly. But by early next year total “redeployment” (the Reagan euphemism for withdrawal) by the end of 2006 will almost surely emerge as the liberal alternative to the conservatives’ war.

I think the Dems need to claim collective ownership of a serious withdrawal plan ASAP. By this I mean a general working plan, whether John Murtha’s “beyond the horizon” redeployment or something else, upon which more specific nuts-and-bolts withdrawal procedures can be built. Such a plan should be a well-publicized feature of Brand Democrat going into 2006. And Democrats need to claim ownership of this plan now, before Republicans beat them to it.

Bush has a history of turning on a dime and assimilating former opposing positions as his own. For example, he fought the creation of the Department of Homeland Security tooth and nail, until one day in (I think ) June 2002 he declared he was for it. From that moment forward he spoke of it as if it had been his policy all along. And by adding a “poison pill” anti-Union provision, he took the issue away from the Democrats, who were for the DHS all those months that Bush was against it. As Molly Ivins wrote in April 2004,

There are always moments of cognitive dissonance in listening to President Bush, when you realize that what he is saying simply does not accord with any known version of reality. By way of good news, he proudly bragged that “we” created the Department of Homeland Security — that would be the department whose creation he opposed all those months. Also, he is looking forward to the report of the 9-11 Commission — that would be the same commission he so vigorously opposed for all those months. …

… One trouble with Bush’s “stay the course” rhetoric — he never changes his mind, he never backs down, what a macho guy he is, etc. — is that he does change his mind, often, (why do you think Condi Rice testified?), but you can’t tell if he realizes it.

Some time soon — maybe after the December elections — Bush could announce that the “mission” is sufficiently accomplished to begin withdrawal from Iraq. And then Karl Rove and the noise machine will turn the centrist Democrats’ “cautious half-steps” into talking points arguing the Dems are against withdrawal. That sounds may farfetched, I know, but I think it is entirely in line with Bush’s past behavior.

Whether Bush likes it or not, whether he realizes it now or not, U.S. troops cannot stay in Iraq in perpetuity. One way or another we’re going to leave before Bush’s second term has expired.

Paul Krugman writes in today’s New York Times,

The fact is that we’re not going to stay in Iraq until we achieve victory, whatever that means in this context. At most, we’ll stay until the American military can take no more.

Mr. Bush never asked the nation for the sacrifices – higher taxes, a bigger military and, possibly, a revived draft – that might have made a long-term commitment to Iraq possible. Instead, the war has been fought on borrowed money and borrowed time. And time is running out. With some military units on their third tour of duty in Iraq, the superb volunteer army that Mr. Bush inherited is in increasing danger of facing a collapse in quality and morale similar to the collapse of the officer corps in the early 1970’s.

So the question isn’t whether things will be ugly after American forces leave Iraq. They probably will. The question, instead, is whether it makes sense to keep the war going for another year or two, which is all the time we realistically have.

The Democrats’ window of opportunity is open now. I don’t know how long it will stay open. It’s time for them to get their act together and speak with one voice.

What’s Up With This?

CNN reports that today Dick Cheney praised Congressman John Murtha and called him a patriot.

Vice President Dick Cheney continued the Bush administration’s efforts Monday to pull back on attacks against a decorated war veteran who called for the near-term withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq….

… He used the top of his speech — televised live by CNN and other news networks — to praise U.S. Rep. John Murtha, “my friend and former colleague.” The 17-term Pennsylvania Democrat made news last week when he called for U.S. forces to leave Iraq over a six-month period.

“I disagree with Jack and believe his proposal would not serve the best interest of this nation. But he’s a good man, a Marine, a patriot, and he’s taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion,” Cheney said.

President Bush similarly praised Murtha on Sunday while on his trip to Asia. …

… Bush’s and Cheney’s comments were a far cry from initial comments by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who last week accused Murtha of “endorsing the policies of Michael Moore and the extreme liberal wing of the Democratic Party.”

What do you want to bet the Bushies saw some poll numbers showing that Murtha is more popular than they are?

Adventures in RightieWorld

Some flaming idiot rightie actually titled a blog post, “Zarqawi Still Alive, The Left Celebrates.”

I kept readng to find out how “the Left” celebrated:

Not that killing the al Qaeda in Iraq leader–and the man personally responsible for beheading innocent civilians—would really end the Salaafist insurgency in Iraq. It wouldn’t. But it would be nice to know he was dead.

Vengeance: natures way of calming the nerves.

Of course over at dKos, when the erroneous news that Zarqawi dead broke, there were immediate signs of dismay. For the hardcore Left, any good news for our troops is bad news for them. They have pinned their political hopes on the defeat of our troops.

The “signs of dismay” link takes us not to dKos, but to another rightie blog post:

Ever willing to downplay any strides towards peace or a more stable Iraq, Armando at Daily Kos is downplaying the significance of Musab al-Zarqawi’s possible death after a protracted gunbattle today in Mosul:

    [quoting Armando]The death if Zarqawi would be a positive step in fighting terrorism and, one hopes, suppressing the violence in Iraq.

    What it will not be however, is a solution for our troubles in Iraq, whose roots are political in nature. Zarqawi is not and has not been the source of our troubles in Iraq. It is the intractable political problems of the sectarian power struggle between Shia, Sunni and Kurd.

Let’s boil this down.

A. Rightie #1 says the death of Zarqawi would be a good development in the struggle against terrorism, although Zarqawi’s death wouldn’t end the violence in Iraq.

B. Rightie #2 says the death of Zarqawi would be a good development in the struggle against terrorism, although Zarqawi’s death wouldn’t end the violence in Iraq.

C. Armando at dKos says the death of Zarqawi would be a good development in the struggle against terrorism, although Zarqawi’s death wouldn’t end the violence in Iraq.

In RightieWorld, statements A and B are righteous, while statement C is depraved and unpatriotic.

Righties don’t dislike us because of our opinions. They dislike us because they are stuck in the Twilight Zone.

Righties #1 and #2 might be surprised to learn than we Lefties bitterly complained when the Bush Administration passed up at least three chances to kill Zarqawi before the Iraq War began. You can read about this here.

Related Link: David Neiwert is up to Part Four of his series on Michelle Malkin — “Unhinged: Unhonest.” Don’t miss this.

Update: Rightie #3 links to Rightie #1 and writes, “The Jawa Reports that the Left is rejoicing that Zarqawi may still be alive.” Typically, #3 offers no documentation of the “rejoicing” other than the link to #1.

Update update: See also Dave Johnson at Seeing the Forest.

Update update update
: See Steve M. at No More Mr. Nice Blog.