Prior to his Tuesday evening veto of the emergency war-spending bill, Mr. Bush attended a conference at Central Command (CENTCOM) Headquarters in Tampa, Florida. He said a number of incredulous things, but none of them topped this: "CENTCOM has built an impressive record of achievement in a short amount of time."
Impressive record of achievement? Land o' Goshen! Over the past five years, CENTCOM has been the first regional unified command in U.S. history to "not win" two wars, and to make its record even more ignominious, it has failed to achieve its objectives despite being supported by the "best trained, best equipped" military in the history of humanity.
On Tuesday, 6:10 PM Eastern Standard Time, Mr. Bush gave his post-veto speech to the nation. He managed to squeeze in the standard non-binding accusation that Iraq and al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks were all connected, and threw in a handful of neoconservative non-sequiturs as well. This one stood out for me: "It makes no sense to tell the enemy when you plan to start withdrawing." What? It made no sense to tell the enemy you were going to execute a "surge" plan, and how many troops that surge would involved, and how many of those troops would be deployed to Baghdad and how many to Anbar province. And it sure as shooting didn't make any sense for Mr. Bush to roll out a map in front of showing where the security stations in Baghdad are located. Talk about aiding and abetting the enemy.
So why does Mr. Bush think it makes "no sense" to announce a withdrawal date?
All the terrorists would have to do is mark their calendars and gather their strength and begin plotting how to overthrow the government and take control of the country of Iraq. I believe setting a deadline for withdrawal would demoralize the Iraqi people, would encourage killers across the broader Middle East and send a signal that America will not keep its commitments. Setting a deadline for withdrawal is setting a date for failure, and that would be irresponsible.
It's safe to say that the "terrorists" are already plotting to overthrow the Iraqi government (what else would they be plotting?). It's equally safe to assume that the Iraqi people are already demoralized, and that killers across the broader Middle East are more encouraged by our presence in Iraq than they would be by our absence. As for America not keeping its commitments, how about our commitments to things like the Geneva Convention and the UN Convention Against Torture, duly ratified treaties and the "law of the land" under the U.S. Constitution that Mr. Bush threw out with the bathwater when Alberto Gonzales deemed them to be "quaint" and "obsolete?"
Despite what Mr. Bush and his echo chamberlains would have you believe, it is not a foregone conclusion that if a timeline were announced, the bad guys would "mark their calendars" and go underground until we leave. It's just as likely that they would gather to take one last shot at us while we're still around to shoot at, and to make sure we don't change our minds about leaving. Even if they did decide to hunker down for three or six or eight months, though, wouldn't that give us the kind of security the Iraqi government supposedly needs to get its act together? And wasn't that supposed to be the purpose of the surge?
Mr. Bush stated that the conditions on the emergency appropriations bill would substitute "the opinions of politicians for the judgment of our military commanders." The problem with that assertion is that for four years plus, the only judgment of military commanders that counted were those that coincided with the opinions of politicians named George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
On Tuesday, May 1, Paul Eaton, the retired Army major general formerly in charge of training Iraqi forces, wrote an open letter to Mr. Bush.
Today, in your veto message regarding the bipartisan legislation just passed on Operation Iraqi Freedom, you asserted that you so decided because you listen to your commanders on the ground.
Respectfully, as your former commander on the ground, your administration did not listen to our best advice. In fact, a number of my fellow Generals were forced out of their jobs, because they did not tell you what you wanted to hear--most notably General Eric Shinseki, whose foresight regarding troop levels was advice you rejected, at our troops' peril…
…As a man of conscience, I could not sit idly by as you told the American people today that your veto was based on the recommendations of military men. Your administration ignored the advice of our military's finest minds before, and I see no evidence that you are listening to them now.
The escalation plan was proposed not by military commanders but by Fred Kagan and Jack Keane, key members of Bill Kristol's neoconservative cabal--the same crew that fork-tongued us into our Mesopotamia miasma in the first place. Bush nominated General David Petraeus as commander of U.S. forces in Iraq because Petraeus was willing to go along with a strategy already approved by the "decider."
Setting a deadline for withdrawal is not setting a date for failure. Settling for an open ended new "way forward" that's really just "son of stay the course" is a sure fire recipe for more of the same kind of failure the Bush administration and its go along to get along generals have given us for years.
And staying the course, my fellow Americans, would be the most irresponsible "way forward" of all.