lipstick on a pig
Bush in oval office

Still a pig

Oink! Oink!

As they say, you can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig, and calling "stay the course" by "return on success" doesn't change a thing.

Last night, President George W Bush spent almost 20 minutes dressing the pig called The War in Iraq, contrasting "one year ago" with "today." He went through a litany of progress, taking care to omit inconvenient truths.

  • The sheiks in Anbar province are fighting against Al Qaeda. W glossed over the fact that one of the top sheiks was killed by a car bomb only hours earlier.
  • In Baghdad, "ordinary life is beginning to return. W neglected to mention that one reason for decreased violence in Baghdad is that ethnic cleansing has already taken place and Sunnis and Shias now occupy separate enclaves in the city.
  • Diyala province is undergoing "a growing popular uprising against the extremists" and "Baqubah is cleared." All well and good, except that just two weeks ago the head of the State Department team in Diyala said the situation was so unstable aid organizations could not come in.
  • "They're [national government] sharing oil revenues with the provinces." Never mind yesterday's headline that a tentative "Compromise on Oil Law in Iraq Seems to Be Collapsing" (NYTimes, 13-Sep-07)

Having painted a rosy picture of progress busting out all over Iraq, W went on to say that because his surge had worked so well, "our success ... now allows us to begin bringing some of our troops home." Those of a certain age will recognize this as the Vietnam strategy of "declare victory and come home." Bush whistled right past the fact that he has no choice: unless deployments are extended beyond the already extended 15-months, there simply are not enough troops available to continue.

"The principle guiding my decisions on troop levels in Iraq," said the Dissembler, "is 'return on success'. The more successful we are, the more American troops can return home." Since success depends on Iraqis providing their own security, this is just another variation on "When Iraqis stand up, we'll stand down."

In a flight of sheer fantasy and unmitigated hutzpah, Bush then went on to say that since he was bringing troops home, which everyone wants, "the way forward I have described tonight makes it possible, for the first time in years, for people who have been on opposite sides of this difficult debate to come together." Is there a volunteer to lead the chorus in Kumbayah?

Fat chance. All the draw-down will accomplish is to bring troop levels back to what they were a year ago (roughly 130,000 troops), and he is making no commitment to draw down beyond that.

Bush was uncharacteristically transparent about his intention that the next president will have to clean up the mess. "[Iraqi leaders'] success will require U.S. political, economic, and security engagement that extends beyond my presidency."

stuart carlson
Stuart Carlson

The big question now is, How many Republicans will stand up and say "no more!"?

I haven't seen this movie, but the title is pretty descriptive of Iraq as we know it.