JOSEPH L. GALLOWAY: Desperation in the White House


Richard Moore

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Posted on Sun, Dec. 17, 2006

Desperation in the White House


The power brokers in Washington spent the week carefully arranging fig leaves 
and tasteful screens to cover the emperor's nakedness while he was busy 
pretending to listen hard to everyone with an opinion about Iraq while hearing 

Sometime early in the new year, President Bush will go on national television to
tell a disgruntled American public what he has decided should be done to salvage
''victory'' from the jaws of certain defeat in the war he started.

The word on the street, or in the Pentagon rings, is that he'll choose to beef 
up U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000 troops by various 
sleight-of-hand maneuvers -- extending the combat tours of soldiers and Marines 
who are nearing an end to their second or third year in hell and accelerating 
the shipment of others into that hell -- and send them into the bloody streets 
of Baghdad.

These additional troops are expected to restore order and calm the bombers and 
murderers when 9,000 Americans already in the sprawling capital couldn't. 
They're expected to do this even when Bush's favorite (for now) Iraqi 
politician, Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki, refuses to allow them to act 
against his primary benefactor, the anti-American cleric Moqtada al Sadr and his
Shiite Muslim Mahdi Army militiamen who kill both Americans and Sunni Arabs.

This hardly amounts to a ''new way forward'' unless that definition includes a 
new path deeper into the quicksand of a tribal and religious civil war where 
whatever Bush eventually decides is already inadequate and immaterial.

The military commanders on the ground -- from Gen. John Abizaid, the head of the
U.S. Central Command, to his generals in Iraq -- have said flatly that more 
American troops aren't the answer and aren't wanted. For them, it's obvious that
only a political decision -- an Iraqi political decision -- has even the 
possibility of producing an acceptable outcome.

The White House hopes that its much-trumpeted reshuffling of a failed strategy 
and flawed tactics will buy time for their bad luck to change miraculously. That
this time will be bought and paid for with the lives and futures of our soldiers
and Marines -- and their families -- apparently means little to these wise men 
who've never heard a shot fired in anger.

This president has made it painfully obvious that he has no intention of 
listening to anyone who doesn't believe that he's going to win in Iraq. He'll 
march stubbornly onward without any real change of course until high noon on 
January 20, 2009, when his successor will inherit both the hard decision to pull
out of Iraq and the back bills for his reckless, feckless misadventure.

The midterm election that handed control of Congress to the Democrats can be 
ignored. His own approval rating in the polls, now at an all-time low of 27 
percent -- likewise means little or nothing.

Only Bush's definition of reality carries any weight with him and therein lies 
the tragedy -- both his and ours.

James Baker was sent to Washington by the original George Bush, No. 41, to 
salvage something out of the mess that his son, Bush No. 43, has made of his 
presidency and the world. The Baker commission labored mightily and produced, if
little else, some truth: That the situation in Iraq is dire and rapidly growing 

It's also clear, however, that Bush the son is paying no more than lip service 
to the Baker report. He doesn't want Dad's help, and the idea that he once again
needs to be rescued from the consequences of his mistakes -- as he had to be so 
often back in Texas -- can only have hardened his resolve to stay the course.

This is akin to a drowning man who pushes away a life preserver just before he 
sinks for the last time. Can nothing save this man from himself -- from the 
voices that only he hears telling him that he, like George Washington and 
Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman, will have his reputation and his place in 
American history restored and burnished long after his death?

What will happen to that impossible dream in the coming year if the 
congressional Democrats begin to do their job, issuing subpoenas and holding 
oversight hearings into the looting of billions from the national treasury by 
defense contractors and other fat-cat donors to the GOP?

What will happen if everything that President Bush does to string things along 
in Iraq fails, as has everything else he has done there so far, and the Iraqis 
ask, order or drive us out of their country?

Did you notice that at every stop on the president's information-gathering tour 
this week, there was a very familiar face looming over his shoulder?

It can be argued that Bush understood little about war and peace and diplomacy 
and honesty in government. Vice President Cheney understood all of it, and he 
bears much of the responsibility for what's gone on in Washington and in Iraq 
for the last six years. Keep a sharp eye on him. Desperate men do desperate 

Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder 

© 2006 and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

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