Iraq is an unpopular war. Pick a poll, any poll. Fifty-three percent of Americans believe the war is a mistake. Just 37 percent think President Bush has a clear plan for war. Only 34 percent feel we are winning the war against the insurgents. These terrible poll numbers is why Bush must scramble to rebuild public opinion on the war. The heart of this effort was a major speech given June 28 at Fort Bragg with the soldiers of the 82nd Airborne serving as props.
Bush believes that if he gives a good speech, everything will be fine. But the real reason that the war in Iraq is unpopular is that nothing the American government has said about the war has turned out to be true. All the reasons given to American people such as the weapons of mass destruction, Saddam's link to Al Qaeda, and Saddam's link to 9/11 have turned to dust. The only thing that remains is a broken country and an ever-growing death toll. At a certain point the American people just can't swallow any more lies.
Every event that this administration has hailed as the end of the insurgency - the capture of Baghdad, the death of Saddam's sons, the capture of Saddam, the handover of sovereignty, the January elections, the creation of a new government, have come and gone and still the steady stream of casualties has continued. So, when Dick Cheney declares that the insurgency is "in its last throes," is it any wonder that no one falls for it anymore?
In the Fort Bragg speech and in many others, the Bush administration has two central points with regard to Iraq. First, a democratic Iraq will serve as an example for the whole Middle East, and second, by training the Iraqi army we can turn over the fight to Iraqi forces and our troops can go home. I beg to differ.
If Iraq is an example of democracy, then no one will want democracy. Iraqi "democracy" is going to give "democracy" a very bad name. Iraq is a place of constant bombings, kidnappings, chaos, and death. Why would any sensible citizen of the Middle East look at Iraq and say, "Sign me up for some of that"? Bush's botched war in Iraq will make bringing freedom to the region harder, not easier. Every tin-pot dictator in the world can now point to Iraq as the kind of death and destruction that will come with "democracy."
Bush was far better at destroying John Kerry's war record than he has ever been at destroying the Iraq insurgency.
The plan of turning over the war to the Iraqi army is also full of holes. We are always hearing about how good the U.S. military is. The best in the world. The best in the history of the world. I'm not arguing with that. It's just that if we have the best army in the world, and we are not beating the insurgency, how can we expect a new Iraqi army, which is certainly not the best in the world, to do it? The Iraqi army will never come close to what the U.S. Army can do. So they will never be able to replace us. Which means we can't bring our troops home.
We can only keep our efforts going in Iraq for so long. Military recruitment is way down, as fewer and fewer young people are willing to lay their lives on the line for an administration that cannot be trusted.
Bush moves from one broken promise to the next as if he has no memory at all, but all these un-kept promises are destroying the American people's support for the war. This lack of real support will have political consequences. Approval ratings for both Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress are going into the toilet. Bush will never face the voters again. However, Congress will face judgment during the 2006 mid-term elections. If these political trends continue, a lot of GOP senators and congressmen are going to be looking for new gigs.
Bush has been waging two wars. The first war is the war in Iraq. The second war is one against his political opposition. Bush has always been more effective in the second war. Democrats are kicked around, labeled as pro-terrorist, anti-military, and anti-American. Bush was far better at destroying John Kerry's war record than he has ever been at destroying the Iraq insurgency. Bush's reelection in 2004 was far better planned and executed than Iraqi reconstruction in 2003. So far, these two wars have worked well together to keep Bush in power. But now the war in Iraq is starting to hurt the war on the Democrats.
There will be a time soon when Bush must face the choice between setting a deadline to leave Iraq or losing the Congress. That's when we will learn what Bush really believes in. We'll see what lies behind all the cowboy posing. See which war, the one in Iraq or the one against the Democrats, he really believes in fighting.
Craig Baracco is a former Cal Poly graduate student. His political musings can be found at www.craigorianchant.blogspot.com.