Unfit for Commander in Chief
On Monday, George Bush was exchanging tearful farewell hugs with Karl Rove, the man he put in charge of US domestic policy knowing his skills in dividing the American people, poisoning our politics and branding critics of his war policies as either weak or unpatriotic. Meanwhile, the realities in Iraq were proving that the Commander in Chief remains unfit for office. As the al Maliki government struggled to survive, there were more US casualties, and horrific bombings that killed or wounded hundreds of Iraqis. But that was not all.
There are growing signs that the US mission in Iraq has failed at the most fundamental levels (h/t to reader WB, via Christy). Despite the presence of 160,000 US troops, neither we nor the Iraqi security forces seem able to improve security in ways that will reduce the overall violence in Iraq or reduce the number of Iraqi casualties. The central government is essentially non-functional; most of the cabinet is boycotting, and its ministries are simply sectarian points of graft for ransacking the country’s remaining resources (or smuggling arms), while the security forces are often little more than sectarian militias in national uniforms with no real loyalty to the central government.
Army Chief of Staff General Casey struggled yesterday to find an appropriate euphemism for a result that he and others had predicted when the President rejected their advice against the surge strategy: President Bush’s Iraq surge/escalation is breaking the Army. The best Casey could come up with to obscure the truth was to declare the Army is “out of balance.” That apparently means that despite all the neocon talk of keeping the surge/escalation going indefinitely, as Generals Petraeus and Odierno have hinted, the US Army does not have the troops to sustain that level of combat operations more than a few more months, if that. Casey knows the limiting math has always been there, but the President and his neocon advisors chose to ignore that, hoping that the surge would miraculously produce instant results. Now the Administration hopes that no one notices that by creating conditions in which any withdrawal of US forces will be described as a scenario leading to chaos and/or genocide, their strategy has been marching US forces into a deadly trap from which there is no easy escape.
Casey’s comments followed closely a report in the Guardian that the extended combat tours have left US forces exhausted.
Exhaustion and combat stress are besieging US troops in Iraq as they battle with a new type of warfare. Some even rely on Red Bull to get through the day. As desertions and absences increase, the military is struggling to cope with the crisis. . . .
. . . A whole army is exhausted and worn out. You see the young soldiers washed up like driftwood at Baghdad’s international airport, waiting to go on leave or returning to their units, sleeping on their body armour on floors and in the dust.
Where once the war in Iraq was defined in conversations with these men by untenable ideas – bringing democracy or defeating al-Qaeda – these days the war in Iraq is defined by different ways of expressing the idea of being weary. It is a theme that is endlessly reiterated as you travel around Iraq. ‘The army is worn out. We are just keeping people in theatre who are exhausted,’ says a soldier working for the US army public affairs office who is supposed to be telling me how well things have been going since the ‘surge’ in Baghdad began.
The President’s Iraq policy is indeed “out of balance,” but it is not just America’s inability to sustain high levels of combat troops. Bush’s policies have always suffered from an imbalance between military versus diplomatic and political strategies, and the proof of that is now apparent even to the war’s most persistent supporters. So when we hear long time war supporters like Pollack and O’Hanlon tell us “we might just win this war,” (because that’s what the military’s carefully arranged dog and pony show told them) they mean the US military may be scoring victories against the sectarian militias they are fighting. But they do not claim we are making progress on the political front, either in encouraging internal reconciliation between warring factions or in securing the agreement among Iraq’s neighbors to cooperate in its stabilization. Yet come September 15, everyone expects our Commander in Chief to ignore what the British have already concluded and instead read Petreaus’ report as an endorsement of Bush’s out of balance military escalation, even though none of its original political objectives are being met.
Much has been written here and elsewhere in the last three days about the pernicious impact Karl Rove had on American politics, public policy and government integrity. But we need to keep reminding ourselves that Karl Rove’s ethics and tactics have been known to George Bush for 15 years. George Bush is responsible for keeping Karl Rove in a position where he could poison our politics, just as George Bush is responsible for allowing Dick Cheney to poison our foreign policy, destroy our international reputation, undermine our liberties and assault the Constitution’s most important principles. It is George Bush who is responsible for keeping Alberto Gonzales as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, claiming that there is no reason to consider holding him accountable for undermining the rule of law and destroying confidence in the Department of Justice. And when General Casey complains that the US Army is “out of balance,” let there be no mistake that he is talking about the Commander in Chief.
There have been nearly 3700 US soldiers killed in Iraq, a war Bush/Cheney lied us into against a country that posed zero threat to America. The war’s direct economic costs now approach $500 billion and will eventually exceed a trillion dollars. But there are even greater opportunity costs that are yet to be counted, in neglected investments, health care not provided, education never completed, teachers and police not hired, schools and bridges left unrepaired, and on and on. In the last six years, according to New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, there were over 100,000 people murdered in America’s cities, including the three kids just gunned down in Newark.
We hardly talk about these other costs of having Bush as Commander in Chief, because we are saddled with a President whose choice of friends/advisers and whose disastrous policy choices require that we focus on killing Iraqis instead of saving our own country. Now we’re told he will veto every budget bill that provides “too much” money for everything from children’s health to worker protection and block every piece of legislation that tries to address energy dependence, global warming, or the absence of universal health care. Nothing critical that needs to be done can or will get done as long as this crowd occupies the White House. Nothing.
Rove is leaving, but the core problem America faces still sits in the White House, smug in the belief he and Dick Cheney and Alberto Gonzales are accountable to no one and no law. Faced with such unprecedented Presidential misconduct, tell me again why starting impeachment proceedings, whatever the outcome, does not send the right signal to them and to our own future, and why we should not face this White House every day of its remaining term with the threat of removal. Because I just don’t get it, no matter how weak the Democrats often seem. Standing up to this regime is the first duty of a patriot and the litmus test for any Democrat seeking our continued support.