Outside editorial: Rolling dice in a war gone awry

Posted: Tuesday, February 20, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Seattle Times:

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Watching President Bush's latest news conference, our minds wandered. More words. We had heard them before. What drew our attention was the face. It was the face of a man with no confidence in what he was saying.

By sending more soldiers, the U.S. government could "help the Iraqis secure the capital." This, in turn, could provide "political breathing space" for Iraqi politicians to do the work of "reconciliation."

Those were the words. The quivering lip, the just-woke-up manner, the movement of the eyes, were saying something different. Here was a man who knew that the great gamble of his life had not paid off. He knew the people watching him knew it. He was proposing another roll of the dice at odds none too good, but that postponed admitting a major mistake.

Bush is not alone in this. Antiwar Democrats are hounding Hillary Clinton to admit she was wrong to vote for the war resolution of October 2002. She won't do it. Democrats in Washington state pressed Sen. Maria Cantwell during last year's campaign to admit her pro-war vote was wrong, and she wouldn't do it, either.

Politically, it is too painful for leaders to admit their policy choices were wrong.

In our fantasies, we can imagine the president saying, "I made the wrong decision about Iraq, and I'm changing course." He could do it. Millions of Americans would cheer him if he did. But he won't. In our political culture, he can't. He is stuck with the war.

And we are stuck with him until Jan. 20, 2009.

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