Bush's unwinnable war grinds on

It's time to get out of Iraq before it costs us any more blood and money

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2007

What part of too little, too late doesn't the president understand? How much longer does he think he can stonewall Congress and ignore the reality on the ground in Iraq, where neither our allies nor our enemies seem to be paying much heed to George W. Bush's hopes and plans?

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If the escalation of American forces to some 150,000 troops - painfully cobbled together by boosting the combat tour from 12 to 15 months and shipping over units much sooner than planned - has bought the faltering Maliki government any breathing room, they haven't done much with it.

It has not gone unnoticed that the price of that breathing room for our Iraqi allies has been paid for with a sharply escalating death toll among the American troops trying to tamp down sectarian violence in Baghdad and root out insurgents and al-Qaida in Iraq fighters outside the capital.

A new report to Congress this week on how the Iraqi government has performed in meeting the benchmarks the president and his advisers set for them in selling the new surge theory to the American people is hardly encouraging.

On the all-important task of moving toward the kind of national reconciliation that might bring deadly sectarian violence under control in Iraq, the progress can best be summed up as slim to none.

The estimate of how much the Iraq war is costing American taxpayers has had a surge of its own: Up from $2 billion a week to $3 billion a week, or $12 billion a month, even as the value of those dollars sinks to record lows against the British pound, the euro, the Canadian Loonie.

Everything that can move is moving in the wrong direction for George W. Bush and for all of us. The president grits his teeth and asks us to just give war, his war, a chance. Just be patient a while longer until Gen. David Petraeus reports how the surge is working in September - and if it isn't working, be patient while he works out Plan B.

Will we be working on Plan G or F when Jan. 20, 2009, rolls around and ex-President Bush drops the whole steaming mess in the lap of his unlucky successor, the 44th president of the United States, whoever that might be?

Will the number of American soldiers killed in Iraq in his pursuit of something that can be called victory in a war that cannot be won by the military means we have at hand pass 5,000 or 6,000 or more? Will the numbers of wounded and injured U.S. troops - now 60,000-plus - have reached 100,000 or even more by then?

The visible costs of this war by then will have passed an estimated $750 billion - pretty expensive for an adventure the president's advisers told us would cost us nothing, since it would be paid for out of Iraqi oil earnings - and the hidden long-term costs could exceed $2 trillion.

Little wonder that more of the president's staunchest Republican allies on Capitol Hill came back to town from their July Fourth vacations singing the blues and talking of how the president's strategy and tactics haven't worked, aren't working and must be abandoned and some way found to begin disengaging from combat in Iraq.

A double handful of Republican senators are up for re-election in 2008, and they are feeling hot desert winds blowing down their necks and an angry electorate starting to think about throwing out all the incumbents.

The Democratic leadership on the Hill came back both chastened and heartened by what they heard back home, and ready to resume the debate over the war and how to end it as swiftly as possible. Some of them are incumbents, too, and feel some of the same heat as those across the aisle, for dithering and posturing while the best young men and women of a generation of Americans bleed and die in the sands of Iraq.

To all of them I say: Get a move on, for their sake and ours! We have better things to do with their lives and the additional $200 billion Iraq will cost between now and January 2009.

Think what we could have done with $2 trillion we are pouring down a rathole in the sand. Think what that might have bought, not only in the war on terror, but the war on ignorance, the war on sickness, the war on poverty in our own country and others where terrorism is bred out of those conditions.

Perhaps when former President Bush retires to his $500 million presidential library in Dallas he will have time to think what his legacy might have been had he chosen to fight those urgent wars instead of the one foolish and unnecessary and unwinnable one he did fight for six long years.

• Joseph L. Galloway is a military columnist for McClatchy Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young."



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