My People of the Year are the 23 senators (21 Democrats, one Republican and one Independent) who voted against Bush's Iraq War Resolution more than four years ago. These are the senators who agreed with Robert Byrd, who warned that the president was asking the Congress to give him Gulf of Tonkin II, a blank check to wage war against a country that hadn't declared war, nor invaded, nor even threatened the United States. These 23 saw this mess coming and had the courage of their convictions to oppose it.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & O & lt;/span & ne would think that our besieged president would want desperately to save whatever is left of his ever-diminishing opportunity to leave a legacy that won't forever brand him as the most ignorant, arrogant, destructive and reckless president America has ever been unfortunate enough to elect. But after listening to his "plan to move forward" speech the other night, I am led to conclude that he is so limited a political leader that the very question of legacy is simply beyond his grasp. The man continues to garble his way through this terrible situation he has brought about, using a vocabulary that, after six years, reveals no serious change, neither in attitude nor perception. The always measured David Gergen, after listening to Bush's speech, put the situation succinctly when he said that America had suffered through "a complete failure of leadership over the past four years."
While Bush did seem somewhat chastened the other night, really nothing has changed, except for the exit of Donald Rumsfeld. Bush continues to reduce an ever more complex problem to a war between "good guys" and "bad guys." And he continues to assert that we need more troops on the ground to kill the bad guys and that this will fix the problem.
He plans on sending more than 21,000 troops to the war zone to help the Iraqi army stop the violence "and give democracy a chance." He wants the rules of engagement opened up to permit these troops to more effectively bring the war to the "bad guys." He says that his new game plan comes right out of Gen. David Petraeus' new battle tactics manual. But as he has done so many times, while giving lip service to good advice, his actions never quite measure up. It is as if Bush believes he is playing horseshoes, as if close is good enough.
Yes, Petraeus argues against search-and-destroy and in favor of search-and-occupy -- and Bush now says he is on board with that approach. But according to Gergen (who took the time to read in its entirety Petraeus' new manual on the subject), the Petraeus plan requires 10 times as many troops as Bush intends to send. Moreover, military leaders are arguing for more "advisors," not more American military engagement. Bush has announced just the opposite intention; in fact, he will send 4,000 of these 21,000 troops to stabilize Anbar Province.
And while his "plan for a way forward" calls for embedding these troops into the Iraqi army and neighborhoods, he is sending no translators (who, one would suppose, will be needed). He is sending none because he has none to send.
& lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & W & lt;/span & hat hasn't even been addressed is the effect of the mass middle- and upper-middle-class exodus from Iraq over the past two years, the very people the administration was counting on to rebuild the country: doctors, managers, administrators, scientists, teachers, lawyers, successful tradesmen. If professionals like these could afford to get out, they have -- some 1.8 million Iraqis have fled to neighboring states, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The middle class is leaving because the insurgency has become more a class war than a religious war. A kind of Lord of the Flies nightmare.
Before Rumsfeld's undermanned army showed up, Iraqis at least had cities that hadn't been reduced to rubble, had electricity and could go shopping without fear of being murdered.
America is now in the Neverland of hoping against hope. And confidence in Bush has dropped to below 30 percent.
The default position, now being taken by both the president and, yes, many congressional Democrats, is immoral. It goes something like this: We did the Iraqis a favor by taking down Saddam Hussein. We have given them almost four years now to create a democratic government. They haven't succeeded. It's their fault. If they don't get their act together, we are outta there.
Give the disgraced Colin Powell this much: He was right when he told Bush, "If you break it, you own it." Now Bush wants to give it back -- in pieces.