This Is the Month


This is the month of the reports. The Government Accountability Office has already made its report on the war in Iraq; next comes a Marine general, and then the big kahuna, Gen. David Petraeus. All of the reports are predictable, and none of them will sway President Bush from his stay-the-course policy. Nor will the Democrats find the courage to stop the war.

The reports can be summed up as we are making some progress here, not so much there, and we need more time. And, of course, more money. The rhetoric will be like the wind, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. Keep in mind, too, that the Bush administration people lie like a drunken fisherman.

The Bush technique is to just repeat talking points, even when confronted with facts that contradict them. Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican congressman from Louisiana, is typical of the Bush parrots. He tried to get away with the talking point that sectarian deaths are down. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer pointed out that Iraqi Health Ministry counts show that civilian deaths are increasing. The congressman then indicated he meant sectarian attacks.

That might be true, because there are very few Sunnis left in Baghdad for the Shiite militias to murder. Practically all of the 2 million displaced and refugees are Sunnis. Baghdad is now virtually all Shiite.

But the congressman tried to get away with another talking point. "Well," he said, "I would have never thought that four members of Congress would be able to walk through the streets of Fallujah."

"But you had a lot of security," Blitzer said.

"A platoon of Marines," Boustany said. The little weasel would never have mentioned the Marines if Blitzer hadn’t called him on it. He meant to leave the misleading impression that four American congressmen could safely take a stroll unescorted in Fallujah, which is not so.

Besides having been virtually destroyed, with most of its people killed, imprisoned or driven out, in Fallujah all cars have been banned since May. A Sheik Salim put it well when he said: "To say that Fallujah is quiet is true. You can see it in the streets. The city is practically dead, and the dead are quiet."

Bush, by the way, really hacked off some of the Iraqi government officials by spending his eight-hour visit on an American military base. He did it to make the claim that al-Anbar province is pacified. That’s not true either. In July, citizens of Anbar killed 20 American soldiers. The only thing that’s happened is that the Sunni tribal leaders have turned on al-Qaida and started killing its members.

Now the U.S. is arming some of the Sunni militias, which infuriates the Shiite militias. You tell me how we are going to reconcile arming Sunni militias while demanding Shiite militias be disbanded. As usual, American policy is a muddle of contradictions.

Congress needs to throw the switch and cut off the money. There’s enough in the pipeline to safely evacuate American troops from Iraq. If Congress doesn’t do that, American troops will be in Iraq and dying for years to come, because you can bet your cowboy boots that’s exactly the plan.

And by the way, don’t be fooled by this business of Bush claiming to do what the generals want. That’s a deliberate deception. It is the generals who do — and say — what they think their commander in chief wants them to do and say. Their careers are at his mercy, and they know it.

As a rule of thumb, don’t believe anybody above the rank of lieutenant colonel. That’s the rank most warriors are forced to retire at. Most of the rest are politicians in uniform.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.