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William Rivers Pitt: The Most Dangerous Days

The Most Dangerous Days

By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Wednesday 01 March 2006

Vice President Dick Cheney spoke at the 46th Annual American Legion Washington Conference on Tuesday to let everyone know that all is well in Iraq. "This nation has made a decision," said Cheney. "We will stand by our friends and engage our enemies with the goal of a victory. And as the president said in the State of the Union, 'We are in this fight to win, and we are winning.'"

Cheney's optimistic assessment echoed the words of television pundit Terry Jeffery, editor of the conservative weekly Human Events, who appeared with Wolf Blitzer on CNN several days ago after a wave of sectarian violence threatened to hurl Iraq into civil war. Blitzer asked Jeffery if Iraq was falling apart, and Jeffery replied, "I think actually these attacks on Shia shrines can be attributed to the potential success of the Bush strategy." The Neil Cavuto show on FOX, of course, was able to locate a bright silver lining in the carnage. The show carried an onscreen caption that read, "All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?"


Wednesday opened with a string of bombings in Baghdad that killed at least 26 people and wounded 65 others. Tuesday saw 75 more people killed in another series of bombings, the worst being five explosions in Baghdad. Since the bombing last Wednesday of the gold-domed Askariya shrine, sacred to Shi'ite Muslims, more than 1,400 people have been killed in Iraq. Bush officials in Iraq and here in America have been scrambling to slap a smiley-face on these horrors, but the threat of all-out religious civil war looms larger by the hour. The so-called "elected" government in Iraq is powerless to stem the tide.

A press release documenting Cheney's speech before the American Legion stated that our impending victory in Iraq "will demand patience and perseverance on the part of the American people. It will also require continued sacrifice by the country's men and women in uniform."

Let's take these one at a time.

Patience and perseverance on the part of the American people? It seems as though this ship, after 1,077 days of utterly useless warfare, has sailed. New polling data has Mr. Bush's overall approval rating stuck at a fantastically anemic 34%. Only 30% of those polled approve of Bush's handling of Iraq. The American people took this ride with Mr. Bush, based in no small part upon the scare tactics he used to frighten everyone into the belief that the Iraqi threat was imminent and the need for war was immediate, but it appears today that the American people feel this ride has gone on long enough.

There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, no connections to al Qaeda or 9/11. The deep sense of betrayal felt within the populace is very real, and very dangerous to congressional Republicans staring down the barrel of the midterm elections that are nine months away. Patience and perseverance? Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

Continued sacrifice by the country's men and women in uniform, now, is truly the sticky wicket. A new Zogby International poll of US troops in Iraq has a full 72% stating flatly that America should be out of Iraq within a year. 29% of those troops polled believe America should pull out of Iraq immediately. A whopping 93% of troops polled believe the occupation of Iraq had nothing whatsoever to do with finding and destroying weapons of mass destruction. So much for all of Mr. Bush's canned, choreographed, fake-turkey photo-ops with the soldiers. The soldiers he lionizes and hides behind, even while he slashes their benefits, have run out of patience with him.

This is not a surprise. 2,298 American soldiers have been killed in Iraq, and tens of thousands more have been horribly and permanently wounded. Those who remain unscathed see, every day, the horrors of war that have ripped through the Iraqi populace. They have seen the bodies, the blood, and have themselves participated under orders in the killings. They have seen their friends die. They have been deployed, and redeployed, and redeployed again. One in ten of them suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, a number sure to rise as time passes. More than any other Americans, these soldiers have been lied to about this war. The numbers speak volumes. They have had enough.

We have entered, perhaps, the most dangerous time period thus far in this wretched engagement. Matters in Iraq threaten to collapse into chaotic civil war, with the government in place unable to do anything substantive to stop it. This White House remains adamantly and stubbornly unable and unwilling to see the situation for what it is. The lies they put forth to promote this thing - handwritten notes by Lewis Libby demonstrate he knew the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame a month before he claimed to have received it, thus bursting his defense that he got her name from reporters - are collapsing into the hands of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald. Frightened GOP congresspeople, desperate to keep their jobs under the blotched shadow of an unpopular president in an election year, are liable to do anything to protect themselves and their leader.

And the dying continues.

Where will we as a nation be nine months from now? It seems almost completely certain that we will still be engaged in Iraq. The last nine months saw 631 American soldiers die, so we will likely be staring at nearly 3,000 dead by the time November rolls around. The new rules of military engagement in Iraq, which emphasize air strikes by warplanes and helicopters, will bring about a massive rise in civilian casualties. The sectarian violence between Shia and Sunni in Iraq could easily spread throughout the entire Middle East, destabilizing almost a dozen other nations.

How can this be? The answer is simple. We as a nation are being led by a man - and an administration - that perceive reality through a prism of triumphalism, that refuses to see the truth of things, that avoids hard facts the way a cat avoids water. If any further proof of this is needed, look no further than the Tuesday interview of Mr. Bush on CNN. "I know the American people want somebody to stand on principle," said Bush, "make decisions and stand by them and lead this world toward a more peaceful tomorrow, and I strongly believe we're doing that. And I enjoy it. It's a fantastic opportunity."

He is enjoying this fantastic opportunity. 'Nuff said.


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and internationally bestselling author of two books: War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know and The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.

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