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Jacob Heilbrunn

Jacob Heilbrunn

Posted: December 14, 2008 06:48 PM

Bush's Solecisms in Iraq


Not since Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev took off his shoe and pounded it at the United Nations has anyone had the effect that an Iraqi journalist did when he hurled both his shoes, one after the other, at President Bush during his new conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki. While Bush talked about the great progress America is making in Iraq, his assailant was having none of it. Nor should anyone else. The flying shoes shouldn't distract attention from Bush's continued delusions about the conflict in Iraq and elsewhere.

Earlier this week, Bush gave an address at West Point, where he hailed the progress his administration has made in battling terror. Along the way, Bush referred to Donald Rumsfeld. one of the architects of the Iraq War, as an "enterprising leader." The future officers should have howled in protest at this reference to the Defense Secretary who sent the troops with in with no real body armor. Instead, they applauded Bush. At his press conference today, Bush was no less delusional. The surge, he said, is "one of the greatest successes in the history of the United States military."

No, it isn't. The surge was only necessary because Bush endorsed a wholly defective plan for battle. In fact, the greatest deficiency was that America had no business being in Iraq in the first place. The surge was only necessary because of the calamitous choices that Bush has made, or allowed his associates to make. Once America withdraws from iraq, the danger of civil war will remain acute.

At West Point on Monday, though, Bush acted as though he was the Winston Churchill of our time, leaving behind a victorious record. The only real difficulty, he suggested, was that "One of the most important challenges we will face, and you will face, in the years ahead is helping our partners assert control over ungoverned spaces. This problem is most pronounced in Pakistan, where areas along the Afghanistan border are home to Taliban and to al-Qaeda fighters. The Pakistani government and people understand the threat, because they have been victims of terror themselves. They're working to enforce the law and fight terror in the border areas."
No, they aren't. Pakistan, which consists of warring fiefdoms, is barely able to keep itself from falling apart, much less go on the offensive against its enemies. The one thing it seems able to export is terrorism, while remaining on the American dole.

But why would anyone expect reality from the Bush administration in its final weeks? As Bush jets back from Iraq, he is returning to a country that seems almost as in bad condition, with a failing economy, rising joblessness, and collapsing production. Bush has never thought small. Instead, his failures have been on the grandest possible scale.