At Last! The Immovable Object Meets An Irresistible Force

07/27/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It's called democracy, and it's what we promised the Iraqis when we invaded and occupied their country six years ago.

While our two finalists for the White House slug it out here, Iraqi politicians are looking forward to an election of their own this fall, and the prospect of that election goes a long way toward explaining why the White House has failed to secure the status of forces agreement that it badly wanted signed by the first of July.

Poor Bush. All he wanted was the right for American forces to occupy Iraq indefinitely, to be immune from any punishment for killing or wounding Iraqi civilians (surely our APOLOGY is enough, isn't it?), and to get the same immunity for all of our contractors.

Now just imagine you're Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Malaki running for re-election, and you decide, like a good little American puppet, to run on a platform that promises your country will be indefinitely occupied by a foreign army with the right to kill or wound any civilians it deems expendable, or just inconveniently in the way of its guns and bombs. Running on that good, solid, American-made platform, how many votes do you think you'd get?

The latest statement about Iraq from the White House, issued on Friday, suggests a dawning awareness of this question. After years of adamantly refusing to consider any timetable for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, President Bush's brief report on his latest private conference with al-Maliki indicates they have agreed to treat the word "time" as something other than an expletive to be deleted. Carefully avoiding the dreaded word "timetable," they have

agreed that improving conditions should allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq.

Never in the long history of human obfuscation has any speechwriter ever worked so hard to disguise a marshmallow as a bone. Can't do timetable, Nuri, but we can throw you "a general time horizon." Can't make a specific commitment, Nuri, but we can give you "aspirational goals." Can't say when or how many soldiers we'll withdraw, but we can offer the POSSIBILITY of "further reduction of U.S. combat forces." In other words, we hope that by the end of this millennium we might be able to withdraw some more of our troops. Now THERE'S a platform to run on, Nuri! Can't you hear them cheering in the streets of Baghdad right now? Can't you see Moktada al-Sadr beating him palms raw as he applauds this news? You can't? I guess that's because you think the White House account of your conference with Bush isn't even worthy of being called marshmallow fluff. At least that's what I infer from your interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. In the interview, released this very day, you unequivocally support Barack Obama's timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Here's what you said:

U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama talks about 16 months. That, we think, would be the right timeframe for a withdrawal, with the possibility of slight changes.

Mr. President, any comment?

Senator McCain, do you still think we should be ready to stay in Iraq for 100 years?