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Rush Is Right

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Rush Limbaugh is vexed by the Iraq Study Group. At first, Rush said the group's report was not a cut and run prescription. He now says, "This is cut and run, surrender without the words." And, now, Rush is right.

The Iraq Study Group's report is a very respectable cover document for American surrender in Iraq. America never formally surrenders, so we have to call surrender something else. In Vietnam, we called it Vietnamization. Henry Kissinger spent years negotiating the terms of our surrender there and ended up with a deal that he could have gotten on the first day he went to work in the Nixon White House--the Americans leave and North Vietnam wins. The Iraq Study Group delivered a plan for the Iraqization of the combat--complete the "training" of the Iraqi "army" and "police," then embed some American officers with Iraqi units and wish them luck as the bulk of the American forces sneak out the back door without anyone ever using the word surrender. This is exactly what most of the American people are looking for--a way out of Iraq without calling it surrender. The Iraq Study Group has mapped it out for us very nicely, and Rush is trying to ruin it for us by calling a surrender plan a surrender plan. It is downright un-American of him. Being American means you never have to say you surrender.

The war in Iraq is a mistake, entered into for mistaken reasons involving suspected but nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. (I was not an early critic of the war. I did not support it or oppose it during the ramp up to war. I accepted the evidence Colin Powell presented to the United Nations, but I was not convinced war was necessary. I was very slow to conclude the war was a mistake even after finding no weapons of mass destruction. For a long time, I thought comparisons to Vietnam were hasty and oversimplified, especially since the first person I heard compare Iraq to Vietnam was the Vegas comedian-magician, Penn Jillette. How could a guy who juggles and cracks jokes for a living be smarter than the Secretary of State?) How should we expect wars that are mistakes to end? Our Vietnam experience tells us that they end very badly.

When I first heard President Bush accuse Democrats of wanting to "cut and run" from Iraq, I knew that America was going to cut and run from Iraq. When a war turns so bad that an American president feels compelled to start warning against cutting and running, the clock starts ticking on when we actually will cut and run. The Nixon administration spent five years figuring out how to cut and run from Vietnam and managed to get more American soldiers killed during Kissinger's utterly pointless "peace" negotiations and the withdrawal period than were killed during Lyndon Johnson's full-on war period. There has been much speculation about how smart George W. Bush is, but not even his most adamant defenders have ever suggested he is smarter than Nixon. So, we have every right to expect that Bush will not be even as good as Nixon at cutting and running. Bush will leave the end game to his successor who, with the American people's approval, will cut and run by following some variation on the Iraq Study Group's report. All hell will break loose when we leave Iraq no matter when that occurs. But within Bush's life time, other American presidents just might visit Iraq as routinely as they now visit Vietnam if we manage the long term aftermath of our exit as well as we did in Southeast Asia.

Rush takes emotional exception to the Iraq Study Group's report because "there is nothing in this about winning, there is nothing in this about victory." And, here too, Rush is right. But most Americans now believe victory is impossible in Iraq are unperturbed by the absence of a chapter on victory in the report.

Rush has been wrong about a few things. Rush and Bush were wrong to think that having a "Mission Accomplished" rally on an aircraft carrier wasn't a bit premature. Rush and Bush were wrong to think a slogan--"stay the course"--was a strategy. And Rush and Bush are wrong to think we can push on to "victory" in Iraq--a view held almost exclusively by Republicans (like Rush and Bush) who did everything possible to avoid ever being sent into combat themselves. But Rush is right that the day our last helicopter leaves Baghdad, America will, once again, "surrender without the words."