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Dick Cheney's Last Throes

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"I guess if I look back on it now, I don't think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we've encountered." - Vice President Dick Cheney, yesterday, Monday, June 19, 2006

There are men dragged across the streets of Fallujah, their charred bodies hanging from a bridge. A video captured on a cell phone shows a man's foot pressing against a woman's belly, a geyser of blood erupting from her throat. The Sadr militia pins the troops from their rooftop perch and this is the beginning of the insurgency and the day Casey Sheehan dies.

Mission Accomplished flutters on the ship's deck and the President poses for photo opportunities in his flight suit like a young child. Later, he says the banner wasn't his idea. How was he to know? The atrocities at Abu Ghraib were an isolated incident in no way indicative of a trickle down from the top. He would love to close Guatanamo, he's just waiting for the right time. Also, everyone thought there were weapons of mass destruction, there is no one to blame.

Yesterday, Senator Frist said, "We are making progress. We can't just cut and run. Surrender is not the answer." We are making progress. Progress toward what? And if we surrendered, what would happen then, and who would we surrender to? If you're not fighting for anything in particular, is it still surrender when you put down your guns and go?

Yesterday a translator was kidnapped and the bodies of two soldiers were recovered. They had been tortured horribly. We have to honor their memory. We have to find those weapons of mass destruction. We have to win this war, stay the course.

The Uncle is not happy with America's policy, the right prepares their attack. Nick Berg's head is cut off and his father asks for peace. Cindy Sheehan loses her son and is attacked by the friends of the administration as she holds vigil outside the President's ranch.

The insurgency has been in its last throes for a while now. We're winning, according to the VP, but maybe we underestimated how Saddam's strong-arm tactics would continue to affect the Iraqi's willingness to embrace democratic reforms, he says. Blame it on the people, the culture, the history. Anything but the planning, the soldiers, the planes, the bombs. Anything but willful lies, intelligence manipulation, otherwise intentions.

A writer is shot in the head at a road block. 2,500 American soldiers are killed. 30,000 Iraqis, perhaps many more. Still, the insurgency is growing. If insurgency is the right term. No one is safe in this country. Saddam is replaced with an Islamic theocracy at best, chaos, civil war at worst. Hundreds of billions of dollars gone to destroy a country. Zarqawi is killed and Bush receives a bounce.

The story in the media: Democrats are losing because they can't agree on what to do in Iraq. It's like the older siblings who are punished because they can't agree on how to clean up the younger siblings' mess. The child has puked all over the kitchen and destroyed the vases and wrapped his fat fingers around the cat's skinny neck and now the parents are home and the older children are punished and the younger child is rewarded. Why? Because the young child is consistently wrong and has no intention of fixing anything. The Democrats are in trouble because they can't agree on how to fix the mess the Republicans have made. The Republicans are rewarded for staying the course.

I am still waiting for a convincing argument to stay in Iraq. I would still like to know why we are there in the first place. Instead of criticizing the Democrats for not agreeing on how quickly to leave I would like to focus on what Republicans mean by victory. How will we know when we have won? Will it be when things are as good as they were under Saddam Hussein? Or when it's possible for a foreign journalist to report from inside the country? When women can walk safely without covering their heads? Instead of consensus among Democrats on when we should leave I would like to see a consensus among Republicans on what it means to win in Iraq, and how we will know when we have lost. By what measure we can safely say there is nothing left to do but go home.

- Stephen Elliott