Leader Blues

Monday, December 11, 2006

FROM THE PUBLISHER >>Next stage in Iraq still uncertain

More than 30 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq during the first week of December while politicians in Washington debated the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group on how to extricate ourselves from a war that will soon enter its fifth year.

Arkansas’ congressional delegation and the Bush administration have something in common: They’re both split on how to implement the Iraq Study Group report that was issued this week: Do we stay the course or add more troops or get out or all or none of the above?

The Iraq Study Group sought a bipartisan consensus for a graceful exit strategy that may be difficult if not impossible to implement. President Bush has damned the report’s recommendation with faint praise, while our congressional delegation has also discussed the report in vague generalities.

Perhaps not much will happen until a new president is elected: Until then, we’ll train more Iraqi soldiers to help secure the country (good luck on that), but that will still mean many more casualties.

We’re approaching another milestone in Iraq — 3,000 U.S. dead, and at this rate we could see 4,000 fatalities before the Bush administration is out of here.

Second Dist. Cong. Vic Snyder — the only politician from these parts who voted against the war — summarized the Baker-Hamilton commission’s work in his usual succinct style: “This report does not contain some magic, immediate easy answers.”

Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., sounded like a kind of doctor who’s trying to figure out what ails you:
“The real question I have and what I think most people in Washington and across the country have is: What does the White House do with this? Do they accept it? Do they reject it? Do they take the parts they like?”

That is, will the president take the medicine Baker-Hamilton have offered him, or will he spit it out? Probably the latter.
Bush hasn’t said it in so many words, but he is siding with war hawks in his administration, particularly Vice President Dick Che-ney and Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice, although Robert Gates, the new Secretary of Defense, seems to side with his friend James Baker, the co-author of the report, who says America must change course in Iraq or get trampled while we’re over there.

Baker is also friends with former President Bush, who must have decided a while back that his son needed outside help to extricate himself from Iraq.

But George W. doesn’t want his father’s help — who, at his age, would? — and is sticking with his war strategy, with some modification: Training the Iraqi army sounds good, but he has rejected the study group’s recommendation that we talk to Iran and Syria about bringing stability to Iraq.

That’s a tough one to swallow: Bringing the Axis of Evil to the table would be like asking a serial killer to act nice.

Pryor said he wants “as many Arab and Muslim faces as possible” to get involved in the conflict, meaning Iran and Syria and perhaps Saudi Arabia, but that won’t stop the different factions from killing each other.

It could make things worse.

If you’re wondering where we go from here, your guess is as good as anybody’s. Every politician has an opinion on the war, including First Dist. Cong. Marion Berry, D-Gillett.

He said, “Now is the time for President Bush to dramatically change his Iraq policy and provide the American people with a new direction.”

If the congressman could tell us what that direction ought to be and how it will succeed, here’s hoping he gets an important position in the next Democratic administration.

But fighting a war for two more years is a very long time. Just ask the families who have lost loved ones there.