By Ruth Conniff
OK, Bush finally fessed up: U.S. troops are going to be in Iraq after he’s out of the Oval Office, a day that can’t come soon enough.
At his press conference on Tuesday, Bush let slip that it’s going to be up to “future Presidents” to decide when all the troops can come home.
Hey, let the next one deal with it.
But I’m glad Mr. Mission Accomplished all but confessed that he’ll never be able to accomplish the mission.
That should encourage more Americans to demand the withdrawal of our troops.
As he’s done so many times before, Bush suggested that there’s another turning point coming right up: this time, the formation of the so-called unity government.
But that’ll be as effective a turning point as all the other ones: the capture of Saddam, the killing of his sons Uday and Qusay, the handing over of power by Paul Bremer, the formation of the provisional government, or the two elections the Iraqis have had.
Which is to say, no turning point at all.
And as often as Bush used the words “strategy for victory” or “making progress” or “I’m optimistic” on Tuesday, those are just so many mirages in the sands of Iraq’s civil war.
Speaking of, Bush let slip that U.S. soldiers may be put in the middle of the civil war.
While he was careful to say, “Our job is to make sure the civil war doesn’t happen,” he added, “But if there is sectarian violence, it’s the job of the Iraqi forces, with coalition help, to separate those sectarian forces.”
It’s that phrase “with coalition help” that promises to compound disaster.
Domestically, Bush lashed out at those who are calling for impeachment or censure, not-so-subtly warning Democrats of the nasty commercials they can expect. “They ought to stand up and say the tools we’re using to protect the American people shouldn’t be used,” Bush said. “They ought to take their message to the people and say, vote for me, I promise we’re not going to have a terrorist surveillance program.”
Bush said this right after he denounced “needless partisanship,” which is quite a trick.
And he was being dishonest, as his habit.
For, as Russ Feingold has repeatedly pointed out, Bush’s Democratic critics aren’t suggesting that he shouldn’t be able keep tabs on terrorists, but only that he should follow the law and get a warrant when he’s also keeping tabs on Americans here at home.
But Bush wants to boil it all down to: Do you want to fight the terrorists, or not?
That’s his default response to everything now.
To the NSA scandal.
To the critics of the Patriot Act.
And to those who are calling for a withdrawal from Iraq.
But as his transgressions mount, and as his Iraq disaster unfolds, that default response is persuading fewer and fewer Americans.
You can only browbeat people so long.