Tuesday, August 08, 2006

If There's Civil War, Is Bush Planning to Leave Iraq?

Bush and his fellow Republicans like to reduce the world to either/or equations that have little connection to reality. He has falsely accused Democrats of planning to cut and run while failing to acknowledge his own fiasco and his own inability to clean up his mess. We are gaining nothing from Bush's war of choice. We now hear from Newsweek that if there's civil war in Iraq (translation: if the civil war in Iraq gets worse), Bush may be planning on leaving:
The Bush administration insists Iraq is a long way from civil war, but the contingency planning has already begun inside the White House and the Pentagon. President Bush will move U.S. troops out of Iraq if the country descends into civil war, according to one senior Bush aide who declined to be named while talking about internal strategy. "If there's a full-blown civil war, the president isn't going to allow our forces to be caught in the crossfire," the aide said. "But institutionally, the government of Iraq isn't breaking down. It's still a unity government." Bush's position on a pullout of U.S. troops emerged in response to news-week's questions about Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Armed Services Committee. Warner warned last week that the president might require a new vote from Congress to allow troops to stay in Iraq in what he called "all-out civil war." But the senior Bush aide said the White House would need no prompting from Congress to get troops out "if the Iraqi government broke down completely along sectarian lines."

The lack of planning is one of the reasons Iraq is such a mess; so I don't mind contingency planning and such planning can happen months or even years before one has to worry about implementing a contingency plan, if at all. What is significant about the Newsweek article is that already there is enough chaos in Iraq at the moment that one can describe that chaos as a civil war, and here is an administration figure who seems to be preparing the public for a possible withdrawal. Such attempts to prepare the public have happened before and they are often followed by vigorous denials that any such thing is happening. But the vigorous denials have very rarely been followed by good news.

We have a crisis in the Middle East, growing problems in Iraq with no end in sight, and a president who seems oblivious to a series of foreign policy, economic and energy problems. But there's brush to be cleared on his Crawford ranch and, besides, all those public relations appearances can be tiring and the Decider-in-Chief needs a place to hide from his own unraveling presidency. Let's admit we have a problem.


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