President Bush has wanted to take complete responsibility for the war in Iraq. Well, now he has it. And to be honest, that's what's making Republicans on Capitol Hill and nationwide very nervous. With the Iraqi government now failing to achieve even the most modest of benchmarks outlined earlier this year, the president is asking both Congress and the public to be patient and to hold on.
Been there, done that. It's time to let go, Mr. President, and end this war.
As Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stated at a press conference following the president's remarks: "The war in Iraq is headed in a dangerous direction.
"As the President and his team continue to be bogged down in Iraq, we have learned that the enemy that attacked this nation nearly six years ago has reconstituted and rebuilt itself. America deserves better. Our security demands more."
What Democrats have long understood, and a handful of Republican officials have recently come to understand, is that President Bush has never had a winning plan or a strategy for victory. Why wait until September? As Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana so respectfully pointed out in his break from the President: The United States cannot win the war in Iraq solely by military means. Nor can this administration scare us with any more tough talk about the dangers that Al Qaeda pose in the region or here at home.
I agree with Rep. Jane Harman of the House Intelligence Committee when she observed: "Al Qaeda has regrouped in Pakistan and expanded its reach throughout North Africa. Homegrown cells in England and elsewhere are increasing — and our assumption must be that they are here as well."
Our occupation in Iraq has become a major distraction in fighting the war against radical Islam. We haven't shut down Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. We haven't brought stability to Iraq. We haven't been able to achieve anything of lasting value because seemingly willful arrogance and ignorance do not make a good battle plan.
The best way forward is for the United States to make it abundantly clear to the dysfunctional Iraqi government that it needs to step up to the plate. If Iraq can't or won't accept responsibility for its destiny, why should we ask our troops to fight another country's civil war?
Iraq's leaders can and should achieve the modest political goals they agreed to earlier this year, announce a timetable for the withdrawal of our troops and enlist the aid of countries from the region — all with a self-interest in a stable and secure Iraq — to help broker and ensure peace.
Unfortunately, the president has no intention of changing course in Iraq or compromising to make the best of a bad situation. But perhaps the Iraqi government will, if it must. I suggest that until the Iraqi government makes the political compromises needed to start a true reconciliation process, Democrats should offer a proposal to fund the safe and secure exit of our troops from Iraq — without committing to additional funding of the operations.
Lately, I have been reading that Bush has been talking to historians, theologians and others on the nature of good and evil. I am old enough to know the difference between good and evil, and I even remember some history lessons, too. Some 39 years ago, the country was at war in Vietnam and in the middle of a presidential election. President Johnson had decided not to run. The public had grown tired of the conflict in Vietnam, and the only thing that kept Vice President "The Happy Warrior" Humphrey from being elected president is that he didn't break from Johnson over the war until it was too late.
A lot of Republicans running for office have vowed not to make the same mistake Humphrey did. By the end of September, if things continue the way they've been going, Republicans will not be hiding under procedural votes to delay the inevitable. They will be diving for cover. By then, it may be too little, too late for the GOP's heretofore happy warriors.
Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, contributing columnist to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, and former campaign manager for Al Gore.