In its early stages, the Bush escalation plan has encountered many “glitches,” and yet the administration claims “so far, so good.” This week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that the escalation could be twice as large as President Bush has claimed, stating that the 21,500 troops that will be sent to Iraq need to be accompanied by as many as 28,000 support troops. The White House responded that the additional troops won’t need additional support. The administration then stated that it could not project the amount of funding that Iraq will require past 2009. Yet the CBO was able to estimate that the cost for Bush’s plan would be $919 billion over the next 10 years. For an unpopular president trying to execute an unpopular strategy, a more candid and honest approach is needed.
- Before President Bush’s escalation has even had an opportunity to fully take hold in Iraq, the Iraqi government has acknowledged that the cause may be lost. Basim Shareef, a Shiite member of Parliament said, “A long time has passed since the plan was announced. But so far security has only deteriorated.” Following a deadly bombing earlier this month that killed at least 125 people in Baghdad, “a growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war.” Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said recently that his government had stumbled in its efforts to carry out a new security plan in Baghdad and that the delays and mounting violence were hurting its credibility with the Iraqi people. “I feel that we are late,” he said in an address to his senior military commanders that was broadcast live on Iraqi national television. “This delay is giving a negative impression and has led some people to say that we have already failed.”
- The insurgency has intensified and adapted in the face of the new escalation strategy. In the last three weeks, six U.S. helicopters have crashed–at least four of them confirmed to be the result of enemy fire. Military analyst Anthony Cordesman said, “The insurgents may have found a new, high profile way to attack the U.S. at a time they are fighting a political and perceptual battle against the U.S.” American officials say “the streak strongly suggests that insurgents have adapted their tactics and are now putting more effort into shooting down the aircraft.” One senior military official suggested that the recent helicopter downings were the direct result of the U.S. escalation strategy, arguing that it has intensified Iraqi violence. “There is certainly the expectation here that insurgents are trying to inflict some losses as we’re building up forces as a means to try to discourage the Iraqis and us that this is a futile plan,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
- Conservatives in Congress are ducking a full and free debate on escalation in Iraq. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed, “We are ready and anxious to have this debate [on Bush’s escalation strategy] this week.” But when presented the opportunity to begin that debate, McConnell and the majority of his conservative allies voted this week to block “debate on a bipartisan resolution opposing President Bush’s troop buildup in Iraq.” “You can run but you can’t hide,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told his colleagues on the floor. “We are going to debate Iraq. ” At least eight senators who publicly claimed to oppose Bush’s escalation strategy voted to cut off debate on the resolution, in effect voting for escalation. In the lead-up to the vote, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) chided his colleagues to take a principled stand on the anti-escalation resolution. “If you want a safe job, go sell shoes.” Conservative Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN) and Susan Collins (R-ME) heeded the call and voted in favor of continuing the debate. When it came time to for Hagel to vote, however, he opted not to go on the record about his opposition to Bush’s plan. After the vote, the “anti-escalation” senators who voted for escalation flip-flopped again. Seven of those senators sent a sharply worded letter to their leaders, saying: “The current stalemate is unacceptable to us and to the people of this country.”
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