Wishin' accomplished

May 01, 2007

Four years ago today, as President Bush was flying out to the aircraft carrier off San Diego to declare that major hostilities in Iraq were over, here's how the papers were quoting Jay Garner, who was in the middle of his exceptionally brief career as American viceroy in Iraq:

"We ought to look in a mirror and get proud, and stick out our chests and suck in our bellies and say, `Damn, we're Americans!'"

Yes. Damn.

Mr. Garner was soon gone. The insurgency was soon under way. Reliable water and electricity have never really started flowing. More than 3,000 Americans have been killed. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have died. There weren't any chemical or biological weapons, but there now are plenty of angry new jihadists getting schooled in the intricacies of violence. The president still expects victory.

Americans like to think of themselves as people who can get things done. If they stick out their chests and suck in their bellies, it must be because they have a right to do so. So why, after four years, does all that May Day strutting of 2003 seem so hollow?

Congress is giving the president a war funding bill with deadlines attached, and he has promised to veto it. He doesn't want deadlines for withdrawal because that will tell the enemy what America's plans are. But if U.S. soldiers aren't going to leave by 2008, when are they going to get out? The obvious implication here is this: The president expects them to stay in Iraq for a very long time to come. The only way he can see to justify the losses so far is to keep fighting.

In April alone, the war took 100 American lives and cost about $9 billion. Yesterday, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction reported on one little corner of the war effort - but it's a little corner that seems emblematic of the whole enterprise. His inspectors looked at eight completed construction projects, paid for by the U.S. - not a representative sample, because most projects are in areas that are too dangerous to visit, but just eight projects that could be assessed. They found that seven were structural failures.

This is what Americans are getting for their blood and treasure. Failure, failure, success, failure, failure, failure, failure, failure. In the four years since President Bush put on that Navy flight suit and headed out on his mission before the cameras, his administration has accomplished almost nothing in Iraq, and now argues that that is the very reason U.S. soldiers and Marines must stay there and keep fighting and dying.

Damn, we're Americans! Enough is enough.

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