Sunday, February 04, 2007

The American People Never Signed Up For This

Huffington Post
Cenk Uygur
The American People Never Signed Up For This

A Washington Post-ABC News poll taken right before the war shows that the American people were never interested in staying in Iraq for this long or at this price.

When asked if they would be in favor of rebuilding Iraq if it meant keeping 50,000 troops in Iraq for several years and spending $15 billion a year, Americans answered overwhelmingly that they would not be in favor of that.
56% opposed, 37% favored.

That was before the war. Before we lost over 3,000 men and women in the desert. Before the 25,000 casualties. Before the $500 billion we have already spent there. Before the 140,000 troops were ensconced there for four, long years. And before further escalations were promised.

Now, who in their right mind would be surprised that an overwhelming number of Americans would be opposed to staying there longer under these circumstances, let alone escalating the conflict? They never signed up for this in the first place.

This February 2003 poll is one of the reasons that Don Rumsfeld gave his infamous order not to do any post-war planning. Because if the American people knew what it would really take to occupy and rebuild Iraq, they would have never gone for it. As you can see in the poll, they wouldn't have signed up for this, even if it went much, much better than it actually has.

That's why the administration had to hurry into the war before the public found out what they were buying. As you can see in the poll, a clear and convincing majority of Americans also favored giving diplomacy more time to work (59% said take more time to build international support, 37% said move quickly). Instead, war was launched about a month after this poll was taken.

Interestingly enough, even the people who favored going to war against Iraq were split down the middle on whether to go to war -- even not knowing its true costs and dangers -- if the United Nations did not approve the action (47% of those who favored military action opposed the need for UN approval, 50% said we must get UN approval). And, of course, the United Nations did not approve.

So, now four years later, in the midst of a war that has gone terribly awry, with costs the American people were never willing to bear in the first place, the president is set on escalating the war. This is madness.

And on top of the further costs in lives and dollars, what is our eventual exit strategy? The president no longer talks about handing power over to the Iraqis. Long gone are the references to us "standing down" when the Iraqi army "stands up." With no backing at home, no exit plan and no real hope for success, the president blunders forward full of bluster and hype.

Even the general he put in charge says we would need at least 35,000 more combat troops - even with the surge and if all the Iraqi troops showed up - in order to pacify just Baghdad. General Petraeus's famous counterinsurgency manual argues that the numbers we have in Iraq are not even remotely within the ballpark of what we would need, if we were actually serious about fighting the insurgency in Iraq.

What are we hoping to accomplish and in what period of time? Now, even the most ardent Republican supporters of the White House on Capitol Hill say that the president will have at most another six to nine months to make this plan work.

In nine months, we're going to get all of the 21,500 troops in, they are going to be able to do the job of 56,500 troops, the Iraqi government is going to cooperate with us, the Iraqi army is finally going to stand up, take over, and fight the Shiite militias on top?

None of this is likely, let alone all of it. We're not even sure if we're fighting or helping the Shiites. It's not entirely clear whether the Shiite government is even on our side, or that we even know what that side is. An American military official in Baghdad told the New York Times, "We are implementing a strategy to embolden a government that is actually part of the problem. We are being played like a pawn."

Why are the Republicans signing their own political death warrant? Who can possibly believe this plan is going to work? And when it fails, what is their out then? What will be their exit strategy from their Iraq failures?

If it weren't for the lives of real men and women on the ground and the grave consequences for our country and the world, I would be tempted to say - let them do it. The chances of success are nearly nonexistent. Politically, it's hard to imagine how they can have a strategy that would be worse.

If the Democrats lose the battle to actually stop this escalation and begin withdrawal, then they would be wise to tie this albatross around any and all Republican necks. God knows they deserve it. If the Republicans are going to risk our troops' lives on this hopeless and ridiculous plan, they should at least risk their own seats as well.