Iraq: A Reality Check

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This column was written by Robert Scheer.
How best to support our troops in Iraq? By sacrificing more of them in a war that should never have been launched and has no end in sight, or by bringing them home? The latter is the best course for the U.S. and Iraq. Our military occupation fuels nationalist and religious insurgents and we should begin a phased withdrawal as soon as feasible, while increasing aid.

Although this position is shared by millions of Americans and many others globally, it has long been deemed beyond the pale by leading politicians of both parties. Now that appears finally to be changing, as an increasing number of Republicans are admitting that the emperor has no clothes -- having lied his pants off about our motives for invading Iraq, and ever since about how great things are going there. Declining public support for the war and the latest outrageous claims by Vice President Dick Cheney have given these moderates an opening to challenge their own party's administration.

"Too often we've been told, and the American people have been told, that we're at a turning point," said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on NBC's "Meet the Press," as he disagreed with Cheney's absurd claim last week that the Iraq insurgency is in its "last throes." "What the American people should have been told and should be told [is that] it's long, it's hard, it's tough."

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, was even more blunt: "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse," he told "U.S. News and World Report," as the latest suicide bombings claimed the lives of dozens of Iraqis. "The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Even Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), who brought us "freedom fries," has found enough of his wits to admit publicly that he has lost confidence in the Iraq occupation and would sponsor legislation calling on the Administration to more clearly define how, and when, it intends to bring the war to a close.

All of this means we may finally get a long-overdue national debate on ending the US occupation. A "democracy can't do certain things if, in fact, the citizens don't support it," the Pentagon's Lt. Gen. James T. Conway admitted, citing the Vietnam War experience. "It's extremely important to the soldier and the Marine, the airman and the sailor over there to know that their country's behind them," he said. A Gallup poll released last week found that about six in 10 Americans don't approve of President Bush's handling of the war and want a partial or full withdrawal of US troops.

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