Heads in the Iraqi Sand


Los Angeles Times

June 24, 2005

Vice President Dick Cheney has never been one to let reality get in the way of his message. With his credibility already strained after it turned out that none of his pre-war assertions about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction were true, he is nonetheless still deluded by wishful thinking. A case in point: his recent assertion that increased violence in Iraq indicates the insurgency there is in its "last throes, if you will."

No, we won't, and neither, as it turns out, will the Army's top brass. Gen. John P. Abizaid, the top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf, essentially said that was nonsense while testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. "I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago," he said, adding that the strength of the insurgency is "about the same" as it was six months ago.

Abizaid's remarks indicate that the military is not going to let itself become the fall guy for the administration's mistakes, including its refusal to adequately plan for the postwar occupation (which the latest British "Downing Street memos" confirm).

Abizaid and other military officials may also be preparing to request an increase in the size of the Army. With the military woefully overstretched, it's almost inconceivable that U.S. forces can continue at their current levels in Iraq and simultaneously provide support for a conflict with North Korea or elsewhere. Even in an administration that is often reluctant to acknowledge mistakes, Cheney's brazen disregard for unpleasant realities has been shameless. It was the vice president who signaled in August 2002 in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars that the administration was headed for war in Iraq by declaring that Hussein might soon be able to construct a nuclear bomb.

The war is not unwinnable, but it will be if Bush and those close to him continue to seek refuge in Panglossian fantasies about its true cost and duration. Before the war, the administration was able to bat down military officials such as now-retired Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, who as Army chief of staff predicted the U.S. would have to keep more than 200,000 troops in Iraq for years to pacify the country. No longer. Abizaid's remarks may loom as a turning point when the military confronts the administration with painful truths that cannot be dismissed as carping from appeasement-minded lefties. If you will.