W.'s Head in the Sand

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

December 3, 2005

In the Christmas spirit, the time has come for the reality-based community to reach out to the White House.

The Bush warriors are so deluded, they're even faking their fakery.

This week, the president presented a plan-like plan for "victory" in Iraq, which Scott McClellan rather pompously called the unclassified version of their supersecret master plan. But there would be no way to achieve victory from this plan even if it were a real plan. If this is what they're telling themselves in the Sit Room, we're in bigger trouble than we thought.

Talk about your unknown unknowns, as Rummy would say.

The National Strategy for Victory must have come from the same P.R. genius who gave President Top Gun the "Mission Accomplished" banner about 48 hours before the first counterinsurgency war of the 21st century broke out in Iraq.

It's not a military strategy - classified or unclassified. It's political talking points - and not even good ones. Are we really supposed to believe that anybody, even the most deeply delusional Bush sycophant, believes the phrase "Our strategy is working"?

The president talked about three neatly definable groups of insurrectionists. But as Dexter Filkins reported in yesterday's New York Times, there are dozens, perhaps as many as a hundred, groups fighting the U.S. Army in Iraq, and they have little, if anything, in common.

Mr. Bush's presentation claimed that the U.S. was actually making progress in Iraq. But outside the Bush-Cheney-Rummy bubble, 10 more marines were killed by a roadside bomb outside Falluja, for a total of 2,125 U.S. military deaths so far.

The administration must realize it needs a real exit strategy, because it's advertising for one. The U.S. Agency for International Development is offering more than $1 billion for anyone - anyone at all - who can come up with a plan to pacify and rebuild 10 Iraqi cities seen as vital in the war.

Maybe the White House should apply - Usaid's proffer says the "invitation is open to any type of entity."

When Bush officials weren't telling us fairy tales about the big, bad W.M.D. in Iraq, they were assuring us that the unprovoked war would be a kindness for Iraq, giving it democracy. But they are not just failing to bring democracy to Iraq as they help Iranian-backed mullahs install an Islamic republic with Saddamist torture chambers. They are also degrading democracy in America.

They've tarnished American moral leadership with illegal detentions, torture, secret C.I.A. prisons in countries only recently liberated from the Soviet gulag, and Soviet-style propaganda both at home and in Iraq.

Guess the Bush administration didn't learn anything this fall when federal auditors said it had violated the law by buying favorable news coverage of its education polices. Bush officials got right back into the fake news business, paying to plant propaganda in the Iraqi press. They outsourced this disinformation campaign to something called the Lincoln Group - have they no shame?

You have to admire Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman. He kept a straight face when he called the U.S. "a leader when it comes to promoting and advocating a free and independent media around the world." He added, "We've made our views very clear when it comes to freedom of the press."

Exceedingly clear. The Bushies don't believe in it. They disdain the whole democratic system of checks and balances.

At the Naval Academy, President Bush talked about how well the Iraqi security forces were fighting. He claimed that 40 Iraqi battalions were taking the lead in the fight against insurgents, and that in the battle of Tal Afar this year, "the assault was primarily led by Iraqi security forces - 11 Iraqi battalions backed by 5 coalition battalions providing support."

Anderson Cooper of CNN swiftly produced Time magazine's Baghdad bureau chief, Michael Ware, who was embedded with the U.S. military during the entire Tal Afar battle. "With the greatest respect to the president, that's completely wrong," Mr. Ware said, adding: "I was with Iraqi units right there on the front line as they were battling with Al Qaeda. They were not leading."

He also told Mr. Cooper: "I have had a very senior officer here in Baghdad say to me that there's never going to be a point where these guys will be able to stand up against the insurgency on their own."

Mr. Ware recalled that in a battle two weeks ago, he saw an Iraqi security officer put down his weapon and curl up into a ball when he was under attack. "I have seen that on - on many, many occasions," he said.

Curling up in a ball. Good National Strategy for Victory.