President Bush concludes his latest speech on the war in Iraq with this comment.
"The day will come when Iraq is a capable partner of the United States. The day will come when Iraq is a stable democracy that helps fight our common enemies and promote our common interests in the Middle East. And when that day arrives, you'll (our troops) come home with pride in your success, and the gratitude of your whole nation. God bless you."
"...fight our common enemies and promote our common interests in the Middle East."
With this the administration's intentions become just a bit more obvious. And that clarity is chilling.
Notice the subtle shift in describing our intentions. Iraq just became something distinct from "The War On Terror" to this extent: It can now be openly conceived of as a beachhead for the next adventure against "our common enemies" in the Mideast. We are no longer merely or specifically securing Iraq as a democracy, nor even limiting the mission to neutralizing any perceived threat from al-Qaeda in Iraq. We haven't even made peace for Iraq a part of our new definition of success. Our mission will be accomplished in Iraq only when that country stands aligned to fight against our "common" enemies.
The task now is focus upon distinguishing that enemy and defining Iraq as opposed to that enemy and in common with us.
Towards that end the President tells us that he has instructed Ambassador Crocker to tour the Middle East on his way back to Baghdad. In much the same way Vice President Cheney did recently, and in exact opposition to bipartisan recommendations of the Iraq Study Group (remember them?), the ambassador will be speaking to everyone in the region —except Iran and Syria (the two largest directly bordering nations).
Towards that same end, the President continues to characterize the recent actions in Basra as offensives against "Iranian backed" militias, neglecting to note that the forces we backed, along with the Iraqi government of Nouri al-Maliki, also trace support from sources in Iran. He alludes to a vague possibility of peaceful coexistence for Iraq and Iran should the Iranian regime "make the right choices" and then goes on to list Iran as one of the two "greatest threats to America in this new century."
Towards that same end —establishing the same pretext, the Vice President makes his own tour of the Arab world, sounding the alarm about an Iranian nuclear threat our own national intelligence agencies have discounted.
More than a year ago, as he announced the "surge" of forces in Iraq, President Bush listed what Iraq might accomplish for itself in the "breathing space" we secured with some 30,000 more American soldiers in harm's way. At the time we were given to understand these Iraqi tasks as requirements —not what Iraq might accomplish but what it must address. These were "benchmark" conditions for the continued American involvement that would be the measure of "the surge" —it's success or failure. We were told these gains, once accomplished, would allow the larger mission to at least start to come to a close, that major American force reductions would begin.
Now, we are given another understanding. Iraq might begin to address the "benchmarks" set out more than a year ago. They might ...sometime soon. Logistically the surge must conclude in July, and only then will we pause for some indeterminate length of time, after we "pause" we will then "assess." Once we've taken the time to properly assess, the administration, or perhaps the next, might advise the American public on the remote possibility of our soldiers coming home.
For only then we might know if Iraq is sufficiently prepared to "fight our common enemies in the region."
Towards the end of President Bush's speech he thanks American soldiers for their service in Iraq. He tells them that what "they have made possible in Iraq is a brilliant achievement in American history." Five years and 4000 American soldiers' lives gone, a constantly shifting definition of the mission at hand, and President Bush thanks our troops for what they "have made possible" in Iraq. The truly disturbing aspect is what that possibility might be in George Bush's understanding of it: this terrible war, only to make possible the next one.