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December 9, 2007

"The Lost Year"

President Bush appears confident he can continue to ignore congress:

Bush Wants $50 Billion More for Iraq War, by Thomas E. Ricks, Washington Post: President Bush plans to ask Congress next month for up to $50 billion in additional funding for the war in Iraq, a White House official said yesterday, a move that appears to reflect increasing administration confidence that it can fend off congressional calls for a rapid drawdown of U.S. forces.

The request -- which would come on top of about $460 billion in the fiscal 2008 defense budget and $147 billion in a pending supplemental bill to fund the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq -- is expected to be announced after congressional hearings scheduled for mid-September featuring the two top U.S. officials in Iraq. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker will assess the state of the war and the effect of the new strategy the U.S. military has pursued this year.

The request is being prepared now in the belief that Congress will be unlikely to balk so soon after hearing the two officials argue that there are promising developments in Iraq but that they need more time to solidify the progress they have made, a congressional aide said. ... The decision to seek about $50 billion more appears to reflect the view in the administration that the counteroffensive ... will not be shortened by Congress. ...

The revised supplemental would total about $200 billion, indicating that the cost of the war in Iraq now exceeds $3 billion a week. The bill also covers the far smaller costs of the war in Afghanistan. ...

In a speech yesterday to the convention of the American Legion in Reno, Nev., Bush gave an optimistic assessment of recent events in the war, now in its fifth year. "There are unmistakable signs that our strategy is achieving the objectives we set out," he said. "The momentum is now on our side."

Yes, Mission Nearly Accomplished -- we've heard that before. Since the administration line that "the surge is working, it just needs more time" is being reported uncritically, here's more:

The Lost Year, by Dan Froomkin, Commentary, washingtonpost.com: A new national intelligence estimate concludes that President Bush's troop surge shows no signs of accomplishing its goal of encouraging political reconciliation in Iraq. ...

These and other developments take us back in some ways to December 2006. It was then, in the wake of the November election and the report of the Iraq Study Group, that the debate in Washington finally appeared to be shifting away from how to achieve victory and toward how to cut our losses.

Instead, Bush ignored public sentiment, overruled his military commanders and opted for escalation. And now it appears that the only thing the surge has bought him is time -- nine months or maybe a year, during which he was able to postpone the inevitable.

What has that year cost America -- and Iraq? For starters, a year in Iraq translates to over 1,000 more dead American soldiers; over $100 billion more in direct appropriations; over 15,000 more dead Iraqi civilians; and countless grievous wounds and shattered families both here and there.

In light of the costs, having bought a year of time may not seem like much of an accomplishment. But if Bush can drag things out another year or so, he can wash his hands of the whole mess and leave it for his successor to deal with...

Warren P. Strobel and Leila Fadel write for McClatchy Newspapers: "A new assessment of Iraq by U.S. intelligence agencies provides little evidence that the American troop 'surge' has accomplished its goals and predicts that the U.S.-backed government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will become 'more precarious' in the months ahead.

"A declassified summary of the report released Thursday said that violence remains high, warns that U.S. alliances with former Sunni Muslim insurgents could undercut the central government and says that political compromises are 'unlikely to emerge' in the next 12 months."

Mark Mazzetti writes in the New York Times: "The assessment, known as a National Intelligence Estimate, casts strong doubts on the viability of the Bush administration strategy in Iraq. It gives a dim prognosis...

One of the main reasons for the troop surge was to allow for a political reconciliation, and that hasn't happened. So, in essence, the argument is that the strategy hasn't worked, so we need to do more of it.

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