Every time I hear the words “Iraq Study Group” the phrase triggers a little involuntarily interior monologue that goes something like this:
“Study Group” — it sounds like a group of undergraduates cramming for finals. Isn’t “studying” what the Bush administration should have been doing back in 2002 and 2003 when it created the mess the Baker commission is desperately seeking a path out of today? What exactly is it that the “Study Group” is studying that the Bush White House, which appointed it, hasn’t already seen?
Hundreds of people are dying every day in Iraq, but the president has decided to let his disgraced Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, hang around a few weeks longer just so he can claim the title of “longest ever serving defense secretary.” Could there be a more ludicrous indication of how disconnected the White House has become from the carnage it has unleashed?
What options is the Study Group likely to propose — in the way of negotiations with Iraq’s neighbors, pressure on the Iraqi government, or timetables for withdrawal — that aren’t already obvious? What are we waiting for? Why are our leaders and the press splitting hairs over whether Iraq is in a state of “sectarian violence” or “civil war” or total anarchy?
The trouble is, our problems don’t lie where a “Study Group” might help, in figuring out what to do; they lie with an administration that has created a national disaster and now decided that cleaning up the disaster is not its problem at all. If you look at the coverage from Sunday’s Times exploring different roads forward for the U.S. in Iraq — “In Search of the Fixers” or the accompanying infographic — there is a strange absence of voices from the Executive Branch. After years of declaring victory and advocating “staying the course,” Bush and his team have now simply gone silent. (Or “checked out,” as Josh Marshall put it.)
It’s as if Bush, having driven the nation into a ditch, now wants to dust off his suit and walk away from the wreck. Trouble is, he’s not handing over the keys.
Now here’s something constructive the Study Group could recommend: The president needs to take responsibility for his failure and be a president for the next two years, leading the U.S. out of Iraq so it can repair its relationships with its allies, rebuild its armed forces and resume the real war we’re fighting against the group that attacked us on 9/11.
If Bush is unable to do that — and he may well be — he and his vice president should have the courage and honesty to resign. And the Baker commission should have the courage and honesty to say that to the president. In a parliamentary system, Bush and his people would have been out on their ears after this month’s election. That’s not our system — but we can improvise if we have to.
I don’t know whether, if Bush and Cheney actually did this before the new Congress takes office, Dennis Hastert would become president. After the Congressional transition, it would be Nancy Pelosi. Neither, of course, seems likely to move into the White House any time soon. But how can the country begin to move beyond our current disastrous paralysis, other than by starting with a clean sweep at the top? Are we going to spend the next two years pretending that we’re still “nation-building” and “fighting the terrorists” while American soldiers keep filling body bags and Iraqi morgues keep overflowing?
[tags]iraq, iraq study group, bush resignation[/tags]
There are no revisions for this post.