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By Bill Gallagher

"One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed." -- William F. Buckley Jr., Feb. 26, 2006.

DETROIT -- Bill Buckley, the conservative icon, wrote that line six months ago, when the situation in Iraq was actually much better than it is today. By every important military measurement, things have gotten much worse. But we are told we must slog it out or the bogeymen now based Iraq will plot to attack American families, and the unwashed hordes of jihadists will do a reverse crusade and seize our campsites.

At what point will the Bush administration recognize its strategy in Iraq is a disaster and a seismic shift of direction is required? Tragically, for the Iraqi people and U.S. troops there, President George W. Bush will never admit the obvious and humbly change course -- at least not before the midterm elections.

He will try to win one more time on the theme that his policies best protect the nation from terrorist attacks and that the Democrats' push for a phased withdrawal from Iraq shows weakness. In fact, a withdrawal is just what Bush will ultimately do, but not until after this election cycle.

The anti-American insurgency is growing stronger and more deadly. The violence is everywhere and security is deteriorating. The evidence of failure is overwhelming. The arrogant experiment in nation-building is blowing up -- literally -- as the number of roadside bombs in July rose to the highest total for one month since the war began. The New York Times obtained bomb statistics from American military authorities showing that "in July, of 2,625 explosive devices, 1,666 exploded, 959 were discovered before they went off. In January, 1,454 bombs exploded or were found."

Bush and the neocon nuts that brought us this horrible mess refuse to accept the stark reality of their failure.

"The American policy has failed in terms of politics and security, but the big problem is that they will not confess or admit that," Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament told McClatchy Newspapers (formerly Knight Ridder) Baghdad bureau chief Tom Lasseter.

American policy -- as the Bush-Cheney-Rice-Rumsfeld quartet of deception spout it -- is fantasy, totally disconnected from the reality in Iraq. Their posture is based on simple slogans meant for the domestic political audience and disconnected from the bloody truth. Bush usually saves his most outlandish claims and twisted rhetoric for political fund-raisers, as he did last week when he picked up checks for the GOP at a stop in Lancaster, Pa.

Bush argued that "leaving before we complete our mission would create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a country with huge oil reserves that the terrorist network would be willing to use to extract economic pain from those of us who believe in freedom."

That is one of the most revealing sentences Bush has ever uttered. The basic questions it raises underscore the disaster in Iraq. What is the mission? What is the policy to complete the mission? Did not the invasion itself spawn the terrorists? Why were we told repeatedly that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was a terrorist state? Why should "huge oil reserves" matter when it comes to spreading freedom? Are we not already feeling the "economic pain" from higher oil prices and the $300 billion price tag for the war so far?

And then, in yet another deceptive conflation of the Sept. 11 attacks and his war of choice, Bush warns if we withdraw, "the enemy will follow us home." Alert neighborhood watches! Patrol your campsites! Our inept commander in chief wants renewed enthusiasm for his Operation Iraqi Fiasco so we can keep those freedom-despising terrorists holed up in the desert far away from our shores.

Lasseter puts the unending violence in perspective. Simply doing the math, he provides numbing numbers. Deputy Health Minister Adel Mushin told Lasseter that in the month of July, about 3,500 Iraqis died in sectarian and political violence. That's the highest monthly death toll since March 2003, the month the war began.

Other data and trend lines show the disturbing evidence that 38 months after Bush's "Mission Accomplished" theatrics, U.S. policies are failing to secure Iraq.

"When L. Paul Bremer, then the top U.S. official in Iraq, appointed an Iraqi Governing Council in July 2003, insurgent attacks averaged 16 daily," Lasseter notes. But the number of attacks has grown steadily, in spite of the milestones of "progress" the Busheviks always reference. Since Saddam Hussein's capture, the handover of sovereignty, the election of the Iraqi parliament, the selection of two prime ministers and the killing of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the violence has steadily escalated. In June, the number of daily attacks averaged 90.

Bush spent about four hours last week -- that's a very long time for him -- at the State Department and Pentagon discussing Iraq and other Middle East issues. Bush is getting antsy as the November elections approach. If the Democrats win even one house of Congress, that means serious hearings about the fiasco in Iraq, fabricated intelligence and all those other messy topics. People would have to face tough questions while under oath.

A quiet but important project is underway aimed at extricating Bush from his wreckage in Iraq. The project is under the direction of James A. Baker, former secretary of state, Bush family consigliere, valet and toilet unplugger. Baker is a skilled diplomat and supreme political manipulator. Since March, he's headed a bipartisan commission innocuously called the Iraq Study Group. In the September issue of "Washington Monthly," Robert Dreyfuss wrote a revealing piece on the work of the group, whose task is to "devise a fresh set of policies to help the president chart a new course in -- or, perhaps, to get the hell out of -- Iraq."

The commission is the brainchild of Rep. Frank Wolf, a Virginia Republican who harnessed bipartisan support for the creation of a high-powered group to take a fresh look at Iraq. Starting in April, Baker, along with big-name Republicans like former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and influential Democrats like William Perry, Bill Clinton's secretary of defense, and Clinton's chief of staff Leon Panetta, have been looking at new options in Iraq and doing so far away from the public eye.

"Baker is primarily motivated by his desire to avoid war at home. So he wants a ceasefire in American politics," a source told the magazine. Seeing the potential for an electoral disaster for the Republicans in 2008, the commission staffer added, "I guess there are people in the party, on the Hill and in the White House, who see a political train wreck coming, and they've called in Baker to try to reroute the train."

The Iraq Study Group is noticeably devoid of any neocon representation. Those cheerleaders for the war in Iraq are no longer welcome in circles that include serious, practical people.

"The object of our policy has to be to get our little white asses out of there as soon as possible," another participant told Dreyfuss. Baker must confront the president "like the way a family confronts an alcoholic. You bring everyone in, and you say, 'Look, my friend, it's time to change.'"

George W. Bush will make that change, but not because it is the right thing to do, and he'll certainly never admit his failure. He'll do it for political purposes and to protect his corporate sponsors.

Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@sbcglobal.net.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com August 22 2006