White House officials fear that the last pillars of political support among Senate Republicans for President Bush’s Iraq strategy are collapsing around them, according to several administration officials and outsiders they are consulting. They say that inside the administration, debate is intensifying over whether Mr. Bush should try to prevent more defections by announcing his intention to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from the high-casualty neighborhoods of Baghdad and other cities.Not even the semblance of a withdrawal, really; just a retreat from body counts that include Americans. Because this is what we have wrought:
The death toll from a suicide truck bombing in a remote village in northern Iraq rose to about 150 on Sunday, making it one of the deadliest single bombings, if not the deadliest, since the 2003 invasion.But as long as no Americans are counted among the dead, it doesn't really matter. Besides, withdrawal doesn't have to mean "withdrawal." I'm sure if they could find a French word for it, they'd be more than happy to use it about now.
The attack, in the impoverished Shiite Turkmen village of Amerli, 100 miles north of Baghdad in Salahuddin Province, has highlighted fears that Sunni insurgents facing military crackdowns in Baghdad and Diyala Province are simply directing their attacks to areas outside the concentration of American troops.
And let's not forget:
Overall, soldiers in Iraq are facing a greater exposure to some key traumatic events than in the past, according to the report, the Army's third mental health survey conducted in Iraq since 2003. Seventy-six percent of soldiers surveyed, for example, said they knew someone who had been seriously injured or killed, and 55 percent experienced the explosion of a roadside bomb or booby trap nearby.and:
Combat stress is significantly higher among soldiers with at least one previous tour -- 18.4 percent, compared with 12.5 percent of those on their first deployment, the survey found.So, to satisfy our politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, let's keep 'em there just a little longer, eh?
"The most likely explanation . . . is that a number of soldiers returned" to Iraq "with acute stress/combat stress symptoms" that were unresolved from previous tours, it said.
Soldiers with multiple tours also reported greater concern over the length of the 12-month deployments than those on their first tours and were more likely to give lower ratings for their own morale and that of their units, which 55 percent described as low.
This contrasts with 45 percent for soldiers overall, who rated unit morale higher than in the two earlier surveys, in 2003 and 2004.
Let's also not forget, we've heard all this before:
The Bush administration is developing what are described as concepts for reducing American combat forces in Iraq by as much as half next year, according to senior administration officials in the midst of the internal debate.New York Times, May 26, 2007. Plus ce change, plus ce la meme chose. Hmmmm....French. Wonder if that qualifies as both ambiguous and clarifying?
It is the first indication that growing political pressure is forcing the White House to turn its attention to what happens after the current troop increase runs its course.