That things aren't going well in Iraq is almost a given. Whether to withdraw or somehow come to some conclusion in the country is now the subject of debate in the US. To withdraw 160,000 US personnel it was said yesterday would take one year to complete. Meanwhile, the appetite by Americans for the war is ever diminishing.
George Bush doesn't seem to be getting the message - or, not for the first time, living in his own fanciful world. Speaking at a military base yesterday Bush suggested that the "fight" in Iraq was to defeat al Qaida - for not to do so would endanger the US. Never mind that a report out just last week referred to the strength of al Qaida being in Pakistan - not Iraq. Also not to be overlooked is that it is said that al Qaida only accounts for 15% of attacks in Iraq.
In his on line column Watching Washington, on NPR, Ron Elving suggests that Bush is now reframing the war in Iraq in terms of having to defeat Osama bin Laden:
"It hardly seems possible for President Bush to raise his bet on the war in Iraq, the single policy that already defines his presidency and threatens to define his party for a decade.
Yet how else can we describe what the administration has done this week? On the same day that the Washington Post and ABC News released a poll in which nearly 7 of 10 Americans disapproved of his handling of the war, President Bush gave a high-profile speech in Charleston, S.C., declaring "America can accept nothing less than complete victory" in Iraq.
The president then raised the stakes still further by suggesting anything less than that would be a personal triumph for Osama bin Laden. With heavy emphasis, he framed the conflict in Iraq not as a sectarian struggle between long-feuding factions there, but as a duel between two outsiders — the United States and al-Qaida. The forces of America versus the forces of Sept. 11. Us versus them. Good versus evil."
Surely there is an insidious shift of policy underway here - with the attendant cost to everyone involved in the War.