One of the shames of the last Democratic primary is how quickly and completely Joe Lieberman was ignored and summarily booted out.
One of the shames of the current administration is that a Democratic senator, writing in an OpEd yesterday, and speaking on many news shows throughout the day, enunciated more clearly and much more forcefully the progress being made in Iraq, and why premature withdrawal would be disastrous than has ever been uttered by the president.
None of these remarkable changes would have happened without the coalition forces led by the U.S. And, I am convinced, almost all of the progress in Iraq and throughout the Middle East will be lost if those forces are withdrawn faster than the Iraqi military is capable of securing the country.
The leaders of Iraq's duly elected government understand this, and they asked me for reassurance about America's commitment. The question is whether the American people and enough of their representatives in Congress from both parties understand this. I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.
Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.
Lieberman goes further than Bush ever had, in saying that although the US has made some mistakes, there is no blind "stay the course" non-action:
Does America have a good plan for doing this, a strategy for victory in Iraq? Yes we do. And it is important to make it clear to the American people that the plan has not remained stubbornly still but has changed over the years. Mistakes, some of them big, were made after Saddam was removed, and no one who supports the war should hesitate to admit that; but we have learned from those mistakes and, in characteristic American fashion, from what has worked and not worked on the ground. The administration's recent use of the banner "clear, hold and build" accurately describes the strategy as I saw it being implemented last week.
We are now embedding a core of coalition forces in every Iraqi fighting unit, which makes each unit more effective and acts as a multiplier of our forces. Progress in "clearing" and "holding" is being made. The Sixth Infantry Division of the Iraqi Security Forces now controls and polices more than one-third of Baghdad on its own. Coalition and Iraqi forces have together cleared the previously terrorist-controlled cities of Fallujah, Mosul and Tal Afar, and most of the border with Syria. Those areas are now being "held" secure by the Iraqi military themselves. Iraqi and coalition forces are jointly carrying out a mission to clear Ramadi, now the most dangerous city in Al-Anbar province at the west end of the Sunni Triangle.
Why haven't we heard this from the president? While Bush and his acolytes have been insisting that their original plans have been working (which no one believes) and insisting that the Iraq campaign has been virtually trouble-free (which is a bald-faced lied) Lieberman honestly and simply tells us, finally, what's going on in Iraq and what further needs to be done.
I have not changed my opinion about the Iraq campaign, but I have lost just about all sympathy for the Bush Administration. Not because there hasn't been significant progress, but because the president is on the brink of forfeiting Iraq, and thereby the larger war, by failing to speak straight and actually lead.
We will hear another highly-touted speech from the president. He will have to do much to outdo Lieberman, and I see no reason to think that he will. But it is a shame, Mr President, that while you are ducking to locked doors, trying to avoid questions, a Senator from the opposition party makes a better case for your policies than you do.