The big loser in all of this, besides the people of Iraq, is of course the men and women of the armed forces of the United States. Betrayed by the Bush administration, abandoned by Congress and all but forgotten by a complacent American population and those who are positioning themselves for national leadership in the next administration, the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who so proudly wear the uniform of the United States continue to fight and die, kill and be maimed in a war which was never justified and long ago lost its luster. Played as pawns in a giant game of three-dimensional chess, these brave Americans find themselves being needlessly sacrificed in a game where there can be no winner, only losers.
The continued ambivalence of the American population as a whole toward the war in Iraq, perhaps best manifested by the superficiality of the slogan “Support the Troops,” all the while remaining ignorant of what the troops are actually doing, has led to a similar amnesia among politicians all too willing to allow themselves to seek political advantage at the expense of American life and treasure. January 2008 cost the United States nearly 40 lives in Iraq. The current military budget is unprecedented in its size, and doesn’t even come close to paying for ongoing military operations in Iraq. The war in Iraq has bankrupted Americans morally and fiscally, and yet the American public continues to shake the hands of aspiring politicians who ignore Iraq, pretending that the blood which soaks the hands of these political aspirants hasn’t stained their own. In the sick kabuki dance that is American politics, this refusal to call a spade a spade is deserving of little more than disdain and sorrow.
While the American people, politicians and media may remain mute on the reality of Iraq, I won’t. There is no such thing as a crystal ball which enables one to see clearly into the future, and I am normally averse to making sweeping long-term predictions involving a topic as fluid as the ongoing situation in Iraq. At the risk of being wrong (and, indeed, I hope very much that I am), I will contradict the rosy statements of the president in his State of the Union address and will throw down a gauntlet in the face of ongoing public and media ambivalence by predicting that 2008 will be the year the “surge” in Iraq is exposed as a grand debacle. The cosmetic bandage placed over the gravely wounded Iraq will fall off, and the damaged body that is Iraq will continue its painful decline toward death.
If there is any winner in all of this it will be the Sunni resistance, or at least its leadership hiding in the shadow of the American occupation, as it continues to exploit the chaotic death spiral of post-Saddam Iraq for its own long-term plan of a Sunni resurgence in Iraq. That the Sunni resistance will continue to fight an American occupation is a guarantee. That it will continue to persevere is highly probable. That the United States will be able to stop it is unlikely. And so, the reality that the only policy direction worthy of consideration here in the United States concerning Iraq is the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of American forces continues to hold true. And the fact that this option is given short shrift by all capable of making or influencing such a decision guarantees that this bloody war will go on, inconclusively and incomprehensibly, for many more years. That is the one image in my crystal ball that emerges in full focus, and which will serve as the basis of defining a national nightmare for generations to come.