This is another indication that Mr. Mumbles is unclear on the concept. All that Bush does is search his soul and conscience to find out "what is the right thing for the American people" (ugh, what lousy syntax). That has been the pattern since before the beginning. Reid might say instead, for example, Bush needs to read a book, or consult that Lancet study on Iraqi deaths. At this point, there are many books available, autopsies on the failed American mission in Iraq. I've read most of them; why can't Bush? Harry Reid is encouraging the worst tendencies in American public life, this resort to hocus-pocus and mumbo-jumbo instead of doing the homework. The answers don't lie in "Bush's soul." The origin of the war lies in Bush's soul.
Indeed, if I were to posit the single best reason for an orderly and quick exit from Iraq, it would take this form: if we cannot, with at least semi-scientific precision, reach a reasonable consensus and agreement on the fundamental facts of the situation in Iraq, then we cannot "in good conscience" continue to dedicate lives and enormous amounts of money to the mission. I never hear La Diva and Mr. Mumbles say anything like this. All of their criticism takes the "soft social science" approach of liberal dissent. The war is "lost." The President must be held "accountable" for the war. (The word "accountable" must, by general acclamation, be held accountable and retired from public use at the end of the Bush Presidency. What's wrong with "held responsible?" Is everyone in America now a C.P.A.?)
Anyone who has ever witnessed first-hand an actual newsworthy event knows that the press descriptions often vary substantially from our direct observations. What happens when a war is so violent and dangerous that no accurate reporting is even possible? Thus, at this twice-removed distance from reality, I think most of us, including Bush, cannot actually describe, or conceive of, the true situation in Iraq. That is why I think the scientific efforts to spell out the demographics of murder and mayhem in Iraq are indispensable.
It is astounding that so little is said about this study, by Johns Hopkins and an Iraqi university as peer-reviewed and published in the Lancet, by anyone in public office. I think the Democrats never say anything about it because the number is so big. It seems incredible. It's also true the sun is 93 million miles away and yet its light reaches us in about 8 minutes. That seems incredible too. But it's still true. So: 650,000 deaths over and above baseline expectations, as the high-end estimate, since the invasion of March, 2003, as of July, 2006, with about 200,000 Iraqi deaths directly attributable to American forces. Let us say that these estimates cover a period of 40 months. The average monthly death rate (above baseline) for Iraqis, therefore, may be as high as 16,250, with a daily rate of 540. Extrapolating these averages through the 49 months of the Iraqi war yields total deaths of 796,250 above normal mortality, with approximately 249,000 deaths attributable to U.S. forces. Is it reasonable to extrapolate thusly? Consider this latest report from the New York Times:
"Over the past six months, American troops have died in Iraq at the highest rate since the war began, an indication that the conflict is becoming increasingly dangerous for U.S. forces even after more than four years of fighting."
The violence is increasing. Therefore, the figure for Iraqi deaths may be understated, although it approaches 800,000 (as the high estimate) at this point through straight extrapolation. Note that this is not a fanciful number useful only for polemics-by-exaggeration. It is the best scientific estimate available. Therefore, one way to "complete" the mission might be to kill every man, woman and child in Iraq, or at least in Baghdad and the Sunni strongholds in the "Triangle," where most of the violence occurs. We're well on our way. The current figure equals about 16% of Baghdad's total population before the war, and that's before we consider the huge migrations of Iraqis to Syria, Jordan and Iran, estimated at another 800,000. Extinction or flight of the indigenous population was essentially the end game in Viet Nam and Cambodia. It is the usual end game in wars which descend into mindless carnage with no clear and achievable goals. Is that what we want to keep doing?