BOOTS ON THE GROUND….The headline in today’s New York Times is “General in Iraq Says More G.I.’s Are Not Needed,” but if you read closely that’s not exactly what General John Abizaid really said:

“You can’t underestimate the public perception both within Iraq and within the Arab world about the percentage of the force being so heavily American,” the general said in an interview here at his headquarters.

….Rather than increasing the American force, General Abizaid said the priority should be to increase the size of the reconstituted Iraqi security services ? now at about 60,000 people….

So it’s not that we don’t need more troops ? as Donald Rumsfeld keeps insisting ? it’s that we don’t need more American troops. An All-American occupying force, you see, lacks the legitimacy that it needs in the Arab world.

That sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Of course, Iraqi security services aren’t the only way to internationalize the force, and General Abizaid, not being a stupid man, knows it. Let’s pick up that paragraph where we left off:

….the priority should be to increase the size of the reconstituted Iraqi security services ? now at about 60,000 people ? and to persuade other nations, particularly Muslim countries, to contribute military forces like military police, special operations forces and civil affairs specialists.

….”A campaign plan exists, but what we need to do is sharpen it up,” the general said. “There’s a need for a synchronization of effort, not only by the United States, but the international community and coalition forces.”

….General Abizaid said any sticking points were likely political rather than military, saying, “There are innovative ways of working the chain of command that are acceptable from a military point of view and a unity of command point of view.”

This is rather plainly stated, isn’t it? We do need more troops, we ought to have a multinational force, and the military has no problem with this. All it takes is for George Bush to get over those “political” sticking points and do his job. Now would be a good time to start.

POSTSCRIPT: The more I think about Rumsfeld’s recent comments, the more they piss me off. Here’s what he said three days ago:

There are some recommending that more U.S. forces go in. I can tell you that if Gen. Abizaid recommended it, it would happen in a minute. But he has not recommended it.

Technically that’s true: Abizaid doesn’t want more U.S. forces. But he does want more forces.

Crikey. Can you trust a thing these guys say without parsing every single phoneme to within an inch of its life?