MR. RAT, MEET MR. SINKING SHIP….Conservatives are starting to jump ship:

The war has become the long slog that some Republicans feared. Since Sunday, 32 Americans have been killed in fighting across Iraq. American body bags are on the front page of major U.S. newspapers.

….”How do you know, come June 30, that a civil war will not occur?” [Senator Richard] Lugar said on Voice of America radio. “After all, the coalition has not disarmed all of these militia that these religious groups have in various places. They still are armed and apparently ready to fight.”

Usually loyal pundits are speaking out, too. Conservative columnist George Will wrote in The Washington Post on Wednesday, “U.S. forces in Iraq are insufficient.”

….”I’m not buying this ‘Iraqis are on the American side’ right now,” Fox News? Bill O?Reilly said on the Tuesday night broadcast of “The O?Reilly Factor.” The leading conservative commentator repeatedly called the current conflict a “second war in Iraq.”

….[Joe] Scarborough: “Do we need more troops in Iraq? Hell, yes, we do. … Should June 30 handover date to the Iraqis be extended? You can bet your life on it … because creating this false deadline in time for a presidential election is no way to win a war.”

….Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska told CNN Tuesday that the Bush administration has “few good options” left regarding Iraq. The implication: the White House has dug a ditch that it possibly cannot get out of without getting its hands dirty.

I agree with Hagel: I frankly don’t see what we can do at this point. War supporters can cover their ears and chant “electric grid” all day long, but it won’t change the reality on the ground. If we back off, we’re doomed, and if we start blowing up mosques right and left we’re also doomed. Either way Iraq becomes the West Bank except with a lot more people and plenty of porous borders.

And despite the ineffectual protests from the antiwar crowd, George Bush has planned the entire Iraq war from beginning to end and has gotten everything from Congress he’s asked for. If it had worked out he would have gotten all the credit, but now that it’s going to hell there’s no one else to blame.

Although I have a funny feeling that won’t keep his supporters from trying.

POSTSCRIPT: It’s all such a damn shame, it really is. I honestly don’t know if anyone could have made it work, but it was Bush’s Pollyanna view toward the postwar rebuilding that turned me against the war in the first place, and it’s become more obvious with every passing month that this was indeed his Achilles’ heel. I think Paul Wolfowitz’s testimony last February tells the story better than anything:

In his testimony, Mr. Wolfowitz ticked off several reasons why he believed a much smaller coalition peacekeeping force than General Shinseki envisioned would be sufficient to police and rebuild postwar Iraq. He said there was no history of ethnic strife in Iraq, as there was in Bosnia or Kosovo. He said Iraqi civilians would welcome an American-led liberation force that “stayed as long as necessary but left as soon as possible,” but would oppose a long-term occupation force. And he said that nations that oppose war with Iraq would likely sign up to help rebuild it. “I would expect that even countries like France will have a strong interest in assisting Iraq in reconstruction,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. He added that many Iraqi expatriates would likely return home to help.

….Enlisting countries to help to pay for this war and its aftermath would take more time, he said. “I expect we will get a lot of mitigation, but it will be easier after the fact than before the fact,” Mr. Wolfowitz said. Mr. Wolfowitz spent much of the hearing knocking down published estimates of the costs of war and rebuilding, saying the upper range of $95 billion was too high….Moreover, he said such estimates, and speculation that postwar reconstruction costs could climb even higher, ignored the fact that Iraq is a wealthy country, with annual oil exports worth $15 billion to $20 billion. “To assume we’re going to pay for it all is just wrong,” he said.

It’s just unbelievable.

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