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At around the time of last month's House and Senate debates on setting a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq , White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was giving a press conference on the 'progress' thus far in Iraq . When it was pointed out that the number of U.S. soldiers killed had reached 2,500, Snow responded, 'It's a number.' Snow's seeming callousness was a weak attempt to give perspective to what history will regard as the Bush legacy.
During World War II, it would have been appropriate to respond to 2,500 dead as just a number. To a war characterized by human slaughter on a grand scale, 2,500 dead in a single day would have raised few eyebrows. Not so to a nation that hears of every soldier killed in Iraq . Each new death is one too many.
Democrats have charged that the debate on Iraq withdrawal is a 'political stunt' designed to put them officially in opposition to the president, the Republicans, the troops, national interests, national security, etc. As Fox News reported , 'Republicans in both the Senate and the House sought to put lawmakers of both parties on record on an issue certain to be central in this fall's congressional elections.'
Lending credibility to Democratic claims was a report released by the Pentagon. According to Fox News, 'The administration was so determined to get out its message that the Pentagon distributed a highly unusual 74-page 'debate prep book' filled with ready-made answers for criticism of the war.' In political double-speak, 'debate prep book' is a euphemism for 'talking points.'
Remember, talking points are those repeatable phrases used by a political party when it or one of its members steps into a big pile of shinola. They have become the mainstay of American political rhetoric.
Talking points have left the building and are now on tour. It's time to take the message home and hammer it to the voters before November's election. The Democrats have taken to the wires and airwaves to continue to press for withdrawal from Iraq . Many Republicans remain muted, trusting that silence is golden and that their recent political stunt will bring happy returns come November.
Here in Arizona , the state's two Republican senators, John McCain and Jon Kyl, co-authored an editorial  in which they warn of the dangers in setting a timetable for withdrawing troops from Iraq . Neither is likely to suffer fallout from trumpeting Bush administration talking points from the last few years.
McCain's Senate seat is safe until 2010. Kyl's fortunes are more likely to turn on the Arizona-proximity issue of illegal immigration. Kyl can more safely take a position to the right of Bush on immigration. Backing the president's lost cause in Iraq might piss off some Arizona voters, but they weren't going to vote for Kyl, anyway. Having McCain run blocker for him might also get the attention of the party's national interests in case a tight race develops towards November and extra funds are needed to remind Arizona 's voters the calamity that would befall America should Kyl be unseated.
According to McCain and Kyl, we cannot leave Iraq 'because the Iraqi security forces are plainly incapable of maintaining security on their own.' This is a curious assessment given the title of their article: ' U.S. troops cannot leave Iraq : Its security forces are incapable of maintaining security, even with American help.' It clearly implies that U.S. troops are making no difference in the outcome. They are in a no-win situation. If they cannot help maintain security, why the hell are they still there? Conspiracy theories aside, there's no need to rehash what's been the obvious since Bush started his war in Iraq .
Pulling out will signal an end to American intervention, and by doing so, 'we will alienate our friends and tempt those undecided to join the anti-government ranks.' By 'anti-government ranks,' McCain and Kyl of course refer to those Iraqis fighting against the pro-American stooge government. We cannot leave because fence-sitting terrorists, unable to make a commitment to fight despite all the destruction U.S. forces have rained down upon their country thus far, will suddenly be inspired to action to unseat our new pals in the Iraqi government if we leave. Instability will quickly spread through Iraq and ignite the entire region. It seems we've heard that one, too.
'If we abandon the Iraqis . . . we risk seeing their country break out into civil war.' By many accounts, that has been happening for months now. The American military presence is the only thing providing cover for the administration. Otherwise, the civil war raging might become all too obvious to the American people. As long as the U.S. maintains its presence in Iraq , there will never be a time when the country can be said to be stable and free from the threat of civil war. Bet that 'insurgents' and 'terrorist' groups will launch frequent attacks requiring assistance from American troops, continuously identifying to the Iraqi people the bane of their problems.
McCain and Kyl say, 'There is no choice but to stay in Iraq until the government there has fully functioning security forces that can deal with the insurgents and prevent sectarian violence.' Sectarian violence is civil war in all but name. To get security forces capable of dealing with out-of-control sectarian violence, the Iraqis need only look to their recent past: They should follow the lead of the man who kept these internally-destructive forces at bay for over 30 years --Saddam Hussein. Will American military and civilian leaders ever countenance this painfully obvious truth? Maybe they have, but as yet have not devised a scheme by which to sell it to the American people.
And as if we have not heard this enough, McCain and Kyl repeat that Iraq 'has become a central-battleground in our fight against those who wish us grave harm.' No one should have 'illusions about the role of Iraq in the war on terror today.' Thankfully, they spared reminding us of all the blood and gore we would be subjected to here in America if our men and women were not taking it on the chin for us right now in Iraq .
In their last paragraph McCain and Kyl reveal, 'When the U.S. puts its prestige and its military on the line, there is only one exit strategy possible: victory.' That's what opposition to withdrawal is all about. All those other platitudes don't mean squat in the end. Too much in money and blood has been spent to stop now. Like Tony Snow was alluding to at his press conference, stabilizing Iraq is going take a few more numbers.