After chastising Democrats for suggesting that we need to set a timeline for withdrawing the bulk of our troops from Iraq, it now seems that the Bush administration has been secretly planning to do just that all along.
A secret memo uncovered by the British media reveals that the White House is looking to pull most troops out by early 2006:
"emerging U.S. plans assume that 14 out of 18 provinces could be handed over to Iraqi control by early 2006," allowing a reduction in overall U.S.-led forces in Iraq to 66,000 troops. The troop level is now at about 160,000, including 138,000 American troops, according to a military spokesman in Baghdad.
This is good news because it means that maybe, just maybe, the Bush team is not as stupid as they have pretended to be lately. I’ve had a hard time understanding why Bush has been so stubborn about setting a timeline or even defining the terms of victory in Iraq.
The polls have shown that support for the war is plummeting the longer it drags on. Right-wingers whine that this is because the so-called liberal media hasn’t been cheerleading loudly enough on the sidelines, but the truth is that even when our subservient media bows down to the GOP agenda and obediently refuses to show pictures of the coffins and bodybags coming home, they can’t completely cover up the fact that more than 1,700 U.S. troops have been killed and more are dying everyday.
It amazes me the number of times in recent weeks where I have had casual conversations with very conservative Republicans who, upon learning that I am a liberal Democrat (quite rare in these parts), confess their reservations about the war in Iraq. They may not agree with me that we should never have gone in in the first place, but they do agree that it is high time that we started getting out.
So if pulling out would be politically popular why are they refusing to say they would even consider it? This new memo makes things a little more clear. As long as they start pulling out before the 2006 mid-term elections they can benefit from that politically. In the meantime, they can continue to blast Democrats for being terrorist sympathizers, weak on defense, cut-and-run cowards and so forth even while making plans for a massive drawdown early next year.
In fact, the White House seems to be even more anxious to pull out than their counterparts in the Pentagon, according to the memo.
The memo, posted on the newspaper's Web site, notes a debate between U.S. officials at the Pentagon and military leaders in Iraq, saying that officials in Washington favor "a relatively bold reduction in force numbers," differing with battlefield commanders, "whose approach is more cautious."