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Bush: Lame Duck And Lame Commander In Chief

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Why are Bush's numbers falling? Why do the American people grow increasingly concerned about Iraq?

It isn't about people who supported the war but now have their doubts. It isn't about people who never supported the war and have seen their fears realized. It isn't about people who weren't sure about the war and still don't know what they think. It isn't about the people who get confused every time Bush's rationalization for why we invaded Iraq changes.

Ultimately, it's about George Bush.

The American people have lost confidence in George Bush as our Commander in Chief. The American people are reluctant to admit it, but they realize George Bush is a weak military leader.

Last night, Bush had a chance to restore our confidence. He failed. Bush gave the same tired speech he's been giving for the past few years. His idea of confronting cold, hard facts is to say that war is "tough" and "hard," as if this were news to the American people. Bush could have acknowledged mistakes, but he is incapable of that. Bush might have given a realistic picture of where we stand in Iraq and offered concrete proposals for making it better, but he only offered blithe happy talk that everything is great and we're going to prevail.

A real military leader faces the facts on the ground. Problems arise -- they always do -- and have to be dealt with. A real leader recognizes problems, attacks them and solves them. But Bush refuses to acknowledge any problems.

For example, the training of Iraqis to take over their own security -- the single most important task in that country -- is proceeding at a punishingly slow rate. Bush threw out the number of 160,000 troops and then casually mentioned they fall into three categories: trained and ready to fight on their own, trained and capable of fighting with our help and not ready to fight at all.

How many of those Iraqis are trained and ready to fight on their own? Half? A third? A tenth? After the speech, we're told the truth. According to Sen. Joe Biden, only 2,500are fully trained -- less than two percent. How many can fight with our help? About 8,900. In total, only about 8 percent can fight in any way. Of that 160,000 number he threw out, almost 150,000 are not trained in any meaningful way. Bush refuses to say what's going wrong, how he'll speed up the training or explain why he is refusing the offers of Germany and Italy and others to train soldiers in their own countries. But let's say he doubles the rate of training to 2,500 a year. Heck, let's say he quadruples the rate of training to 5,000 a year. How long will it take for Bush to actually reach the level of 160,000 troops he implies we have today? More than three decades.

Bush insists that the second the generals say they need more soldiers in Iraq, he'll send them. But then he turns around and says why he believes sending more troops would be a terrible mistake. What general will risk a request for more soldiers when he knows that Bush doesn't want to send them? Bush's claim he's ready to send soldiers on a moment's notice also ignores the cold hard fact that there may not be any more soldiers to send. Our troops are spread dangerously thin around the world, recruitment is down, retention is down and we've abused the National Guard and Reserve so thoroughly they may not recover for decades. Bush ignored all of this, other than to say young people should volunteer.

Bush says we can't set a deadline for when our troops will leave. Fine. But if he wanted to level with the American people, he could make clear how long he knows we're going to be there. In other words, it's obvious all our troops won't be home next week or next month. In fact, we know our troops won't all be home next year. The American people need to be thinking in terms of years. So how long does the President say he knows it's going to take, at a minimum? Two years? Three years? Four years? Ten? This isn't a deadline. This is a realistic appraisal of the task ahead of us. If everything goes great, we will still have forces in Iraq during the next Presidential election in 2008. When is Bush going to admit that?

Most Americans believe Bush lied to us about why he wanted to invade Iraq. We now know our closest ally, Great Britain, also believed he was lying to the the American people about why he wanted to invade Iraq.

Most Americans believe Bush doesn't have a clear plan in Iraq. That's because Bush hasn't laid out a plan or faced the problems that have arisen and explained how he'll solve them.

Most Americans are unnerved when Bush and his top officials insist the insurgency is in its last throes when the facts are obvious: according to the military, the insurgency was about 5,000 strong in NOvember of 2003. Today the military says the insurgency is anywhere from 16,000 to 20,000 strong; that's three to four times bigger today than it was 18 months ago. And they're killing more people this year than they were last year and they were killing more people last year than they did the year before. That's an insurgency that is bigger and more lethal. Even Rumsfeld admits the insurgency will likely be around for years, maybe a decade or longer. Bush's solution? He stops calling them insurgents and starts calling them "terrorists."

Our troops remain poorly equipped. New recruits joining the Marines are reportedly told to spend some $600 of their own money on equipment they need to survive because Bush won't be getting it to them. Bush hasn't said a word about this.

Five out of six Humvees in Iraq are still not fully armored. Bush doesn't seem to care because surely if he cared he would talk about it and get the problem solved.

And now hurt soldiers that return home find out that Bush somehow didn't realize a war would cause a big influx of wounded troops into the VA system and so they're dramatically underfunded.

The American people are not afraid of hard tasks. Tell them what needs to be done and they'll do it. But lie to them and they will get angry. Ignore the facts and they will lose confidence in you. Claim victory before the work is done and they will worry about your steadfastness.

Mission Accomplished? The mission is accomplished when every soldier is home and safe with their families and not one day before. A real Commander in Chief would know that in his bones.

The American people aren't worried about losing the war in Iraq. They're worried that George Bush is incapable of winning it.

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