Friday, June 23, 2006

Iraq II: Reframing the War on the War & More

Karl Rove, back at the White House with a fistful of frequent testifier miles from the Wilson-Plame grand jury, is up to his usual mischief, this time reframing the war over the war in Iraq as an epic struggle between patriotic Republicans and cowardly Democrats.

Given the outcome of the Senate debate over withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, methinks Rove's strategy can work -- but only up to a point.

That debate ended on Thursday with 87-13 and 60-39 votes against calling for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. The votes reflected not just deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats but among Democrats, as well.
While Rove's strategy, evident in the debate, may buy some vulnerable Republicans some votes in the November elections, the public as a whole won't buy even if the Democrats continue to be unable to articulate a coherent message on the war.
Read on to find out why.

Americans are hungry for good news -- any good news -- out of the war, and the death of terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. airstrike and George Bush's surprise trip to Baghdad qualified insofar as respondents to two national public-opinion poll were concerned.

The president's approval ratings jumped 5 points from 31 percent to 36 percent in the latest Zogby Poll and 4 points from 32 percent to 36 percent in the latest American Research Group Poll taken after those events -- but before the beheaded bodies of two young troopers were found.
The flip side, of course, is that 64 percent of those polled by Zogby and 57 percent of those polled by ARG still give Bush a negative job rating. And, he's still in the toilet in three other national polls -- USA Today, Wall Street Journal-NBC and CNN -- which show no movement following what the schizophrenic mainstream media trumpeted as a wave of good news out of the war.
Unfortunately for Rove, while the war occasionally giveths, it also takeths away, and a close examination of the poll numbers betray a reality that not even his Machiavellian ways can overcome:
Americans will continue to die in Iraq, some minus their heads and other body parts, and the reservoir of goodwill that the American people afforded the White House long ago dried up. Driving Republican pols who have been wavering on the war back into the Bush corral could backfire in congressional districts where the war will be on the ballot.
This would seem to be born out by the National Journal's Congressional Insiders poll, which asks, "What impact will Iraq have on the midterm election?"
Among Democrats, 95 percent say the Iraq war will help their party, while just 44 percent of Republicans say the same.
Meanwhile, support for Osama bin Laden is falling throughout the Arab world, and apparently nowhere more so than in Jordan. A poll taken there shows that OLB's approval rating has plummeted from 60 percent last year to a measly 24 percent this year.
Speaking of Al-Zarqawi, The Weekly Standard reports that the U.S. had an opportunity to kill him in 2002.

The reason that it took a pass is plausible, even in retrospect:
The U.S. would have faced a torrent of criticism for violating international law that would have interfered with its however tepid diplomatic efforts in the run-up to the March 2003 invasion.
It seems to me that Baghdad is always in a state of emergency, but that did not stop the Iraqi government from declaring an official state of emergency there on Friday after U.S. forces became involved in a firefight in the city's center during a security sweep as Part of Operation Forward Together.

The gunfight erupted as members of the Mahdi Army militia escorted the radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to a Shiite mosque in a Sunni neighborhood. During last week's Friday services, a suicide bomber carrying explosives in his shoes blew himself up in a crowd of worshippers at the mosque, killing 11 and wounding 25.

Four members of the militia were killed when gunmen opened fire on the Mahdi Army convoy. Iraqi and U.S. troops rushed to the scene, and three Iraqi police officers and five Iraqi soldiers were wounded in the fighting. Televised images showed American helicopters swooping low to drop flares over the midday battle.

Later in the day, 12 people were killed in a mosque near where Al-Zarqawi was killed.

Over at the best of the Iraqi blogs, Omar at Iraq the Model says that Operation Forward Together is making a tangible difference, while Fatima provides her usually mix of the profound and mundane at Thoughts From Baghdad.

Although the U.S. long ago abandoned the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, private citizens ranging from the informed to total whackjobs remain convinced that they exist.

The New York Times has more here.

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