After all that came down on their heads in September, the Bush administration and congressional Republicans must be wondering if the situation can possibly get worse.
Sure it can. Chickens tend to come home to roost all at once.
As Republican congressional leaders scrambled to do damage control and distance themselves from any responsibility from the fallout that Rep. Mark Foley left in his wake, President Bush stumped out West praising the GOP stalwarts and attacking the Democrats as weak on national security.
On the same day that eight American soldiers were killed in Baghdad—the worst one-day casualty toll in more than a year—as they pursued the plan to make Iraq's blood-drenched center of gravity safer and calmer.
By shifting American troops out of their well-protected bases elsewhere in the country and giving them a job that the Iraqis and their government clearly cannot do for themselves we have only given the murderers new and tempting targets.
The effort has been greeted with record-high attacks with roadside bombs and snipers at the more vulnerable American targets, and the sectarian slaughter only grows worse.
Those on the ground can be forgiven for thinking that the situation in Iraq is unraveling at a frightening pace.
At the White House, the president's political mastermind Karl Rove was doing his own scrambling to counter the revelations of former trusted court stenographer Bob Woodward.
Addressing Woodward's charge that the administration was in a state of denial of the reality on the ground in Iraq, White House spokesman Tony Snow declared: "We deny that."
To the president's oft-repeated mantra that he'd provide any and all reinforcements requested by his ground commanders in Iraq, one of those former commanders, Maj. Gen. John Batiste, replied: Not really. Batiste said that when he commanded the 1st Infantry Division, he begged for more troops and got none.
But to those experts who say we must reinforce the troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, consider that the top Army leaders have been telling anyone who'll listen that they may not even be able to meet current troop levels next year without extraordinary help from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.
Meanwhile, thousands of blown up and worn out Army tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles and Humvees are backed up at Army repair depots, and Army leaders say they can't be fixed unless Congress provides $17 billion.
In order to man the current 147,000 American troop level in Iraq, the Army has been forced to cannibalize units rotating home for much needed rest, leaving the United States with only two or three brigades, fewer than 10,000 soldiers, barely capable of responding to a crisis anywhere else in the world.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, traveling in Central America, brushed off a growing chorus of calls for his resignation or dismissal, his rose-colored spectacles firmly affixed to his nose. He told a conference of Latin American defense ministers that what's needed in this world to accomplish anything are coalitions of nations. Strange advice coming from the man who dissed our Old European allies on the eve of the invasion of Iraq.
Meantime, the do-nothing-good Congress left town at a high lope to get out on the campaign trail and try to save their jobs and the Republican grip on the levers of power.
Before leaving, however, congressional Republicans did roll over a $20 million appropriation to finance a huge Iraq victory celebration in the nation's capital. They had voted the money for 2006 but there was, alas, no victory to celebrate this year. Ever hopeful, they made sure that the funds would be available in 2007.
They can't find enough money to fix all the broken war equipment or even to finance fully the $2 billion a week that the war is costing taxpayers, but the money will be there for the triumphal parades and fireworks displays when Johnny comes marching home.
One can only wonder what they've been smoking inside the Beltway. One can only marvel at the thought that any of those clowns has a chance at being re-elected when the polls before the Foley scandal put voter trust in Congress near the 20 percent mark.
They're lucky that "None of the Above" isn't one of the choices on ballots in November.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail: email@example.com.
(c) 2006, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
PHOTO of Joseph Galloway available from the ``Columnist Mugs'' section of MCT Direct.
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