Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pushing the envelope

Veterans for Peace established this memorial on the beach at Arlington West in Santa Monica in 2004, and it has expanded relentlessly each year with the casualty count in Iraq.

As of today, the war in Iraq has inflicted 3,454 deaths and 26,188 wounded on U.S. forces. 980 of those deaths have occurred since last Memorial Day weekend, compared to 807 during the previous year. Over two hundred troops have been killed over the last two months alone. It's not unusual for the same number of Iraqis to be killed and wounded over a single weekend.

And it will only get worse, as Bush warned on Thursday:
"We're going to expect heavy fighting in the weeks and months," he said. "We can expect more American and Iraqi casualties." He added, "It could be a bloody -- it could be a very difficult August."
Meanwhile, yet another poll shows that:
"Six in 10 Americans say the U.S. should have stayed out of Iraq and more than three in four say things are going badly there -- including nearly half who say things are going very badly, the poll found."
Last week the Democrats in Congress blinked in their confrontation with Bush over timetables for withdrawal. They had little choice, of course, since they lack the Republican support needed to override the inevitable second veto. The war is funded through September, and it seems unlikely that even these poll numbers will persuade Republicans to desert Bush in sufficient numbers to have an impact on policy. Unless the situation deteriorates dramatically, they're unlikely to go into total panic mode until the primary season begins in 2008.

As a lame duck, Bush is unlikely to be able to pursue any kind of domestic agenda in Congress, for which we can all be grateful. But on Iraq, as with the Gonzales affair, he can safely adopt an in-your-face posture, defying the growing opposition to do something to force a change.

During the 1996 campaign, Bob Dole got exercised because Al Gore visited a Buddhist temple and was rewarded with some $122,000 in (legal) campaign contributions. He asked: "Where's the outrage? When--when will the voters start to focus? ...How far can you push the envelope? How much can you get away with? What can you do? "

The context has changed completely, but eleven years later Dole's questions—which seemed trivial even back then—are far more momentous. Voters are clearly focused on the war, and there seems to be no lack of outrage, but Bush has plenty of reason to believe that he can get away with just about anything—and nothing can be done about it. Sadly, he apparently faces no political consequences even if another 2,000 Americans die in Iraq before January 20, 2009.

PHOTOS: Arlington West [Thanks to Digby at Hullabaloo for the tip.]

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