The Fat Lady Won’t Sing

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It may not have packed the emotional punch of the last chopper off the roof of the embassy in Saigon, but the word has come down from on high: The last combat troops have left the building.

Actually, I’m going to amend that last remark. A Stryker Brigade crossed the Southern Frontier between Iraq and Kuwait, marking the departure from our Mesopotamian quagmire of the last troops we’re actually CALLING “combat troops.”

We still have plenty of guys with guns in Iraq—more than 50,000—but they’re not “combat troops,” they’re “advisors.” Not to accuse the President of militaristic duplicity, but so were about a quarter million of our boys and girls who visited fabulous downtown Saigon in the 1960s.

But we’re not supposed to be treating the anointed savior with the same scrutiny with which George W. Bush and Richard M. Nixon (but not Bill Clinton) dealt. Since Barack Obama ascended the people’s throne, the corporate media doesn’t use words like “quagmire” anymore, nor do they refer to the “Vietnam of the Middle East.” Obama promised a swift withdrawal from Iraq, and he has thusly delivered—more or less. All right, less.

Nonetheless, calling everyone in digital desert camo an “advisor” means Obama gets to claim victory. And while The Associated Press noted that Obama didn’t actually claim victory in his speech last week; given that he hasn’t come out ahead in so much as a game of checkers with Bo the First Dog since he took office, hanging the metaphorical “Mission Accomplished” banner off the White House balustrade is as close as he’s going to get anytime soon. Considering the corporate media’s continued adherence to the Obama-as-savior mantra, the irony of the situation is that this undeclared “victory” was planned and executed during the demonized Bush Administration.

Perhaps that’s why Obama noted in his recent televised remarks that he called Bush prior to the telecast, and why he offered him praise during the speech. And perhaps that’s why wingnut hacks like Rachel Maddow and Bill Press (yep, he’s still alive) launched anti-Bush invective from their MSNBC pulpits in the wake of Obama’s address. If you only saw Keith Olbermann’s failed television science experiment, you might not know that the decisive troop surge which Bush put into action had ever occurred.

As House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) pointed out in the wake of Obama’s performance:

“Over the past several months, we’ve often heard about ending the war in Iraq but not much about winning the war in Iraq,”

Boehner went on to point out that the same Democrats who fought Bush tooth and nail on every facet of the Iraq War (once they stopped supporting it) were now trying to portray themselves as latter-day Churchills, as opposed to modern-era Chamberlains.

Or perhaps Obama has finally realized what Bush knew all along. To put a fine point on it: This ain’t over. Iraq remains enough of a junkyard to make North Jersey look like the south of France. Their most recent elections are fading into memory and their government appears to be stretched to the limit catching stray dogs—and stray bullets.

Meanwhile, Obama is steeling himself to raise the proverbial roof in Afghanistan. He said during his speech that American troops could now “apply the resources necessary to go on offense” in Afghanistan, as if our troops currently engaged with al-Qaida and the vestiges of the Taliban were playing Wii and drag-racing their Bradleys before now.

No doubt our current Commander-in-Chief would love to spend the remaining time between now and Nov. 2 discussing America’s supposed Baghdad bon voyage. But as Bush knew, there’s no rest for the West Wing.

Obama must now convince a skeptical nation—and military—that not only is Iraq either in the bag or out of our shopping cart, but that the War Obama Wanted in Afghanistan is winnable under Democrat direction. Add to that the sorry state of our economy under his laughable lack of leadership and the sorry state of his party headed into what may well be an electoral Waterloo come November, and Obama may spend his fall wishing he’d saved up some sick days.

Ben Crystal

is a 1993 graduate of Davidson College and has burned the better part of the last two decades getting over the damage done by modern-day higher education. He now lives in Savannah, Ga., where he has hosted an award-winning radio talk show and been featured as a political analyst for television. Currently a principal at Saltymoss Productions—a media company specializing in concept television and campaign production, speechwriting and media strategy—Ben has written numerous articles on the subjects of municipal authoritarianism, the economic fallacy of sin taxes and analyses of congressional abuses of power.

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