Americans are doomed for the next 20 months to endure a presidency driven by a personal obsession—to protect a fragile sense of self-importance with denial of reality.
President Bush won't admit the war in Iraq is lost because he and his architects of the "cakewalk" war would be exposed as wrong. Likewise, President Bush's "full confidence" in his dunce attorney general, Alberto Gonzales—who lied his way through U.S. Senate questioning by babbling "I don't recall" and its variation more than 60 times—won't let him fire Gonzales because it would mean admitting he was wrong to entrust him with the most intellectually challenging and constitutionally most powerful agency in the land.
False pride and saving face will stiffen Bush's stubbornness to remain in Iraq despite squandering more billions of dollars, sending more GIs to their deaths, triggering more Iraqi civilian deaths, isolating itself from other nations, and subjecting Iraqis to more slaughter in a civil war triggered by U.S. presence.
This is history repeating itself—the stubborn, more-is-better escalation of the Vietnam War by presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon.
A fresh reminder of that catastrophe and its eerie similarity to Bush's Iraq war came Monday with news that much-honored journalist David Halberstam died in a California traffic accident. He was 73.
As much as anyone who exposed the awful deceptions of the Vietnam war four decades ago as lost, Halberstam indicted Pentagon and White House propagandists' claims of "progress" in turning back the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.
"Progress." That's the Bush line, a claim that wilts when exposed to the reality of Iraq's worsening bloodshed and the toll in U.S. lives and treasure.
A new generation of reporters with Halberstam's gritty ethos for truth are chronicling failed military operations in Iraq and the slaughter from suicide bombings, widespread resentment of Iraqis toward the U.S. presence and corruption among thousands of profiteering U.S. contractors feeding at the Bush trough of cronyism.
Yet, President Bush mocks congressional Democrats who've fashioned legislation calling for a troop draw down beginning in October.
Americans should cheer this decisiveness. Democrats seem to be the only ones who see the calamity in Iraq sanely, and since the president's strategies have failed for four years.
Halberstam's Vietnam dispatches and his books about aberrant military and political stubbornness in refusing to admit Vietnam had been lost can easily be applied to today's obstinate White House and Pentagon and their failures.
Only the names of the president and the generals have changed, not stubborn refusals of vain men to admit their costly political gambles.