Lowering expectations -- again -- on Iraq

As the process of drafting a constitution hits roadblocks, the White House reconsiders what is possible in Iraq.

By T.g.
August 15, 2005 7:16PM (UTC)
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It's just about sundown now in Baghdad.

Iraq, do you know where your constitution is?

George W. Bush said last week that the United States has "made it clear" to the Iraqis that their new constitution "can be and should be agreed upon by August 15th." The clock is ticking. According to a Reuters report, the Iraqi National Assembly was to meet beginning at 6 p.m. Baghdad time today to consider the draft constitution, but that meeting has been pushed back by two hours amid discussions about the possibility of extending the Aug. 15 deadline.


If the National Assembly doesn't approve the constitution by the end of the night, it will be another blow for a U.S. administration already reeling from setbacks in Iraq. As the Washington Post reported over the weekend, the White House is finally starting to reassess what's possible in Iraq -- and to admit, at least quietly, that its vision for Iraq's future was probably never realistic. "What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion told the Post. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

The president still talks of building a "democratic Iraq," but a U.S. official tells the Post that his administration is "slowly realizing we will have some form of Islamic republic" instead.

The White House has also had to reassess its expectations about the kind of force -- and the number of U.S. casualties -- it would take to achieve whatever its goal in Iraq ends up being. Before the war began, Tim Russert asked Dick Cheney if the American people were prepared for "a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties." Cheney insisted that the war wasn't going to "unfold" that way, that U.S. troops would be "greeted as liberators." He told others that the war would probably last "weeks rather than months."


On Sunday, nearly two-and-a-half years after the war began, six more U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq, taking the U.S. death toll past the 1,850 mark. The latest deaths came amid reports back home that, a year after the Pentagon started working to provide U.S. troops with better body armor, tens of thousands of soldiers still lack the equipment because of delays in the Pentagon's procurement process.



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