[[W A R]] * General Peter Schoomaker tells the Associated Press that the U.S. Army is already planning for the possibility that it will have to maintain the current force of more than 100,000 servicemen in Iraq for the next four years. “We are now into ’07-’09 in our planning,” Schoomaker said during an Army jet flight from Kansas City, Missouri, to Washington, D.C. This, despite recent suggestions from U.S. commanders (later contradicted by George W. Bush) that significant withdrawals of soldiers from Iraq could begin in 2006, provided that stable new leadership is in place there and that enough Iraqi security troops have been trained to keep a lid on insurgents in the country. Although Dick Cheney has famously said that the Iraqi insurgency is in its “last throes,” Pentagon officials have predicted that quashing the rebellion could take 12 years.
If Bush thinks he’s having a hard time now ducking antiwar protestors outside his Crawford, Texas, estate and reassuring a recalcitrant public already convinced (according to polls) that his Iraq war was a mistake, just wait until the fighting--already two years old--drags on into its third, fourth, or sixth year. This would explain why Bush is interrupting his record-setting vacation this week to begin a five-day campaign in defense of the war, which will include speeches in Utah and Idaho--two of the seven U.S. states where his approval ratings still break the 50 percent mark.
But the prez’s message may not be as welcome as he’d hope in Salt Lake City, the Utah capital, where he’s scheduled to address a Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention on Monday. Salt Lake Mayor Rocky Anderson called on Friday for “the biggest demonstration this state has ever seen” in protest of Bush’s appearance. “This administration has been disastrous to the country,” The Salt Lake Tribune quoted Anderson as saying. “If people could organize and speak out in an effective manner from the reddest state in the country, that would garner a lot of attention.” The “maverick” mayor had previously sent an e-mail message to local activist leaders, encouraging a public show of dissent by “health-care-provision advocates, seniors, the [gay, lesbian and bisexual and transsexual] community, anti-Patriot Act advocates and other civil libertarians, anti-war folks, pro-Social Security advocates, environmental advocates, anti-nuclear-testing advocates, and anti-nuclear-waste-shipment-and-storage advocates.” Needless to say, Anderson’s action plan has inflamed Bush’s conservative supporters in Utah. “Excuse my French, but--that son of a bitch!” said Mike Parkin, senior vice commander of the VFW Atomic Post 4355 in Salt Lake City. “It makes the mayor look very, very unpatriotic. It makes him look despicable.” Meanwhile, local TV station KTVX, an ABC affiliate (owned by pro-Bush Clear Channel Communications Inc.), has refused to air an antiwar advertisement featuring Cindy Sheehan, whose son’s death in Iraq in April 2004 incited the much-publicized protests this month in Crawford. In the ad, Sheehan reiterates her request for a face-to-face meeting with Bush and adds, “I love my country. But how many more of our loved ones need to die in this senseless war?” A KTVX sales rep told media buyers that it was an “inappropriate commercial advertisement for Salt Lake City.” (Interestingly, Mormon-owned KSL-TV, an NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City, did run the advertisement, citing its contribution to freedom of speech.)
Funny. Wasn’t August supposed to be a slow news month?
READ MORE: “Hagel Says Iraq War Looking Like Vietnam” (AP); “Call It a Day,” by Andrew J. Bacevich (The Washington Post); “The Swift Boating of Cindy Sheehan,” by Frank Rich (The New York Times); “Refusal to See Sheehan Is Second-Guessed,” by Mike Allen (The Washington Post); “Philadelphia 1787 vs. Baghdad 2005,” by Fred Kaplan (Slate).