Bush Vacations While U.S. Soldiers Die

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A recent editorial in The Washington Post conceded that the latest eruption of violence in Iraq marks "a turn for the worse," but then quickly found a silver lining: "For months it has been evident that it will be impossible to stabilize Iraq ... unless factional militias are disarmed and disbanded." Now, "that painful but necessary battle will go forward."

In other words, the unfolding bloodbath is progress. Which raises the question: Is there anything that hawks for this war wouldn't consider progress? If we're greeted with flowers, that's helpful. If we're greeted with machine-gun fire, that's helpful, too.

Such blather aside, however, many have called this past week a turning point in our Iraqi misadventure.

But that's imprecise. If you drive your car off a cliff, and your car smashes through tree branches on its inevitable path downward, it would be odd to describe the impact with the branches as "a turning point." Call it instead an alarming taste of how truly bad things are going to get.

Here in the United States, the airwaves are filled with a shrill consensus that no matter what happens, this mission is too important to abandon, and that "we can't fail."

Can't fail? We failed the moment we decided to roar in with our tanks and air power to deliver liberal democracy -- to a land, what's more, where the majority will apparently cast their votes for repressive theocracy.

The rest is just epilogue.

So we will engage in a "robust" and "muscular" military response against our enemies, wherever we meet them. And foreign policy wonks will insist that if we hit just the right mix of lethal force, financial aid and moral commitment, we can build a shining city on a Mesopotamian hill.

And then, of course, after we've squandered enough lives and treasure and it's still not working, we will cut and run. And yes, it will have all been for nothing.

It's so unforgiveably stupid. I find myself looking around for the man who brought us there, George W. Bush. Doesn't he have some explaining to do?

What do you know, he's skipped town.

Yes, he's taken another unearned vacation down in Texas. President Bush chalked up his 500th vacation day this past weekend, even as the 455th U.S. soldier fell in combat. (Overall, 728 "coalition" soldiers, including 58 British, have died so far in this war zone. So have somewhere from 8,800 to 10,000 Iraqis, according to iraqbodycount.org.)

And yet the president who authored this disaster is taking it manfully in stride. As The Washington Post reported, "This is Bush's 33rd visit to his ranch since becoming president. He has spent all or part of 233 days on his Texas ranch since taking office ... Adding his 78 visits to Camp David and his five visits to Kennebunkport, Maine, Bush has spent all or part of 500 days in office at one of his three retreats, or more than 40 percent of his presidency."

Forty percent of his presidency! That's the equivalent of taking paid leave off from Jan. 1 to May 24. Must be nice.

Bush can also proudly claim the longest presidential vacation in 32 years -- a month-long siesta in August 2001.

Come to think of it, those days of languid leisure coincided with the presidential intelligence briefing document of August 6, 2001 -- the one he apparently ignored, no doubt bored by its title: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."

Matt Bivens is a former editor of The Moscow Times.