The mental health experts call it ''reality testing.'' According to www.behavenet.com, the term ''refers to an individual's ability to discern, perceive, appreciate or "test" the qualities of their surroundings.'' After watching the Sunday morning news shows, which included an interview of President Bush by George Stephanopoulos, I'm thinking our nation could benefit from some presidential ''reality testing.'' The president seems to have no ability to discern, perceive or appreciate the qualities of his surroundings or more importantly, the surroundings of the men and women who are serving under his command in Iraq. It is for the benefit of these men and women that I hope the president's loose grip on reality has more to do with his playing a high-stakes game of pre-election mid-term political posturing than it does his true beliefs about Iraq.
The month of October has been the deadliest month in Iraq since November of 2003. The families of the fallen will never again celebrate a birthday, graduation, Thanksgiving, or Christmas without thinking of their missing loved one. The Iraqis had an even worse month. This year's Ramadan holiday was plagued with violence and despair. They were prohibited from celebrating the evening break – fast due to the violence. Taxpayers have spent over $330 billion dollars in Iraq to date. According to President Bush, Saddam Hussein, had nothing to do with the terror attacks on September 11, 2001. Nothing.
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Now however, we have spent $330 billion of your hard-earned money. Money that could have been invested in our childrens' educations; into health care; into new job opportunities and economic transformation; into alternative sources of energy; into homeland security; and into creating economic opportunity abroad so that young Arab men would be more interested in having a family than blowing one up. It's $330 billion dollars of, as Dick Cheney called the nuclear bunkers in England after the end of the Cold War, ''sunk costs.''
It's a lot worse than sunk costs. Now Iraq is a failed ''would be state.'' We can't even call it a failed state, because it never reached statehood, the definition of which includes the ability to govern and secure oneself. Ironically, the only leader who seems to be able to make a state out of Iraq is Saddam Hussein, who by the way, just begged from his jail cell for his countrymen to stop killing each other. You know things are out of control when Saddam Hussein is the local peace protester.
When Stephanopoulos asked the president about the mid-term elections, President Bush said that his team was counting on ''our base.'' Great. But who is the president's so-called ''base.'' From my vantage point, there seems to be a wedge within the ranks of the Republican Party. While Karl Rove likely never met a wedge issue he didn't like, wedge issues on the same side of the aisle present an interesting predicament for an administration whose response to his own party has been ''shut up and color.''
Republicans are starting to employ the ''Double D strategy'' of distance and disagree. Gen. Alexander ''Take Charge'' Haig, President Reagan's former secretary of state, also appeared on the Sunday morning line-up. The general speaks out of loyalty to a uniform he wore in the service of our nation, not to or for a political party or particular ''base'' within that party. The general wants a change in course, a new strategy. He essentially said that the ''neo-cons'' have driven our nation over the cliff. Men and women, including the vice president, have taken hold of the political process. He's not interested in waiting one more minute, let alone until the election is over, to implement a new strategy in Iraq. What's the rush? The rush is that our military is putting one foot in front of the other, according to a close Republican friend of mine who just returned from there, but there is no plan. And often times as they put one foot in front of the other that foot lands on an IED or in the path of a sniper or mortar.
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The president has commissioned a commission as the answer to the general's criticism. Its findings will not be released until after the election. Most importantly, arguably the single biggest issue for Iraq, that of separating the nation into three independent entities, is ''off the table'' completely.
Forget about Republicans and Democrats and Red States and Blue States for a minute and just focus on the reality of the situation in Iraq. Whatever we are doing right now, whatever that one foot in front of the other strategy might be exactly, is not working. No matter what or whose metric you use to measure security or quality of life of the Iraqis, you come up with a downward trend arrow.
The reality of the situation demands that our president explain and implement a new plan in Iraq. We cannot wait, our soldiers cannot wait and the Iraqi people cannot just march off the cliff one by one for the next two years. Yet, my own reality testing tells me that this is wishful thinking. President Bush has said that he will leave Iraq to the next president. It's the first time in American history that a president has taken our nation to war and then said, ''That's the next guy's problem.'' It's not even clear that the president understands that his party is on the brink of losing Congress. When asked about the election he said, ''I'm not on the ballot.'' When asked if he reads any books about his presidency, which by the way would be a great way to do some much needed ''reality testing,'' he said that would be ''weird.'' Some reality, and it needs testing.