A couple of weeks ago, I wrote skeptically about predictions that Saddam’s imminent sentencing would give the GOP a last-minute election bump. Sure, the verdict gives Bush and Republican candidates something to crow about for a couple of days, but the announcement is so unsurprising as to be anti-climactic. Its timing is still subject to speculation. But perhaps the more important question is what the verdict means for Iraq. Does it, as Iraqi blogger Riverbend fears, mark the beginning of Bush’s own personal disengagement with the war, another “Mission Accomplished” moment he can use to claim success and move on?
I’m more than a little worried. This is Bush’s final card. The elections came and went and a group of extremists and thieves were put into power (no, no—I meant in Baghdad, not Washington). The constitution which seems to have drowned in the river of Iraqi blood since its elections has been forgotten. It is only dug up when one of the Puppets wants to break apart the country. Reconstruction is an aspiration from another lifetime: I swear we no longer want buildings and bridges, security and an undivided Iraq are more than enough. Things must be deteriorating beyond imagination if Bush needs to use the ‘Execute the Dictator’ card.
Sentencing Saddam to hang may make for a nice line to add to stump speeches, but it won’t change things on the ground. It won’t end the insurgency or the civil war or turn the lights back on. It won’t bring the troops home or chart a course for victory. Even if the timing was a Rovian plot, it just goes to further demonstrate how out of touch the administration is from the reality of Iraq—and its own electorate. Which is why, come Wednesday, this hopefully will be remembered as the November surprise that wasn’t.