Seeing a New Exit Strategy in Iraq
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Iraqi leaders have agreed to stick to their timetable for drafting a new constitution. Under American pressure, they've brushed aside calls to extend the August 15th deadline. NPR's senior news analyst Daniel Schorr is tracking the situation in Iraq and what leaders here in the US have to say about it.
It feels a little like the summer of 2002, when White House chief of staff Andrew Card responded to rumors of a coming invasion of Iraq by saying, `From a marketing point of view, you don't introduce new products in August.' This August, there are signs of a new product in development: a scaling down of American forces in Iraq. True, President Bush has often rejected the idea of a timetable as only encouraging the insurgents, but the White House is facing the grim fact that the insurgency may not be in its last throes, whatever Vice President Dick Cheney may say.
Some of the signs of a coming new policy are semantic. The administration talks less about a war against terrorism, more about a global struggle against violent extremism. At a press conference, Secretary Rumsfeld used the word `extremist' or a variation of it 11 times. `If you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution,' said General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking at the National Press Club.
American authorities maintain pressure on the Iraqi government to get on with a constitution, even if there are some holes in it, and to press on to a December election. The Iraqi authorities, who until recently were urging the American government not to withdraw troops too soon, are being induced to fall in line with a new policy. Interim Prime Minister Ibrahim Al-Jafari, with a beaming Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld by his side, said, `We confirm and we desire speed in the withdrawal of American forces.'
You may ask why the Bush administration seems to be changing its policy to a pullout of troops even if Iraqi forces are something less than ready. One part of the answer to that may lie in what this war--oops, this struggle is doing to American soldiers. The Army surgeon general reports that 30 percent of troops returning from Iraq suffer from mental health problems including anxiety, depression, nightmares. This is Daniel Schorr.