See if you can guess who uttered these confident words last June:
"With the exception of periodic flare-ups in isolated corners, our struggle in Iraq as warfare is over."
(a) President Bush, updating his 2003 declaration that major combat was over?
(b) Donald Rumsfeld, telling Pentagon reporters why the reality-based media had it all wrong?
(c) Dick Cheney, improvising on his earlier announcement that the Iraqi insurgency was in its last throes?
(d) Claude Allen, White House domestic policy advisor, defending the war during his final days on the job -- before he was arrested for shoplifting?
or (e) none of the above?
The correct answer is (e). The man who last June declared the end of our warfare in Iraq is:
Karl Zinsmeister, a veteran of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, whose perception of a basically peaceful Iraq might be of interest to the families of the 710 American soldiers who have been killed since he wrote those words -- and to the 4,502 soliders who have been wounded since then.
Why am I spotlighting Zinsmeister?
Because he just got named by Bush to be the new White House domestic policy advisor, replacing the aforementioned alleged shoplifter.
There was a time, several months ago, when mainstream Washington Republicans such as David Gergen and Vin Weber were urging the Bush administration to shake up the staff and bring in a wider spectrum of opinion. Those Republicans may question whether the addition of Zinsmeister meets that standard.
On the other hand, Zinsmeister is being hired for domestic policy, so he probably won't be tapped to contribute to the administration's comunications effort on the war. That task still falls, primarily, to the President. The problem is that he is still making statements that do not square with the facts.
Late Tuesday afternoon, while speaking about Iraq, the Decider took on the Suicider:
"It is a difficult task to stop suicide bombers. That’s the — but that’s one of the main — that’s the main weapon of the enemy, the capacity to destroy innocent life with a suicider." However, "If one were to measure progress on the number of suiciders, if that's your definition of success, I think it obscures the steady, incremental march toward democracy we're seeing."
But Bush got it wrong. The Suicider is no longer "the main weapon of the enemy."
As documented in a chart here (see page five), 56 percent of U.S troop deaths during May have been caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), not suicide bombs. In fact, IEDs have caused the majority of U.S. deaths during seven of the past nine months. And during 2005, only 411 of 34,131 insurgent attacks featured suicide car bombs.
Yet the strife in Iraq today (or, as Zinsmeister might call it, "periodic flareups in isolated corners") goes far beyond the largely Sunni insurgency. Bush may still be focused on Suiciders, but the biggest threat to peace appears to be the roaming death squads that have infiltrated the Iraqi government, to the point where it's tough to tell the sectarian killers from the peace officers.
Naturally, as an attention-getter, this is not an issue that can begin to compete with American Idol, but it's clear that the "periodic flareups" caused by death squads and IEDs will nevertheless continue to bedevil this administration in the runup to the '06 elections.