It does not matter whether Nouri al-Maliki behaves as a compliant puppet.

It does not matter what vacuous metaphors President Bush’s speechwriters deploy to illustrate his fantasy of Iraq’s flower of democracy blooming amidst desert sands.

It does not matter whether America’s latest troop surge counters the latest surge of endless insurgents.

All that matters is the answer to one question: Can Iraq’s own military defend itself?

The answer is “no.”

Countries need to be able to defend themselves, from enemies within and without. Iraq’s rich segment of the fertile crescent has been coveted by its Middle East neighbors for ages. And they will not refrain from taking it just because Iraq holds democratic elections.

Iraq used to defend itself well, under the brutal–but unified–regime of Sadaam Hussein. But we destroyed that head. Then the Bush administration unilaterally disarmed Iraq’s best soldiers, destroying the body.

The un-unified remnant of Iraqi fighters cannot even get along with each other, let alone defend against Iran and the constant flood of infiltrating insurgents.

So America has a choice. We can remove our soldiers from their current role as lightning rods for anti-U.S. prejudice–or we can accept a permanent role in defending Iraq by annexing its factions as our 51st, 52nd, and 53rd states.

Vacillating between these inevitable outcomes wastes American lives and money while impeding our war against terror.

The only plausible reason for staying this self-destructive course is to prolong the gravy train being ridden by war profiteers who’ve had close ties with Vice President Dick Cheney.

Dan Duffy
Oak Park

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