If the war in Iraq was cruel, wasteful and unnecessary before, it seems that things are only getting worse. In Wednesday’s nationally televised address, President Bush made a reality the worst fears of the vast majority of Americans by announcing an escalation of the war. At a time when experts have begun considering a phased withdrawal, Bush confirmed that he intends to send 21,500 additional troops into the Iraq quagmire.

Sarah Royce

The majority of the troops will be sent to Baghdad. Bush says the intention is to aid Iraqi forces in the bloody task of retaking neighborhoods currently brutalized by militias. Never mind that a similar troop surge last fall failed miserably. Never mind that virtually every politician on both sides of the aisle think this is the wrong way to go. Never mind that even America’s allies are hesitant to support this surge. Never mind that the American casualties in the war in Iraq now outnumber those of Sept. 11. Bush needs a legacy. To get one of those this late in the game, you have to gamble. The president sees your 3,018, and he just raised you 21,500.

While his proposal is clear, what remains unclear is how Bush expects commanders to effectively use these additional forces. Many military leaders don’t think more soldiers on the ground will make a difference. Both of the leading American generals in Iraq oppose throwing more American troops into the fire, arguing that more troops mean more targets for insurgents. But what do they know, they’re just the ones fighting the war.

Additionally, it’s unlikely that adding even 20,000 troops in Baghdad, a city of some 6 million people, will make any significant difference. Previous troop increases in this highly volatile region not only failed, but actually deepened animosity and exacerbated the conflict. It will also take several months to transport the brigades to combat zones, and who knows what the situation on the ground will be like then? The president thinks he does – and he’s sure enough to put 21,500 of us on the line.

The plan comes on heels of a recent poll showing that only 12 percent of the American public favors an increase in troop levels. Obviously the public favors a different course of action than that of their “commander in chief,” but it’s not just the public that feels this way. Recent polls of American military personnel show that only 35 percent of them approve of the way Bush has handled the war in Iraq, down from 54 percent a year ago.

The new Democratic Congress responded with skepticism to Bush’s troop increase, but even some Republicans have jumped ship. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) called the plan “a dangerously wrongheaded strategy,” and even Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of the few politicians who have pushed for additional troops, has acknowledged that this small and short-term surge is unlikely to produce positive long-term results. Also, a recent poll found that, despite the administration’s rhetoric, seven out of 10 Iraqis favor American withdrawal. Unfortunately, it seems yet again that the president has heard everyone and listened to no one.

Congressional oversight is now the only way to curb the president’s lunacy and salvage the few remnants of America’s reputation and moral capital. But some Democrats claim Congress lacks the authority to stop the troop surge. Now isn’t the time for the nascent Congress to get cold feet. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi recently suggested the possibility of Congress refusing the entirety of the president’s funding request and authorizing only what is needed for the troops currently on the ground. She’s right: Congress has both the power and the responsibility to override Bush’s dangerously misguided proposal and steer the nation toward a more sensible strategy.

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