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News-Journal (Daytona Beach, Florida): 8 is Enough; That many prime-time promises over 4 years haven't begun to fix the president's broken Iraq

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was right to cut off President Bush in their White House meeting earlier this week. Somebody has to.

Bush was beginning to describe how he's about to pull back some American troops in Iraq. 'No you're not,' Pelosi corrected him. 'You're just going back to the pre-surge level.' Of course he is. That's not a pull-back. It's a resumption of business as usual. If you can call a reduction of 5,700 troops by year's end a reduction. Troop levels fluctuate more than that month-over-month regardless.

Too bad somebody couldn't interrupt the president on national television last night, the eighth time in four years that he's taken to the national airwaves to defend an indefensible war and ask the nation to trust his -- what? Besides his hazardous gut, there's little left to trust.

Take his claims about the 'surge.' The troop increase that started in February was billed as a way to crack down on violence and give the Iraqi government more room to foster reconciliation. But we've been there before. Total coalition troop strength today, at the height of the 'surge,' is lower than it was at the beginning of  2005. What the 'surge' masked, what President Bush never spoke about, is the hemorrhage that coalition troops have suffered since January 2005. The Ukraine, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands: They've all pulled out their troops. Britain is reducing its contingent. From a high of 25,600, non-American coalition troops are down to 11,700. Half the 'surge' was merely replacement personnel.

And that draw-down Bush is promising? It's not a choice. He has to pull back. He already extended troop deployments from 12 to 15 months. Short of another extension, which would be politically deadly, brigades have to be rotated home almost immediately. A further reduction will be forced on the military regardless of political wishes next spring. As The Associated Press reported in mid-August, 'The Army's 38 available combat units are deployed, just returning home or already tapped to go to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere, leaving no fresh troops to replace five extra brigades that President Bush sent to Baghdad this year, according to interviews and military documents.'

In short, the American military is tapped out. It's not hype, but fact, to say that current deployments are endangering American security for leaving the country vulnerable to the unexpected.

Progress in Iraq? Only if you believe the numbers Bush and Gen. David Petraeus have been peddling around this week. But those numbers of allegedly decreasing violence don't track significant Sunni-Sunni violence or Shiite-Shiite violence. The Government Accountability Office also found that the White House's claim of decreasing sectarian violence could not be verified. And the overall death toll continues to rise. The presence of American troops is supposedly preventing an outright civil war. It's equally possible that it's inflaming violence by giving various militias and insurgent groups cover for their violent agendas.

Bush's perspective is even more deceitful for centering on American concerns. Here's the consequence of Bush's war that Iraqis are contending with. Today, despite the surge, up to 2.4 million Iraqis are refugees abroad, and 1.1 million are internal refugees, forcibly displaced from their homes. That's 13 percent of the nation's population, including 40 percent of its professional class - - uprooted or gone. Baghdad residents get an average of six hours of electricity per day (down from 16 to 24 before the war). Residents elsewhere get an average of 10.3 hours (up from four to eight hours in 2003).

Unemployment is as high as 40 percent. Inflation is running at 50 percent. Just 30 percent of Iraq's school-age students are in class. Sixteen of 36 ministers in the national government have either quit or are boycotting meetings. And 60,000 Iraqis are in Iraqi or American prisons (the peak prison population in 2003? 10,000).

That is what Bush calls 'the way forward.'

Pelosi was too kind to Bush, especially now that he is exclusively in time-scrounging mode until the next president inherits his catastrophe.