BAGHDAD, Feb. 27 -- The American soldier stepped out of the Baghdad nightclub. In one hand, he clutched his weapon. In the other, a green can of Tuborg beer. He took a sip and walked over to two comrades, dressed as he was in camouflage and combat gear.
Inside the club Thursday night, U.S. soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division ogled young Iraqi women who appeared to be prostitutes gyrating to Arabic pop music. A singer crooned soulfully through scratchy speakers to the raucous, pulsating beat -- an action that Islamic extremists have deemed punishable by beheading.
Twenty minutes later, several drunk men coaxed an American soldier to dance. He awkwardly shuffled his feet, wearing night-vision equipment and a radio, joining the women and boisterous young men in an Arabic chain dance around tables covered with empty beer bottles.
Guess what? When American G.I.'s, Marines and sailors aren't fighting wars, they love to party. No big surprise. Been there, done that during the Vietnam War in Uncle Sam's Navy. But when G.I.'s in Baghdad can visit a local club and dance with the Iraqi women, something big has happened. No headlines have yet proclaimed it from the Obama News Media, but victory has broken out in Iraq. President Bush's "surge" worked and snatched victory from the jaws of defeat after six long years of blood, sweat and tears by our glorious fighting men and women.
Now the bad news. President Obama came down to my state to the biggest Marine base, Camp LeJeune, NC, yesterday and gave a big speech on the Iraq war. He declared it over and announced combat will officially end by his royal decree on a date he has set in stone.
"Let me say this as plainly as I can: By August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end," Obama said.
Of course, like everything Obama says, it depends on what the meaning of "is" is. And his "officials" explained the fine print of Obama's set-in-stone deadline for the Post reporter.
Obama pledged to "proceed cautiously" and to closely consult military commanders, but under his plan, roughly 100,000 troops would exit Iraq by mid-2010. Another 35,000 to 50,000 would remain to help provide security and training -- and, most importantly, counterterrorism operations and advisory missions, which military officials note may include combat.
So 100,000 will leave, but 50,000 will remain for duties that "may include combat." Got it?
Obama's "official end of combat in Iraq" date-setting reminds me a diary entry by a World War II veteran I interviewed in 2005 on the 60th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima in the Pacific.
G.W. "Bill" Godwin, then 84, was a young Marine medic who went ashore with the Marine assault forces on Feb. 25, 1945, at the beginning of one of the worst battles of WWII. Some general announced three weeks later that the Battle of Iwo Jima was officially over. Never mind that Marines and soldiers continued to fight and die and kill Japanese defenders for weeks more. Godwin wrote in his diary about the day "victory" was officially declared on Iwo Jima:
March 17, 1945: "Today the island was secured (officially)."
March 20, 1945: "I wish to hell someone would tell the Nips that this island is secured. They don't seem to know it. Out of 13 of us who came ashore, only 5 are left."
(Two more of the original 13 were casualities before Goodwin's unit pulled out from Iwo Jima on March 27, leaving him one of only three escaping unhurt.)
But the saddest thing about Obama's speech to the Marines at LeJeune is the word he didn't use. He declared an official victory date in the future, but never used the word "victory." He also never mentioned the word "surge" which would have required him to also mention the name of President Bush, who approved the risky plan of General Petraeus, the military architect of the surge and the Iraq victory, when all the "experts" agreed it was time to cut and run from Iraq. And of course, Obama was the chief cheerleader of all the cut-and-run "experts" way back then.
The New York Times coverage of Obama's speech at LeJeune noted his choice of words.
Mr. Obama presented his plan at the same base where, in April 2003, with American forces nearing Baghdad, Mr. Bush declared that “we will accept nothing less than complete and final victory.”
Victory is now officially out of fashion. Welcome to Obama's world.
And now on to the worse news, the economy. The Washington Post reports today:
The prospects for an economic recovery by year's end dimmed yesterday, as government data showed that the economy contracted at the end of 2008 by the fastest pace in a quarter-century. The worse-than-expected data fueled doubts about whether the Obama administration had adequately sized up the challenges it faces in trying to pull the country out of recession.
Gross domestic product, a measure of the goods and services produced across the nation, shrank at an annualized rate of 6.2 percent in the last quarter of 2008, according to the Commerce Department, far worse than the initial estimate of 3.8 percent and the 5 percent most analysts were expecting. The downward revision means the economy began the year from an even weaker position than previously thought.
...The revised GDP figure helped stoke skepticism among economists who say the White House's projections for the nation's recovery are too rosy. Based on those projections, Obama said he would slash the deficit in half by the end of his term. In its budget outline, the administration predicted that the economy would shrink 1.2 percent this year and grow 3.2 percent next year. By contrast, the consensus among private forecasters is that the economy will shrink 1.9 percent this year and grow 2.1 percent next year.
There's an old saw that says if all the economists in the world were laid end to end, they still wouldn't reach a conclusion. So when The Post says the economists are in agreement that Obama's rosy projections about his so-called stimulus plan are too rosy, that means they stink.
Hunker down folks. It's gonna get worse before it gets better. Maybe a whole lot worse.