Flavia Montiero Colgan | A 'legacy' in tatters

PRESIDENT Bush looks tired. Tony Snow looks more confused than ever. No one has seen much of Vice President Cheney lately. I wouldn't be surprised if his ticker has given up.

After months and months of yelling that anyone who dared criticize the lack of planning or direction in Iraq was a "defeatist," and expending tons of energy to keep the Republican Party on those talking points, this week the bipartisan Iraq Study Group stated the obvious - Iraq is not working.


This group includes GOP heavy hitters of yore. From James Baker to Lawrence Eagleburger, the commission spoke with one voice - and one highly critical of how the administration has executed this war.


The commission was strong and unapologetic in its view. A selection of what it said:

"The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating... By the first quarter of 2008, subject to unexpected developments in the security situation on the ground, all combat brigades not necessary for force
protection could be out of Iraq."

Back in late September, Cheney said of people who held these views, "For the sake of our security, this nation must reject any strategy of resignation and defeatism in the face of determined enemies."

President Bush declared, "Defeatism may have its partisan uses, but it is not justified by the facts... My fellow citizens: Not only can we win the war in Iraq, we are winning the war in Iraq."

Run a Google search, and you will see Republican congressmen, senators, Cabinet officials and bloggers deriding those who dared criticize the president as defeatist. (Donald Rumsfeld, at one point, seemed to say that war critics were no better than Nazi appeasers.)

Now that the Iraq Study Group has spoken, what can the administration say? That the president's father's most trusted advisers are quitters who want to cut and run? That they don't want the U.S. to win?

What of all those members of Congress the president strong-armed into keeping on message? The president has no choice but to leave them to dangle in the wind, and figure out how to deal with this commission report on their own.

Politically, this report has put the final nail in the coffin of the Bush legacy. The first stinging stake through the heart of his political legacy was the nation's rejection of his course of action in the midterm elections. Now, legends in his own party have deemed his policies a failure.

That's why everyone in the administration, especially the president, looks so worn out. For the majority of his term in office, the president and everyone around him has believed two things, quite firmly:

First, that history was on their side and they would prevail in Iraq. Second, that the president would have a legacy rivaling Winston Churchill's.

MOST LIKELY, all of them are trying to figure out how to make those two things still come true, even in the face of the elections and the commission report. As they stay up late at night trying to figure it
out, they pathetically refuse to see the truth - that saving the Bush legacy is an unsolvable problem.

Mr. President, it is time to own up to reality. You have failed this country and further destabilized an already cantankerous region. You've lost this war, and there is no chance history will deem you a brave
hero who refused to wilt in the face of doubt.

Quit worrying about your political legacy - it's gone, as dead as the thousands of American lives you've wasted in this misguided war. The only thing you can do now, and all you should be expending your energy on, is how to do what the commission has recommended - transition our forces out of Iraq as soon as it is realistically possible.