The Herald Bulletin, Anderson, Ind.

It appears that President Bush’s strategy in Iraq has changed from “stay the course,” to simply “stay.”

Bush said Tuesday that troops will remain in Iraq past his presidency. It will be up to a successor to finally bring our soldiers out of Iraq. With that, he added, “I’m optimistic we’ll succeed. If not, I’d pull our troops out.”

It sounds like reverse logic. If we’re successful, we should be able to pull out our troops, confident that we’ve stabilized the country and established democracy.

Failure to us means we have to stay and try to control the mess we’ve made. Bush says we’re staying. It’s a far cry from those heady days upon an aircraft carrier in which he declared victory in Iraq.

It’s also a far cry from the years that Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisted that the United States was making great progress in Iraq.

As we see it, the situation in Iraq has grown steadily worse. It is dire.

More than 1,000 Iraqis have died in secular violence sparked since the bombing a month ago of a Shiite Muslim shrine. Bodies are discovered by the busload.

Many military analysts assert that Iraq is embroiled in a civil war. According to a recent poll, 80 percent of Americans consider Iraqi civil war inevitable, including 70 percent of polled Republicans.

Bush says Iraq isn’t in a civil war, disagreeing with Iraq’s former interim prime minister, who says it is.

Whatever one calls it, violence in Iraq has claimed the lives of 2,300 American troops and still requires the presence of 133,000 U.S. soldiers.

Bush appears more and more isolated as more and more Republicans fall away. He swats away pleas from his party compatriots to shake up his staff.

The din will grow louder as mid-term elections near and Republican incumbents distance themselves from the unpopular president.

Regardless of how our war with Iraq plays within Washington politics, the truth is settling in that we’re in Iraq to stay indefinitely.

How sad for us. How sad for the troops fighting for their lives. How sad for their families who are awash in worry and fear.

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