Sixteen U.S. soldiers were killed last week in Iraq, bringing the June total to 46. Sunday alone 29 Iraqis were killed in the escalating violence. On Saturday the NY Times reported that the tony Mansour district of Baghdad--like many of the city's western areas--has basically fallen to insurgents, seeming more like "wartime Beirut" than the peaceful affluent area it once was. On Sunday, Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki unveiled a plan to offer limited amnesty to insurgents. That same day Japan began pulling out its 550 troops. The killing of al-Zarqawi, like the many failed milestones before it, clearly has done nothing to lessen the violence and weaken the insurgency, and the war continues to spiral out of control, with no end in sight, and with the country teetering on the brink of large-scale civil war. According to a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, when asked whether they'd be more or less likely to vote for a 2006 presidential candidate who favors a complete pullout within 12 months, 54% of respondents said "more likely" while just 32% said "less likely." Add all this up and it spells political disaster. But to the Republican Party, this debacle spells progress and success. And, incredibly, it's this debacle that they plan to make a cornerstone of their re-election campaign theme. Either they've totally moved their headquarters to DelusionVille, or they must know something we don't.

Last week Republicans defeated two Democratic resolutions to bring the troops home. One, sponsored by Sen. John Kerry (MA) and Sen. Russell Feingold (WI), called for complete withdrawal by July 1, 2007 and was defeated 86-13. The other, put forth by Sens. Carl Levin (MI) and Jack Reed (RI), was more of a compromise effort, a non-binding resolution urging the Bush administration to begin withdrawing troops but with no set timetable, and it lost by a vote of 60-39. The prior week, both the GOP-controlled House and Senate voted to "stay the course," which has become the Bushevik wartime mantra. In a 256-153 vote, the House approved a non-binding resolution that praised the troops, established Iraq as the central front in the war on terror, and refused to set a timetable for withdrawal. The day before, the Senate, in a 93-6 vote, defeated a measure that called for allowing "only forces that are critical to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces" to remain in Iraq in 2007.

So what gives with the Repugs? They are now embracing the war whole-hog. What do they know about it, or its political currency, that's getting them excited about November? The answer is simple: as it was in 2004, it's all about lies, deception and fear-mongering. A masterful campaign to scare the bejesus out of Americans. It's Karl Rove's game plan, and it worked like a charm before. The question is, will it work again? The Repugs are banking heavily on it.

Listen to the rhetoric; to the character assassinations. Close your eyes and it's '04 all over again. Witness the Swift-boating attacks on Kerry and Rep. John Murtha (PA), branded as "cut and run" cowards. Listen as VP Dick Chickenhawk warns that the Kerry/Murtha withdrawal plans tell the world that "Americans don't have the stomach for this fight" (a subject Mr. Five Deferments knows a lot about personally). Listen to the misuse and abuse of the word "terrorist." Throughout American military history, we've fought many types of enemies in battle: armies, rebels, guerrillas, insurgents. But since 9/11, and as a direct result of Bush's unjust invasion of Iraq, every enemy's a "terrorist" now. And this morphing process serves one purpose: to use 9/11 as a deceptive basis for, and justification of, the Iraq invasion. "Fight 'em over there so we don't have to over here," is the common Bushevik refrain. It's been over three years since the invasion, and we all now know that (a) there was no WMD in Iraq, (b) there was no direct connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and (c) Iraq had zero to do with 9/11. Yet it's astounding that the Repugs are back morphing the two, however overtly and/or subtly, in their quest to scare Americans into voting once again for their failed leadership.

As for "staying the course," it's a matter of survival for the Busheviks. As Feingold said on Sunday's Meet the Press, we're being told we need to "stay in Iraq so that Cheney and Bush get to say that they were right. That appears to be why we're there. That appears to be the only logical reason to stay. A situation that is draining our military, that is hurting our recruiting. That is allowing Osama bin Laden to have us exactly where he wants us."

And what about "cut and run" being a sign of the Democrats' weakness; of their "retreat and defeatism?" How about this: is it cut and run when the top American commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., calls for a troop drawdown of 7000 by September '06? Or a withdrawal of all but 40,000-50,000 troops by the end of '07? The NY Times Sunday reported that a classified Pentagon briefing by Casey calls for significant troop draw-downs within the same timetable outlined by Kerry, Murtha and other Democrats. But it's highly unlikely the Repugs will brand their guy a cut and run defeatist . To the contrary, his prescience will be characterized as military pragmatism. They can't, and won't, have it both ways.