Steve Chapman

It's true that eventually, McCain did call for more troops, and eventually, President Bush agreed. Last January, he announced that he was boosting forces to quell violence -- while telling the Iraqi government to move promptly toward internal reconciliation and power-sharing. All this would produce a stable, democratic Iraq and "hasten the day our troops begin coming home."

More than a year later, security is better. But nothing else is. The Baghdad government has failed to do the things Bush called for, and there is no sign that our troops will be coming home anytime soon, if ever.

Provincial elections, which were supposed to be held last year, remain somewhere over the rainbow. A landmark de-Baathification law turned out to be a scam, with the purported beneficiaries complaining it was even worse than the old policy. Bush said the Iraqi government would assume responsibility for security across the entire country by November 2007. We're still waiting.

The point of the surge was to catalyze rapid progress that would facilitate our departure. But now the Pentagon says that come July, we'll still have more troops than the 132,000 we had before. When Lt. Gen. Carter Ham was asked if the number will fall below 132,000 by the time Bush leaves office, he replied, "It would be premature to say that."

McCain says the current "strategy is succeeding in Iraq." His apparent definition of success is that American forces will stay on in huge numbers as long as necessary to keep violence within acceptable limits. We were told we had to increase our numbers so we could leave. Turns out we had to increase our numbers so we could stay.

Five years after the Iraq invasion, we've suffered more than 30,000 dead and wounded troops, incurred trillions in costs and found that Iraqis are unwilling to overcome their most basic divisions. And no end is in sight. If you're grateful for that, thank John McCain.

Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.

©Creators Syndicate