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(HOST) Lately we’ve been hearing more about the possibility of long-term American involvement in Iraq. Commentator Bill Seamans is thinking about how much our expectations have changed.

(SEAMANS) When will the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld Troika pull
our troops out of Iraq? That’s a question we the people have been asking since President Bush’s famous aircraft carrier “Mission Accomplished” speech. With the critical midterm elections bearing down in November, the political pressure on Bush and his Karl Rovian campaign strategists finally is forcing the most secretive White House in our modern political history to give us more information about how long our troops will remain in Iraq.

At the beginning we were told that Iraq was a “slam dunk” and
that our troops would be out in about a year. Then we were told not until Iraqi troops can stand up and fight on their own. Then Bush said our generals in Iraq would decide when.

We found the first indication of what Bush’s critics call THE TRUTH when we read the Quadrennial Defense Review, which projected plans for our military forces over the next twenty or
more years. The QDR said we must prepare for quote “a long war” unquote. Then Defense Secretary Rumsfeld also spoke about the probability of a long war- but he didn’t say HOW long. And then the White House allowed Marine Gen. Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to tell Tim Russert on “Meet the Press” that he “could see a couple of more years of this.”

But that time line was extended by President Bush,himself,
when he was asked during his news conference last week when will there be no more American forces in Iraq? Bush said that decision will be made by “future presidents and future governments of Iraq.” So that up to now is the best answer we have to our question when will all our troops be withdrawn from Iraq.

And as always in a very complex geopolitical picture there is a background tapestry of rumor, speculation and the ubiquitous claims of unnamed supposedly informed sources. For this one there is the buzz that American troops will be asked by the new Iraqi government to remain as “invitees” instead of “occupiers”
and they would be housed in several huge bases now quietly being built. It’s said that officially our troops will remain to stabilize the Iraqi political scene – and unofficially to protect American Big Oil interests in the Middle East.

And so President Bush has admitted publicly that all American troops will not leave Iraq during his watch – not until sometime
after the Presidential Election in 2008. Thus the new question is how will all this weigh on Republican candidates in the upcoming November midterm elections? Obviously it’s another major campaign problem for Karl Rove to worry about!

Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East.

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