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Walls won't help Iraq Plan to build Baghdad barriers is latest sign of political desperation

Whatever must our troops think, the Senate's Republican minority leader fretted last week, to hear that the Democratic leader of the U.S. Senate has declared the war in Iraq to be "lost."

Maybe they think that somebody gets it.

Majority Leader Harry Reid has backtracked a bit on his statement of last week, challenged as he was by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, among others. Reid correctly notes now that U.S. troops efficiently won the part of the Iraqi operation that was planned as a war, quickly toppling Saddam Hussein's government. It is what has happened since that the United States has been losing and, because those losses are diplomatic, political and administrative, they cannot be blamed on the troops.

The soldiers, though, continue to pay the price, dying in ones and twos and threes and more, killed by insurgents who have decamped from Baghdad during the ongoing U.S. "surge." Even if it remains impolitic for Reid to declare the war lost, and even if President Bush accuses those who would even suggest military drawdown dates as counseling surrender, the fact is that the post-conquest part of the war has been seeing losses almost from the day it began, and the administration's own policies are to blame.

It began with too few troops, too little armor and other equipment, virtually no international support, no reasonable plan for the occupation period and absolutely no clue about the chaos that would likely ensue. It continues with the recent embarrassing decision to create some clumsily nicknamed "gated communities" to separate warring factions.

The moves in Congress to tie the next $100 billion in funding to firm or suggested dates for redeploying U.S. troops in the region don't flow only from the shift in power from Bush's Republicans to Reid's Democrats. They are the natural outcome of a war that seems to not only never end, but to never have had an idea as to how to get to the end.

Rather than wave a puny, but clear, white flag, the war planners recently took to erecting some 12-foot-high fences around certain neighborhoods in Baghdad, all but admitting that the sectarian violence going on there can't be ended by either U.S. patrols or Iraqi parliamentarians. Construction of at least one of the walls was stopped at the demand of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who understandably noted the reaction of the area's residents was not a feeling of increased security, but a fear of being held prisoner in their own community.

It wasn't exactly a Reaganesque "tear down this wall" moment for al-Maliki, although it should have been -- American democracy has no business building mini-Berlin Walls. But it did suggest that the besieged leader of the Iraqi government understands something. Perhaps he'll feel emboldened by the fence fuss to craft the political solutions Iraq needs to shoulder responsibility for its own future and, finally, call for U.S. troops to leave his country altogether.

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