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Big news out of Washington, D.C., about the war in Iraq. Even Republicans, it is now being reported, are looking at the fall as the time to see if either A: things are working well enough to have confidence in the future of a free and democratic Iraq able to defend itself from the murderous forces there today, or B: it's time to let the thing descend into all-out hell and get out.

This is being treated as a news flash and a sign that Republicans are abandoning Bush. It is neither.

It's not news because it's old. Gen. David Petraeus said the time frame on Iraq was, I think I'm quoting him now, in September. He made the statement to Congress when he was testifying in Washington about three weeks ago, and in a question-and-answer session the president backed the general's time frame.

So after all the heavy breathing from the Democrats about deadlines and Bush should get out of Iraq now, the reality is that since Petraeus took over and initiated the surge, the fall has been the stated date to look at whether it is going as intended.

Since the debate about the surge erupted I have been saying we'll see how things are in September or so, and if it is still full on sectarian murder, we might have to agree among ourselves that the killing is going to continue whether we're there or not. And if that is reality and if the American people don't want to feel responsible for the daily bloodletting they see on TV — even if it's Iraqis killing Iraqis — then we might as well come home.

However, should that be the reality, I would also want to be spared a bunch of wailing from Democrats and Bush-blaming liberals about the humanitarian crisis that will then unfold in Iraq which we will have to stop by sending peacekeeping troops back. If we leave Iraq, Cambodia will look like prologue. That pile of skulls after we cleared out of Vietnam will be a quaint reminder of a time when a genocide only killed two million.

So if the Iraqis want us to go, and the Dems want us to go, and the American people want us to go, and everybody understands what happens when we do go, I would be the last to argue that we should stay.

Population reduction in Iraq will occur. It will be dramatic and bloody and it will make for horrifying TV. We abandoned the Kurds once before, so I suppose we can abandon the Shia and Sunnis, too. Treat everybody the same: abandonment.

The immediate downside is we will have to get used to even more Iraqis murdering Iraqis than we have already seen, and lord knows we've seen a lot. Then there will be the nasty business of hardened jihadis coming after us. But banish the thought; it's much too unpleasant.

That's My Word.

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