With all due respect to Gen. David Petraeus, the American people should not be fooled by one more staged event that requires us to believe the unbelievable. It is no accident that the testimony of Petraeus and Ryan Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, coincided with the sixth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. Once more, just for good measure, the administration wants to milk the emotions of that terrible day by linking al-Qaida to the wrong country.


Announcing the surge last January bought the president six months, while we debated whether it would do any good. And now the announcement by Petraeus that some parts of Iraq are safer, allowing us to withdraw the same 30,000 troops by next summer, will buy the president six more months. It's a shell game, designed to dump the whole mess into the lap of the next president " almost surely a Democrat. Then the inevitable withdrawal can be called a defeat for those who secretly hate our troops, and will "prove" it by stopping this insane war and trying to save their lives.


One more time, as if there possibly could be a shred of credibility left in the Bush administration, the propaganda machine was in high gear, with help from the Democrats. Members of Congress took junkets to Iraq, flew on board helicopters with Petraeus, ate lobster, had their pictures taken and forget what they were elected to do: end this war.


Back home, war critics were likened to Neville Chamberlain and friends of Osama bin Laden, who conveniently released another tape just in time to remind us all that we invaded the wrong country. A poll of Iraqis reveals that they feel less safe after the surge, and the sad, simple truth is that Iraq has descended into chaos, and the al-Maliki government is in shambles. The surge only has displaced the insurgency, which now is surging elsewhere " with some of the worst attacks of the war.


The president told us last January that the surge was to buy time for political progress, since there is no military solution in Iraq. He talked tough, and said we would hold the al-Maliki government to certain benchmarks. He said that Americans don't have "unlimited" patience, and that's true. We're out of patience with the president " you only can lie so many times before you become a cartoon.


Meanwhile, everyone has forgotten that there is no longer a reason to fight this war. First, it was to protect us from weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. Then, it was to build a stable democracy in a country that doesn't want it, and isn't ready for it. Then, it was to create a country that could defend itself. Now, it is to avoid an even worse situation when we leave.


Just imagine telling the parents of a dead soldier that their son or daughter died in the noble effort to forestall an even greater disaster among age-old enemies in a civil war that our bungled occupation has ignited. Imagine telling them the truth: that their brave children are now paying the ultimate price for what has become a political theater of the absurd. We pretend to make progress in a country we have destroyed in order to dump responsibility for the war into the laps of those who oppose it but soon will own it " proving once again that no price is too high to pay in order to avoid taking responsibility for anything.


It all reminds me of the testimony of another four-star general in 1967. His name was William C. Westmoreland, and he told us that in Vietnam our forces were making progress and would prevail. The price of that deception was dear.


So shall this one be.


Meyers is minister of Mayflower Congregational Church in Oklahoma City and professor of rhetoric in the philosophy department at Oklahoma City University.        

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