Editor’s Note: Gen. David Petraeus returned to Capitol Hill with more talk of progress in Iraq but little hope that America's 140,000-troop-strong expeditionary force will be coming home any time soon.

In this guest essay, former Democratic congressional staffer Brent Budowsky still sees a tragic war without end:

We now have a president who dresses up like a soldier, in costume, and a general who now assumes the role of president, and a Congress that now looks like the character in the movie “Zelig,” popping up as a bit player during great events.

Here are a few truths that have not been told in the hours of today’s hearing that I was capable of watching, before I could take no more.

1. The strategy of Bush and Petraeus is simple: Stall the game out to drop on the desk of the next president, and force the next president to either continue the war indefinitely or accept the blame of their failures.

2. We will either keep paying the 60,000 Iraqis who formerly killed Americans and now take our money on long-term retainers, or, if our money stops flowing to them, they will resume killing either our people or other Iraqis. In a war without end, we are paying hush money without end.

3. The big winner, as always, as was inevitable from the beginning of this misbegotten war without end, is Iran. This is a matter of history, geography and religion. It was inevitable before Lieberman and neocons started hungering for this war in the 1990s. It was inevitable when it began. It is inevitable today. It will be inevitable in perpetuity because Iran is Shiite and adjacent to Iraq, and we are not.

4. The only rational outcome would include a diplomatic initiative that is regional and includes Iran with a political initiative that is credible and pressures Iraqis, yet President Bush will not do this, and Gen. Petraeus lacks the moral stature of Adm. Fallon, and goes along.

5. “Our man in Iraq,” the hapless Maliki, a good friend of Iran, and a not-so-good friend of ours, ignores our advice, attacks in Basra, journeys to the battle scene like Napoleon, and leaves with his tail between his legs when a thousand Petraeus-trained Iraqi “troops” run for the hills.

The question is not whether Gen. Petraeus should run for president. The problem is, in this war without end, he already is, and the sad truth is, he is the Congress, too.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill Pundits Blog, where this article first appeared, and he can be reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.

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