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The Associated Press reported this morning on reality’s latest rebuttal to the snake oil and fantasies being peddled by the president of the United States of America:

The most prominent figure in a U.S.-backed revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida in Iraq was killed Thursday by a bomb planted near his home in Anbar province, 10 days after he met with President Bush, police and tribal leaders said.

And it’s not like we weren’t doing our best to protect him, either, as revealed this detail buried deep in the AP article:

Abu Risha … lived within the walls of a massive compound that housed several villas that were home to him and his extended family. The compound was guarded by a tank, and was across the street from the largest U.S. military base in Ramadi.

Via Kevin Drum, here’s Abu Aardvark‘s commentary on the death of our latest favorite Iraqi proxy:

The Sunni strategy as presented by surge advocates has always rested not only on a whole series of dubious claims about Iraqi Sunni politics, but also relies on a whole series of best-case scenarios in which nothing could go wrong. In Iraq, something always goes wrong.

As Kevin notes, that analysis describes the entire Bushite misadventure in Iraq. What he doesn’t add, though, is that when something invariably does go wrong, plenty of people — in this case, our shady sheik-for-sale — wind up dead. (It may just be a “small price” for out-of-touch Republican pols, but it tends to be a larger one for everyone else involved.)

Which is the chilling context in which we should view Dubya’s latest sales pitch tonight, as previewed in the New York Times this morning by GOP flack Charlie Black:

“The question that Democrats and some Republicans are asking is, ‘Even if the military strategy is succeeding, how do we get to political stability?’ ” Mr. Black said. “That’s a fair question, and he needs to at least answer that to say there’s a fair chance of getting there and it’s worth continuing the military effort to give it a chance.”

I think the last time “a chance” seemed less worth taking, I was watching The Deer Hunter.

But there’s a deeper point here, about how to shift the debate over the war. I’ve been known to rant on occasion about the Powell Doctrine, saying its abandonment represents a trust betrayed by the Bush administration. The reason for that is, at its core, the Powell Doctrine says you don’t bet the lives of American troops on a mere chance, on “Hey, who knows, maybe things will get better!”

Recognizing the moral repulsiveness of continuing to wager soldiers’ lives on an already-lost bet is what changes attitudes on the current Iraq debate in Congress from the “I’d really like to end the war, but gosh, we can’t do it now” acceptance of Barack Obama to the more determined opposition being offered by Chris Dodd and John Edwards:

“We don’t need to ‘begin’ to end the war now. What we need to do now is actually end the war. This is about right and wrong. Our young men and women are dying every day for a failed policy. Every member of Congress who believes this war must end, from Senators Obama and Clinton to Senator Warner, has a moral responsibility to use every tool available to them, including a filibuster, to force the president to change course. Congress must stand firm and say: No timetable, no funding. No excuses.”

In the NY Times article I mentioned above, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois says, “We have the public behind us, but we don’t have the votes in the Senate.” What Edwards says above is the argument I’d make every day to the handful of senators whose votes need to be changed — and, perhaps just as importantly, to their constituents, to let the senators know the moral failure they’ll be held responsible for next year if they don’t act now.

(Photoshop image by “Michael,” a commenter at Needlenose — click here for larger image.)