Maliki's Testy Visit: Is This What Our Troops Are Dying For?

House Democrats are demanding that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki not be allowed to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday unless he apologizes for condemning "Israeli aggression" in Lebanon.

In a letter being circulated among their colleagues, party leaders including Rahm Emanuel and Jan Schakowsky say, "We are unaware of any prior instance where a world leader who actively worked against the interests of the United States was afforded such an honor."

That's all well and good, but it kind of misses the larger point, don't you think? Forget about standing on ceremony and whether Maliki is worthy of the "high honor" of standing at the Speaker's podium; I want to know how Congress can justify having our soldiers continue to die for a government that, as is becoming increasingly clear, doesn't want us there.

Instead of holding a press conference demanding an apology, how about holding one demanding that we take our troops out of harm's way as soon as we can?

During his visit to the White House today, Maliki is expected to push for an end to legal immunity for U.S. troops and broader amnesty for Iraqi insurgents -- both legitimate claims for a sovereign government ("Let freedom reign!").

What more, Maliki wants to "maintain strong ties to Iran," has sided with Hezbollah in the current hostilities with Israel, and has pledged $35 million in aid to Lebanon (where is that money coming from?). And then we have the speaker of the Iraqi Parliament saying "I personally think whoever kills an American soldier in defense of his country would, have a statue built for him in that country. The parties that we cannot conciliate with are those who deliberately killed an Iraqi citizen."

So this is what over 2,500 American have died for, what over 18,500 Americans have been wounded for, what the American people have spent over $320 billion helping create: a government that makes nice with Iran, backs Hezbollah, and some of whose members think the killers of American soldiers deserve a statue? We can't bring back those lives, heal those wounds, or recoup that money, but we can say enough is enough.

In Fiasco, his damning new book about the Bush administration's tragic bungling of Iraq, Thomas Ricks quotes a colonel assigned to the Coalition Provisional Authority unforgettably describing his team's mission as "pasting feathers together, hoping for a duck." Just how many more Americans have to die in the vain attempt to turn feathers into a duck? Especially a duck that wants to waddle side by side with Hezbollah and Iran.