If you were so “fortunate” as to see George Bush’s final State of the Union address or you’ve been “lucky” enough to have caught bits of Sen. John McCain’s, R-Ariz. recent campaign speeches, you are well aware that the “surge” of U.S. troops in Iraq has been an unqualified success. Iraqi insurgents now wield lollypops instead of rocket launchers, former terrorists now go to sleep in Ronald Reagan pajamas and American soldiers have abandoned their armored humvees, patrolling the streets of Baghdad atop bulletproof rainbows.

Okay, so outside of warmongering Republican wet dreams, the surge’s “successes” don’t look quite so apparent. While a reduction in violence has accompanied the escalation of American forces, this appears to be in great part due to the formation of groups called Concerned Local Citizens – which are, basically, attempts to bribe Sunni insurgents to stop shooting at Americans and fire at al-Qaeda. Waves of ethnic cleansing in 2006 and 2007, which resulted in a separation of Sunnis and Shiites, also reduced violence in the region. Subsequently, this prevented sectarian militias from killing each other as effortlessly as they once were able to do. But the real, unmitigated failure of the surge results not from levels of violence, but from the surge’s inability to achieve the policy’s central aim: political reconciliation.

On that front, Iraq looks as hopeless as ever. While the country has not plunged back into the anarchic maelstrom that once engulfed it, the very seams holding Iraqi society together are dangerously shoddy. A loophole in a new de-Baathification law – meant to allow former members of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party back into government – has several reverse effects, and has been met with anger by much of Iraq’s marginalized Sunni minority. Many of the CLC militiamen currently being armed and funded by the U.S. military appear eager to take up battle with their “main enemy…the Shiite militias,” as Abu Abed – a CLC warlord on American payroll – openly admitted to the UK’s Guardian newspaper this past November. And even the relatively peaceful Kurdish, north of Iraq, could fall into chaos as Kurds vote on a provision this year to increase Kurdish autonomy of the oil-rich north – at the expense of Iraq’s Arab population.

Little evidence indicates the short-term stability the United States achieved in Iraq by mandating votes and arming warlords serves the long-term interests of the American people. Micromanaging internal Iraqi conflict holds little promise for success and risks serious blowback effects. The American public and the Iraqi people both overwhelmingly want the U.S. occupation to end and for U.S. troops to come home sooner, rather than later.

So, of course, President Bush takes the necessary steps to ensure the war in Iraq lasts forever. In an act in line with Bush’s signature contempt for the Constitution, the rule of law and all things sensible, he issued a “signing statement” last week attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2008. In his signing statement, Bush asserted he would not have to follow a provision of the bill forbidding a construction of permanent military bases in Iraq, because the legislation impedes on the “the constitutional authority of the President.”

Could such statements perhaps be an indication the Bush administration is ignoring congressional oversight and planning for permanent military bases in Iraq? It certainly appears that way, considering the Bush administration has been negotiating with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to ignore congressional oversight and plan for permanent military bases in Iraq. The White House has dubiously alleged that because they have not designated the agreement as a “treaty,” Congress is not needed for the approval of long-term bases. It’s a cynical ploy, and one clearly articulating the Bush administration’s Manichean worldview of perpetual warfare between American givers of freedom and dead-ending enemies of liberty. Bush’s legacy is this war, and he is using his last months in office to enact agreements ensuring his successor will not be easily able to end it. In this regard, Bush has been successful. For all the talk about hope and change, it’s important to remember this administration has almost a year left in office, and there’s still plenty of damage that can be done.