While they are more or less public and direct, here are some of those who now oppose a continuation of the Iraq escalation and favor a reduction of American troops in Iraq starting this year and continuing into next year:

  • Gen. Peter Pace and a strong majority of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, with Pace now quoted as believing we should withdraw about half our troops during 2008.

  • GOP Sens. John Warner (Va.) and Richard Lugar (Ind.), with Warner now wanting to withdraw 5,000 troops by Christmas.

  • A majority of high-level officials throughout the military and intelligence communities.

  • Secretary of Defense Bob Gates.

Forty-eight hours ago, the ubiquitous O’Hanlon was all over the talkies touting the surge; Hillary Clinton was saying it was working; Democrats were beginning to tell The Washington Post it should be continued into next year; and President Bush was on course to win it all, a September vote that would have provided money for the escalation throughout 2008 with no strings attached.

The tide has turned as the truth emerges.

There is a reason the overwhelming weight of military leadership opinion is to initiate some reduction in Iraq this year, and continue major troop reductions through 2008.

The war itself and now the escalation have done extreme and aggressive damage to the American military, to our force structures around the world, to deterrence capability around the world, and to the composition of our military itself as standards are lowered so far that obese criminals are recruited for combat duty.

The situation in Afghanistan has deteriorated to dangerous levels. Al Qaeda has expanded its recruiting worldwide and through the Middle East, while its command and control structure has been strengthened within Pakistan. Gordon Brown will soon announce more withdrawals of British troops, and other nations in what is called the coalition are informing the administration of their intent to withdraw at various times in the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the escalation was sold to buy time for the Iraqi government to achieve reconciliation but has had the exact opposite effect. What is called the surge, but was in truth a plan for long-term escalation, has in truth led the Iraqi government to fight harder against reconciliation because its leaders want Shi’ite sectarian victory, and use American blood as their petty cash to achieve it.

It is true Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is a disaster, but it is false to assume his replacement will change anything. Maliki is the public-relations Band Aid over the Iraqi government cancer. Changing the Band Aid does not change the cancer, which is that the government of Iraq is run by factions tied to Shi’ite militia, death squads, and both the Iraqi government and militias behind it are far more loyal to Iran than Iraqi reconciliation or U.S. policy goals.

Gen. David Petraeus knows this, which is why he pursues the strategy that is do disastrous of providing money and arms, either covertly or overtly, directly or indirectly, to the Sunni insurgents who were recently killing Americans and will take our guns or money for their own purpose, which ultimately is contrary to ours.

This is where Messrs. O’Hanlon and Pollack, who have little credibility with either Democratic or Republican leaders, even though they are the new media darlings, are so deadly wrong, as they have been so disastrously wrong about this war before.

One: The escalation makes reconciliation less likely, not more likely; and two, without the reconciliation, the support for Sunni insurgents will in truth be used to kill Shi’ites and possibly again Americans. In effect we are arming both sides of the Sunni-Shi’ite sectarian civil war, while we arm the government that in truth is supported by Iran, while Bush proposes mass arms sales to the House of Saud — which, in truth, supports Sunni insurgents and in fact includes factions that siphon support to al Qaeda.

The false debate about whether “the surge is working” (in truth it is not) is made worse by the ruminations of O’Hanlon and Pollack (who are wrong again) and could turn catastrophic by the weakness of some Democrats (who do not think highly of O’Hanlon and Pollack but would use them as excuses to do what they privately want to do, which is give Bush his escalation and cite discredited Democratic “analysts” as their excuse).

The tide is turning, and here is why: The vote in September will involve a full year of war spending and the president wants it all. He wants to use it for a long-term escalation that the Joint Chiefs, Pace, Secretary Gates, Sen. Warner, Sen. Lugar and many others think would be disastrous but have always lacked the courage to openly oppose.

However, the September vote is High Noon, not only for the Democrats, but for the generals and for Secretary Gates. The international destruction of American force capabilities would be locked in, to worsen, for a year if President Bush gets it all. So everyone’s hand is forced.

Forty-eight hours ago, for those of us opposed to this escalation, the battle was lost. Now we are back in business, as word gets out about the magnitude of opposition within the military, and from many Republicans, that some of us knew was true for many months, that is now becoming public as the vote approaches.

It will be a hard fight we may well lose, but can now win, if Democratic leaders show the courage of their convictions in ways they have not done since the swearing-in of the new Democratic Congress, and if Republicans, military leaders and Secretary Gates show a courage they have not shown since this disastrous war was shoved down their throats by a reckless, ignorant, unwise and obsessed president who must be stopped if he will not agree to change.

The playing field changes daily, but the outlines of a policy change are coming into view and begin with this:

Democratic leaders can devise a proposal, based on Republican Sen. Lugar’s, that reduces troop strength this year and moves to further careful reduction through next year; that is based on Republican Sen. Warner’s proposal to bring 5,000 troops home by this Christmas; and that is based on Gen. Pace’s view that our troop strength should be cut by about half during 2008. This could be brought together with proposals to redeploy troops that remain to fight al Qaeda, protect the Syrian and Iranian borders with Iraq; and train Iraqi military and police far more effectively than anything being done today.

The net effect would be a more effective policy, significant reduction of American casualties, significant de-escalation of the war, an end to cruel and destructive abuses of troop rotations, real pressure on the Iraqi government to reconcile, and more effective attacks on the true terrorists that pose the real threat.

These policy changes are based on views of senior military and intelligence leaders and on the true opinion of the most senior respected Republicans in Congress.

If Republicans obstruct or the president refuses, the Democrats should refuse to pass any more funding, even filibuster if necessary, and take the case to the country that this madness must now end.

Final point: Democrats should adamantly refuse to allow Gen. Petraeus to testify on the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.

This disgusting, shameful, sickening and nauseating exploitation of 9/11 should not be allowed now, or ever again, and Petraeus, who will not write the report that bears his name, should only testify about that report after it has been released.