The facts are so stark, even American military commanders are nowspeaking openly about an approaching climax for our bloody misadventure in Iraq. “To Stand orFall in Baghdad,” the New York Times headline declared thismorning. A show-down is here, the generals acknowledge. There are nomore back-up strategies.

Learned policy experts from all sides are now debating the variousalternatives for an exit plan. Preferably with honor, they hope, butgetting out is becoming unavoidable, regardless. They would like todream up a some sort of fig leaf that gives cover to our failed warriorpresident. Not that he deserves one, but they want a plan will encourageBush–finally–to accept reality.

Who is being left out of this momentous discussion? The Iraqi people,whom we were allegedly teaching how to become small-d democrats. Bushrelentlessly touted “democracy” as his true goal. He cited the threeIraqi elections as proof that he was succeeding.

So let’s have one more election in Iraq–a referendum where the Iraqipeople get to decide whether America’s armed forces withdraw and when.

This ingenious proposal comes from Harold Davis, an attorney in Douglas,Mass., whose letter to theeditor appeared in Saturday’s Boston Globe and spelled outthe logic. “Let’s put our Iraq withdrawal to a vote–an Iraqi vote,”Davis declared.

His proposition is sincere, but also cleverly hoists Bush on his ownbloated rhetoric. “If the principles hold true,” Davis says, ” shouldn’tthe Iraqi people hold the fate of their country in their hands?” Hisletter provided sample wording for the ballot initiative.

Voters in Iraq would be asked to choose one of the following options:

1. I ask that all coalition forces be withdrawn within six months ofthe date of this referendum.

2. I ask that all coalition forces be withdrawn within one year of thedate of this referendum.

3. I ask that the government of Iraq determine some time in the futurewhen all coalition forces should be withdrawn.”

That sounds reasonable enough, but recent polls suggest Iraqis (if they could getto the polls without being killed) would vote for immediate USwithdrawal.

Will the dwindling ranks of war enthusiasts in Washington rally aroundHarold Davis’s call for Iraqi self-determination? Or does the WhiteHouse fear that a free election on war and peace would be pushing thisdemocracy talk a bit too far?