As George Bush prepares to celebrate his penultimate Christmas in the White House, there’s a great big present under his tree-growing success in Iraq. Several Christmases have come and gone, overshadowed by bad news from that troubled country. But this year, there is a guarded sense of hope.

While I would be surprised if Time magazine were to name General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander on the ground in Iraq, father of the surge, as itsMan of the Year, I note that Petraeus is National Review‘s pick  “for making victory in Iraq look possible again.” A column in the Times of London hails Iraq as the story of the year:

“By any measure, the US-led surge has been little short of a triumph. The number of American military fatalities is reduced sharply, as is the carnage of Iraqi civilians, Baghdad as a city is functioning again, oil output is above where it stood in March 2003 but at a far stronger price per barrel and, the acid test, many of those who fled to Syria and Jordan are today returning home.” 

Victory is not quite at hand; things could still go badly wrong. But I am giving ashes and switches and my very biggest lumps of coal to the war critics, who rushed to microphones when things were going badly for us, and now are silent. It’s premature to say “ho ho ho,” and, besides, I don’t want to take the war lightly. But why don’t some of these folks say something?

Lumps of coal are in order for those in Congress who originally supported the war and who know that the president had the same intelligence they had in the lead-up but now say he lied. It’s a slimy way to wriggle out of a vote, even if that is just about the only way to remain viable and still carry favor with the implacable left of the Democratic party.

Rep. John Murtha presents a momentary dilemma in my Christmas shopping. A nice box of fruit from Harry and David for stating, after a recent trip to Iraq, “I think the surge is working,” or some switches for immediately calling for an “exit strategy.” Let’s go with the Bartlett pears-he drew the wrong conclusion, but told the truth, something many of his cat-got-their-tongues and formerly vocal colleagues find themselves unable to do.

No coal either for the Washington Post editorial page writers, who have had the courage to go against much of the liberal press on the surge. Thanks to National Review for quoting this maverick editorial from the Post:

“In September, Iraqi civilian deaths were down 52 percent from August and 77 percent from September 2006, according to the Web site The Iraqi Health Ministry and the Associated Press reported similar results. U.S. soldiers killed in action numbered 43 – down 43 percent from August and 64 percent from May, which had the highest monthly figure so far this year. The American combat death total was the lowest since July 2006 and was one of the five lowest monthly counts since the insurgency in Iraq took off in April 2004. . . . It’s looking more and more as though those in and outside of Congress who last month were assailing Gen. Petraeus’s credibility and insisting that there was no letup in Iraq’s bloodshed were – to put it simply – wrong.”

But ashes and switches to the author of this Post headline for Monday, December 17: “Bush Faces Pressure to Shift War Priorities…As Iraq Calms, Focus Turns to Afghanistan.” It takes nerve to make the successes in Iraq look like just one more failure for the Bush administration, and this headline drone has it. In theory, we love a leader who has the courage of his convictions; in practice, we don’t. Bush has taken incredible hits, many unspeakably vicious, for defending our freedom. A lump of coal to all those who have allowed themselves to become so carried away by partisan ill will that they have injected vitriol into our national debate.  

It’s become distressingly formulaic to sing the praises of our soldiers, but this might be a good time of the year for all of us to do something to remember their sacrifices. Isn’t it amazing that young men and women have the courage to do what they do? But for all our history, we’ve had young people willing to rush into German machine guns on Omaha Beach or to ride along the treacherous roads of Iraq. The Washington Post did an alarming piece on the failures of several charities supposedly dedicated to helping the troops-but there were a few excellent ones, too. Fisher House, which provides lodging for family members near military hospitals, received an A plus from the Post and is an excellent way to do something for those who do so much for us.

Charlotte Hays is senior editor at the Independent Women’s Forum.