WHILE U.S. soldiers are risking their lives and dying each day in Iraq, and the country is embroiled in sectarian political divisions and bloodshed, Iraqs parliament decided it was a good time to take a break. Thats not what we call trying to put a troubled nation back together.

Parliament decided to adjourn until Sept. 4, more than a one-month hiatus, as key Iraqi lawmakers said they were tired of waiting for the prime minister to deliver benchmark legislation for their vote. Since then, the most powerful Sunni political bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, pulled its ministers from the government, leaving only two Sunnis in the 40-member cabinet.

In the meantime, more blood spills. Two days after parliament walked out, 142 Iraqis and four American soldiers were killed in just one day. Since the invasion, more than 3,600 American soldiers have died in Iraq. Meanwhile, as temperatures soar to 120 degrees, the countrys decrepit power system is failing, and much of Baghdad is without running water. Even if we assume the surge is working on the ground, the political house of cards is tumbling.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates basically admitted the Bush administration failed to realize how deep the political divide runs in Iraq.

I just think in some ways we probably all underestimated the depth of the mistrust and how difficult it would be for these guys to come together, he said.

What did they expect after the invasion? For two rival factions — and perhaps even al-Qaida operatives — to hold hands and sing kumbaya after Saddam Husseins statue tumbled? Can we be so naive?

The U.


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S. government has been pushing Prime Minister Nouri al-Malikis government to pass key laws, such as sharing national oil revenues and uniting rival factions, but its clear that either al-Maliki is too incompetent or too resistant to perform these important tasks and, as time passes, the Cabinet is crumbling and parliament is disillusioned.

What complicates matters is that a mere 11 days after parliament returns, top U.S. military and political officials in Iraq must report to Congress on progress of the Iraq government and troops. That should be an interesting get-together.

Its clear the United States must take a different tack. Iraqis need to govern themselves to prevent all-out civil war. We must force a deadline on al-Maliki and the parliament that if these benchmark laws arent discussed and implemented in an efficient manner, then we insist that President Bush makes good on what Congress — and the general public — wants and set a deadline to withdraw U.S. troops.

The problem is this is another miscalculation performed by the Bush adminis-

tration concerning Iraq. Much of the troubles the Iraq government is experiencing now should have been addressed soon after American forces captured Saddam and took control, to avoid the political mess we are seeing more than four years later.

As it stands we have little hope from Iraqi lawmakers. We have put a lot in this basket between lives and funding — now its time we lean on Iraqi lawmakers to get this new government on the right track. If nothing else, we owe it to our troops to do so.