An ear, please:

President Bush, John McCain, and other proponents of an open-ended American troop presence in Iraq might not appreciate it right now, but Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki was acting like an accountable politician earlier this week when he called for a timetable for withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. If there is one thing nearly all the major parties, sects, and factions in Iraq agree upon, it is on the need for such a timetable. With provincial elections coming this fall in Iraq and nationwide elections scheduled for 2009, Maliki was doing what any politician interested in self-preservation would do. Faced with a choice between pandering to Bush or to the voters of Iraq, he chose to please his own people.

It would be hypocritical of the Bush administration to deny or dodge Maliki’s request, which reflects the popular will in Iraq. What’s more, it is as much in America’s true interests as Iraq’s to begin planning the timing, logistics, and regional diplomacy of a withdrawal. Meanwhile, Maliki’s proven willingness to subdue the militias of Moqtada al-Sadr and other Shi’ite factions has persuaded Sunni Arabs to defend their interests by entering the political game. So the time has come for America to rescue its reputation by heeding the will of Iraqis and preparing to end the occupation of their country. — The Boston Globe