Iraq

Categories: Politics | Author: David O'Leary | Posted: 11/30/2005 | Views: 2441
I'm still undecided on whether it was wise to invade Iraq. What I am certain of, is that how it was done was one of the most bungled attempts ever by the United States. Even assuming it is possible to create democracy in Iraq by force, the Bush administration blew its chance through a long string of miserable decisions: It rejected voluminous advance planning done by the State Department for a post-Saddam Iraq, disregarded military projections of force levels needed to maintain order, dismissed accurate CIA analyses of likely post-war ethnic and tribal conflicts, disbanded the Iraqi army, under-equipped U.S. troops and installed a hapless-to-corrupt provisional governing authority. And then there's the whole torture fiasco... It just doesn't seem the Bush administration is capable of planning for more than one possible outcome.

Tuesday's Los Angeles Times, for example, beefed up months of scattered news reports with a detailed account of the operations of Shiite paramilitary death squads within the Iraqi police force and Interior Ministry, including the use of torture in secret prisons and summary executions of Sunni opponents.
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But the world doesn't need to judge the U.S. solely on words. Other nations can hardly be expected to forget Muslim prisoners abused and humiliated at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan, the web of internationally scattered CIA secret jails, the arbitrary imprisonment of prisoners without trial or even charges at Guantanamo, the administration's opposition to a statutory ban on inhumane treatment, the secret transport of prisoners to foreign countries for interrogation and, almost certainly, torture.

Do Bush, Cheney et al. believe these things have no effect on the credibility of the United States of America?
Iraq: The folly of it all


The happy band of incompetents led by George Bush and Dick Cheney is nothing if not consistent. Alas, where they are most steadfast is in maintaining their disconnection from reality, particularly in clinging to the delusion that there is no penalty for failure.

Even assuming it ever was possible to create democracy in Iraq by force, the Bush administration blew its chance through a long string of miserable decisions: It rejected voluminous advance planning done by the State Department for a post-Saddam Iraq, disregarded military projections of force levels needed to maintain order, dismissed accurate CIA analyses of likely post-war ethnic and tribal conflicts, disbanded the Iraqi army, under-equipped U.S. troops and installed a hapless-to-corrupt provisional governing authority.

Does the president think he gets a mulligan for such pervasive ineptitude?

There are consequences. Ironically, they are mostly the same boogeymen the administration conjures as the consequences of pulling American troops out of harm's way: civil war in Iraq, further instability in the Middle East, increased vulnerability to Islamist terrorism worldwide, the loss of U.S. credibility.
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By any reasonable measurements, all these have already taken place, and they are of Bush's own making.

Tuesday's Los Angeles Times, for example, beefed up months of scattered news reports with a detailed account of the operations of Shiite paramilitary death squads within the Iraqi police force and Interior Ministry, including the use of torture in secret prisons and summary executions of Sunni opponents. Sunni militants, of course, represent the vast majority of the country's increasingly sophisticated and lethal insurgent forces.

Meanwhile, Iraq's former defense minister and dozens of his associates have fled to Jordan rather than face arrest warrants issued in the wake of an investigation of $1 billion that disappeared from the ministry's funds. Make that U.S. taxpayer funds. Yet, as reported last month by Knight-Ridder, the Pentagon hasn't had auditors in Iraq watching over reconstruction funds for more than a year.

The Iraq debacle also has been - and continues to be - a potent motivating force for the growth of international Islamist terrorism, undermining, rather than advancing, the best interests of the United States. Britain's former ambassador to the U.S., Sir Christopher Meyer, credits Iraq with the increase in terrorism by British citizens on British soil. "There is plenty of evidence," he told the Guardian newspaper earlier this month, "that home-grown terrorism was partly radicalized and fueled by what is going on in Iraq."

Administration officials like to point to elections in Egypt as evidence of the spread of the democratic impulse. But those on-going elections - the final round is scheduled for Thursday - have seen a newly invigorated Muslim Brotherhood movement already more than quadruple its parliamentary representation. The radical group is banned, so its candidates run as independents.

As for U.S. credibility, it could hardly erode further. Although the Bush administration continues trying to duck responsibility for the errors, the world well remembers the U.S.'s definitive declarations of Saddam's arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, his reconstituted nuclear programs and his ominous working alliance with al-Qaida. All were definitively wrong.

But the world doesn't need to judge the U.S. solely on words. Other nations can hardly be expected to forget Muslim prisoners abused and humiliated at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq and Afghanistan, the web of internationally scattered CIA secret jails, the arbitrary imprisonment of prisoners without trial or even charges at Guantanamo, the administration's opposition to a statutory ban on inhumane treatment, the secret transport of prisoners to foreign countries for interrogation and, almost certainly, torture.

Do Bush, Cheney et al. believe these things have no effect on the credibility of the United States of America?

Administration defenders have been reduced to trotting out the old criticism-hurts-the-troops canard, knowing full well that what hurts troops are bullets, rocket-propelled grenades and the roadside and suicide bombs against which they are all but defenseless. Then they cry that critics haven't shown the president a way out of his own mess. Nonsense, and nothing exposed the desperation of the Bush camp more starkly than its response to Rep. Jack Murtha.

On Nov. 17, the 73-year-old Pennsylvania Democrat issued a quiet but powerful and impassioned call for removing U.S. troops from Iraq, positioning a quick-response military team elsewhere in the region to protect American interests and pursuing international diplomacy as the route to stability in Iraq. The White House and its congressional operatives first tried a thinly veiled smear of the respected legislator and decorated veteran, then backtracked in a panic when the strategy backfired.

Murtha is no naive dottering senior. The specifics of his proposals might need tweaking, but his analysis of Iraq is unerring: "Continued military action in Iraq," he stated, "is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region. . . ."

The dream is over, whether or not the Bush White House realizes or admits it. U.S. troops are going to leave, and Iraq will continue to be a mess. The only questions are how bad a mess it will be, how many more will be killed and injured and whether the president is capable of putting the welfare of the troops and the country before the unhealthy messianic fixation cited, most recently, in this week's New Yorker by several former and current U.S. military and intelligence officials.

In 1984's "The March of Folly," the celebrated historian Barbara W. Tuchman reviewed centuries of calamitous statecraft, looking for examples that met three specific criteria: "To qualify as folly," she wrote, "it must have been perceived as counter-productive in its own time, not merely by hindsight. . . . A feasible alternative course of action must have been available. . . . (and) the policy in question should be that of a group, not an individual ruler, and should persist beyond any one political lifetime. . . ."

Tuchman focused on the refusal of Renaissance popes to correct rampant abuses in the Roman Catholic Church, thus producing the Protestant Reformation; Great Britain's war with its American colonies, resulting in an independent United States of America and contributing to the end of the British Empire; and the Vietnam War, in which Democratic and Republican administrations betrayed American principles with enormous long-term costs.

The continuing war in Iraq is poised to join Tuchman's tragic roster of dishonor.