WASHINGTON -- In only the last week, the war in Iraq has entered a phase characterized by two amazingly contradictory developments.
First, it is generally accepted (except by the war's avid authorities) that the reasons for invading Iraq were false. Second, the war party around the White House and the Pentagon are responding to their incredible failures of judgment not by modifying their policies in the Middle East, but by doing more and still more of the same. And in one of those bizarre turns of history, their acts have brought them (and us) within a hair's breadth of creating exactly the situation they claimed forced us to go to war in the first place.
No one believes anymore that there were ties in the beginning between the Iraqi regime and Al Qaeda (in fact, their beliefs and their interests were antithetical). But with the now-daily attacks on Americans and others in Iraq, plus a sense that Iraq is becoming the international center for terrorists, even American generals say the old secular Saddam Baathists and the religious Al Qaeda militants are working together.
Yet such clear developments are causing barely a ripple of hesitation in the war planners' "intentions to reconfigure" the Middle East at any cost (to us). Even as story after story emerges from Iraq of the failures of their postwar planning, they forge ahead in the same mode.
President Bush's starry-eyed rhetoric has changed this week in his speeches; he speaks little of the original purposes of the war, like weapons of mass destruction and Al Qaeda, and instead regales the nation with warnings of a vast metaphysical struggle between "civilization and chaos."
The joke around town is that the Bush zealots had all along been scheming to attack Iraq to get all the terrorists in the world to pour in there--to get them all in one place.
Meanwhile, the administration is unwilling to take actions that could ameliorate the situation--such as putting forth a UN resolution that would share the military and reconstruction burdens in Iraq. Part of the reason is their zealotry, carefully clothed in the fancy dress of "democratization"--and part of it is that neither they nor their friends or children are actually fighting or suffering in this war.
This week, the International Crisis Group, an organization of international thinkers who do excellent analyses of the world, presented a plan that could be implemented with at least a chance of success.
The ICG called for a rather ample organizational change in Iraq. The UN would be in charge of political transition (organizing elections, dealing with and strengthening the Iraqi governing council, civic and civil affairs), while the U.S.-led coalition would remain in charge of security. The coalition would be morphed into a multinational force still led by the U.S., "but much more likely to win international participation on this basis." The Iraqi council would be responsible for day-to-day governance.
But such a rational solution is not what the "bring 'em on" boys in this administration want. Instead, they dig deeper and deeper into their original policies.
Officials from the civilian Pentagon offices of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, the man most responsible for the failures of reconstruction in Iraq, recently met surreptitiously with Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian middleman in U.S. arms-for-hostage trades to Iran in the mid-1980s, in Europe. The reappearance of the discredited Iranian arms dealer clearly indicates how conspiratorial the Iraqi war is becoming.
Other evidence strongly points to the Feith-war party's continued desire to bring attacks on Syria into the equation. Only last week, members of the Israeli Cabinet put forth the idea of an oil pipeline from Iraq to Israel, effectively confirming (even if falsely) to much of the suspicious world that America and Israel are in the Iraqi war to exploit the country's oil riches.
Finally, the idea is creeping in that, looking at the entire Middle East, the next "solution" will be to put American troops into Israel to fight Hamas and other radical Palestinian groups. (The usually supremely rational Republican Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) brought this up on television recently.)
Such an act, of course, would pit the United States irrevocably against the entire Arab and Islamic world--and encourage and create anti-American terrorism on a scale yet unseen.
In Iraq, American authorities have become so desperate for information about the country they pretend to rule that, after foolishly disbanding the Iraqi army and leaving tens of thousands of men roaming the streets, they are recruiting the hated intelligence agents and torturers of the Saddam Hussein government, the Mukhabarat , to work with us.
This administration shows no indication of changing its ways; thus the situation can only grow worse.
Perhaps the only hope lies in the story going
around town that President Bush has told the Pentagon he wants "no more
American dead" after next March.
By then, the electoral campaign will be well under way, and perhaps zealotry will give way to reality--or at least to a change in administration.
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