Inventing a New Metaphor in Iraq
            by Gene Lyons

     Remember moral clarity? Not long ago, anybody who suggested that
 attacking Iraq might create worse problems than it would solve was
 dismissed as a cowardly moral relativist who couldn't distinguish good
 from evil.

      To President Bush and the visionaries who sold him and the nation
 on "preemptive" war, everything was melodramatically simple. Saddam
 Hussein was a wicked tyrant whose removal would bring tranquility to the
 Middle East. Because Saddam was (and is), in fact, a murderous gangster,
 arguing against the war required counting past two, a degree of
 sophistication deemed decadent and unpatriotic.

      Writing recently in the American Prospect, Jason Vest quoted "a very
 senior national security official" earnestly telling him before the war that
"Americans would be welcomed in Iraq, and not with a fleeting shower of
 goodwill but with a 'deluge' of 'rose water and flowers' that would last in
 perpetuity." Such statements were almost as common before the war as
 warnings about Saddam's "weapons of mass destruction."

      With relative ease, Iraq would be turned into an Arab Switzerland.
 Best of all, a veritable gusher of Iraqi petrodollars produced by the
 entrepreneurial skills of returning Iraqi exiles would pay for it. Vest
 had asked the unnamed official, a man with no military experience, what
 he thought of a cautionary report from the U.S. Army War College.

      Entitled "Reconstructing Iraq: Insights, Challenges and Missions
 for Military Forces in a Post-Conflict Scenario,"it emphasized the need
 for careful pre-invasion planning it said the Bush administration, in its
 ideological auto-intoxication, hadn't undertaken. "Without an overwhelming
 effort to prepare for occupation," it concluded "the US may find itself in a
 radically different world over the next few years, a world in which the
 threat of Saddam Hussein seems like a pale shadow of new problems
 of America's own making."

     The official smugly debunked the Army's warnings. He was particularly
 dismissive of Army chief-of-staff Gen. Eric Shinseki, as "bullshit from a
 Clintonite enamored of using the army for peacekeeping and nation building
 and not winning wars." Shinseki was forced into retirement after angering
 Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld by telling a congressional committee
 that hundreds of thousands of American troops would be needed to to
 occupy Iraq for the forseeable future, perhaps as long as a decade.
 Other naysayers, reports Col. David Hackworth in his syndicated column,
 are being purged by "Rummy's" civilian ideologues--most of whom have
 never heard a shot fired in anger.

     President Bush pronounces his faith unshaken, although he no longer
 expects it to be easy. Willpower and sacrifice are now required. Nor will
 the occupation pay for itself. The cost of putting Iraq's infrastructure back
 in working order, civilian administrator Paul Bremer told the Washington
 Post last week, was "almost impossible to exaggerate." His best estimate
 was "tens of billions of dollars."

     At the White House, it's still thought decadent to count past two.
 It's all terribly simple to Bush: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys, evildoers vs.
 freedom fighters, an action/adventure film scenario. Speaking to the
 American Legion on August 26, the president described al Qaeda's
 religious zealots and Saddam's Baathists as one and the same:
 "They know that a democratic Iraq in the heart of the Middle East would
 be a further defeat for their ideology of terror," he said. "They know that
 the spread of peace and hope in the Middle East would undermine the
 appeal of bitterness, resentment and violence. And the more progress
 we  make in Iraq, the more desperate the terrorists will become.
 Freedom is a threat to their way of life."

     Three days later, a truck bomb detonated at one of Shia Islam's
 holiest shrines, killing Ayatollah Mohammed Bakr Hakim and 125 of his
 followers--the most ominous in a series of sickening atrocities. Hakim
 had returned from exile in Iran urging forbearance toward the American
 occupation. A U.S. Marine major offered the Washington Post's Anthony
 Shadid three suspects: "former Baath Party operatives working with
 foreigners, rivals of Hakim within the Shiite community and his former
 allies in Iran seeking 'some sort of retribution.'" Out in the street,
 Shadid wrote, some shouted and others whispered theories that ran the
 gamut of possibilities--Sunni Muslim militants hostile to Shiites, Iran,
 Israel, the United States and Hussein loyalists."

     Others blame Saudi, Syrian, and Palestinian extremists. "America
 considers itself the superpower of the world, but here it is powerless
 to keep any semblance of order," a  Baghdad elementary school teacher
 told the Los Angeles Times. "The Americans fired our police and our
 army. Now there is no security and foreign terrorists are coming across
 our borders."

      Meanwhile, the same ideologues who predicted a cakewalk in Iraq
 have changed metaphors. Iraq has become "flypaper," a killing ground to
 which Arab terrorists--evidently a finite number in their theories--are
 inexorably drawn.

     Nobody mentions moral clarity anymore.

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