Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Debacle in Iraq (continued)

THE MOST CELEBRATED of the recent insider books is Richard Clarke’s Against All Enemies, in which he argues that George W. Bush and his closest aides ignored the warning signs that Al Qaeda was preparing to launch an attack against the United States sometime during 2001. Clarke’s appearance before the 9/11 commission last month was electrifying, and forced the White House finally to let National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice testify as well.

But Clarke is only peripherally concerned with the war in Iraq. His recollection that Bush pressed him for — and practically demanded — evidence of Iraqi involvement in 9/11 has been widely reported, as has his frustration with the administration’s obsession with Iraq rather than Al Qaeda in the months preceding the terrorist attacks. The most interesting new piece of information I found in Clarke’s book is his revelation that Cheney, while he was secretary of defense, was uncomfortable with the first President Bush’s most impressive achievement in the Gulf War of 1991: the broad international coalition he put together, giving the battle to liberate Kuwait a legitimacy that George W. Bush’s war will never have. "Cheney’s attitude then foreshadowed his attitude twelve years later: we can deal with Iraq militarily by ourselves and everybody else is just more trouble than they are worth," Clarke writes.

Clarke’s explication of the Bushies’ priorities confirms the recollections of former treasury secretary Paul O’Neill, in Ron Suskind’s book The Price of Loyalty. O’Neill told Suskind that White House officials, led by Cheney, talked about getting rid of Saddam almost from the moment they took office. "Hussein seemed caged and defanged," Suskind writes, channeling O’Neill’s thoughts. "Clearly, there were many forces destabilizing the region, most particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict itself, which we were now abandoning. Who, exactly, was pushing this foreign policy, and were they asking themselves hard questions about choices and consequences?" We now have our answers: Cheney, and "no."

Given the duplicity and high-handedness of Bush, Cheney, and their underlings, it is sometimes hard to remember that there were good reasons for going to war against Saddam Hussein — not unilaterally, not while giving the finger to the rest of the world, but good reasons nonetheless. Saddam was, along with North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, perhaps the world’s most brutal dictator, a man who tortured, mutilated, and murdered hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. He had used poison gas on two separate occasions, against Iran and against rebellious Kurds in his own country. If intervening in the former Yugoslavia was right, if failing to intervene in Rwanda was an appalling mistake, then surely the overthrow of Saddam was a worthwhile goal. That’s why moderates and liberals such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Harvard University human-rights expert and author Michael Ignatieff, Senator Joseph Lieberman, and others supported the war, despite their misgivings over Bush’s go-it-alone approach.

Which is why, even more than Dean’s, Blix’s, Clarke’s, and Suskind’s books, a 15,000-word article by James Fallows in the January issue of the Atlantic Monthly, "Blind into Baghdad," is such a horrifying read. Fallows won a National Magazine Award for an earlier article, in which he predicted that war would lead to Iraq’s becoming, in his description, "the 51st state." That would have been far preferable to the mistakes Fallows describes in his more recent article.

For instance, military leaders opposed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s plan to invade with a small force of 75,000 troops not because they thought they would lose — far from it — but, rather, because they specifically wanted 400,000 or more to keep order after the war ended. "The military’s fundamental argument for building up what Rumsfeld considered a wastefully large force is that it would be even more useful after Baghdad fell than during actual combat," Fallows writes. "The first few days or weeks after the fighting, in this view, were crucial in setting long-term expectations. Civilians would see that they could expect a rapid return to order, and would behave accordingly — or they would see the opposite. This was the ‘shock and awe’ that really mattered, in the Army’s view: the ability to make clear who was in charge." The failure to stop the widely predicted looting, along with American administrator Paul Bremer’s decision to disband the Iraqi army — a mistake warned against in advance by experts at the Army War College and elsewhere — only compounded the security crisis.

In Fallows’s view, "The missteps of the first half year in Iraq are as significant as other classic and carefully examined failures in foreign policy, including John Kennedy’s handling of the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, and Lyndon Johnson’s decision to escalate U.S. involvement in Vietnam, in 1965." The consequences of those missteps have only become more apparent since Fallows’s article was published.

THIS PAST SUNDAY, Al-Jazeera reported on its English-language Web site (english.aljazeera.net) that, in Fallujah, an estimated 600 Iraqis had been killed and another 1200 injured "since US occupation forces launched an offensive against resistance fighters in the town a week ago." Of those 1200, 243 were said to be women, and 200 were children.

Is it true? Who knows? Perhaps we should, as Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt reportedly told an Iraqi journalist at a news conference, "Change the channel to a legitimate, authoritative, honest news station." But this is what the Arab and Muslim world is watching. And if we are supposed to be winning the trust of the Iraqi people, well, this is certainly not the way to do it.

Besides, as Danny Schechter notes on MediaChannel.org, it is just as likely that most American journalists — who are stuck in their offices lest they be killed — are underreporting and misreporting the extent of the anti-American uprising. Schechter quotes Sam Gardiner, a retired Air Force colonel who has taught at the National and Air War Colleges, as saying, "We have to keep in mind that the military and political leadership in the United States have been terrible at assessing the situation in Iraq, going back to when the plan for the invasion was put together. I’ve not heard any good assessment of what’s going on now."

Built on a foundation of lies and wishful thinking, carried out with arrogance and incompetence, the war in Iraq looms as our biggest foreign-policy disaster since the Vietnam War. George W. Bush may not be Richard Nixon; as John Dean suggests, he may be worse. What’s obvious today is that this war was utterly unnecessary. And if there ever was a chance of transforming it into something good, that chance has all but slipped away.

Dan Kennedy can be reached at dkennedy[a]phx.com. Read his daily Media Log at BostonPhoenix.com.

page 2 

Issue Date: April 16 - 22, 2004
Back to the News & Features table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group