Viewpoint: Bush Iraq strategy falling apart

President George W. Bush, in the recent “debate” with challenger Sen. John Kerry, beat the same old drum, claiming “steady progress” in Iraq and expounding on his fairytale version of conditions in that hapless nation.

Bush and Cheney cling to the same slogan: “We must stay the course” to defeat terrorism and win out in Iraq. But is that strategy an option? Newsweek magazine, in its Sept. 24 edition, argues that it is not. They compare the administration plan to a reality TV version of the facts on the ground in the Mideast.

The magazine notes we have two-thirds of our combat forces tied down in Iraq in a war that is not winnable. We are in over our heads, in a social structure we do not understand. Our leaders act on the basis that Iraq is a single, unified nation. The concept of such a nation, governed by a democratic form of government ruling over Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis, is what Newsweek calls a “willfully ignorant illusion.”

Bush’s policies have precluded much help from our allies. Our understaffed forces are sitting ducks for the jihadists pouring across Iraq’s borders. Americans are coming under more than 80 attacks each and every day.

The magazine’s reporters aren’t the only ones taking a very dim view of this war. More and more professionals are stepping forward to declare that conditions in Iraq are not what we are being told they are.

Those who fight the insurgents in Iraq and those who study the war at the CIA, the State Department and in the Army officer corps believe the anti-occupation movement is deeper and more widespread than is being acknowledged by the administration.

Washington Post reporters Dana Priest and Thomas Ricks tell us people at the CIA “are mad at the policy in Iraq because it’s a disaster, and they’re digging the hole deeper and deeper and deeper,” as one intelligence officer phrased it. “There’s no obvious way to fix it,” he said. “The best we can hope for is a semi-failed state hobbling along with terrorists and a succession of weak governments.”

A government official who sees the intelligence analyses on Iraq commented: “Things are definitely not improving.”

An Army staff officer who has seen service in Iraq agrees. He says there is a good deal of pessimism among the troops on active duty there. “There are things going on that are unbelievable to me,” he said. “They have infiltrators conducting attacks in the Green Zone (U.S. command compound). That was not the case a year ago.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell admitted on national television that the insurgency is growing stronger, and anti-Americanism is on the rise in the Mideast. At the same time, Gen. John P. Abizaid, U.S. commander for the Mideast, told NBC’s Meet the Press that “We will fight our way through the elections.” He added that he believes we can still win in Iraq if and when a new government and an Iraqi security force are installed.

While Bush and Kerry try to out maneuver one another on the issue of the war, a quiet but very important battle is going on in Washington over the sorry state of the U.S. campaign in Iraq.

Professionals in the intelligence community, the State Department, and the military are trying to get the word to the American people that they are being handed a load of regurgitated spin about the war (Minneapolis Star-Tribune).

“There’s a real war going on here,” said one intelligence expert, “that’s not just the agency [CIA]” against the administration on Iraq “but the State Department and the military.”

Several weeks ago, the newspaper said, a classified national intelligence estimate on Iraq, prepared last July by the National Intelligence Council, was leaked to the media. It said that under present policy the best we can hope for in Iraq is that it will go on being what it is today–a nation writhing in violence, with little or no hope of peace, economic stability or substantial and effective reconstruction. But conditions could get even worse, Iraq could sink into all-out civil war.

President Bush claimed the authors of that assessment were just “guessing” about conditions in Iraq. Later, he changed that statement to “estimating” conditions. Bush pushed on, declaring that he intends to stick to his approach, even if events prove him dead wrong. The old definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

The press got hold of two other intelligence reports written months before the invasion of Iraq. Both forecast the chaos and resistance that would erupt.

In its article, Newsweek said if Bush wins another term, there can be only two possible outcomes in Iraq:

1. Four years from now, there will be 5,000 dead Americans and an untold number of dead Iraqis and a price tag of $1 trillion, and success will be no closer.

2. U.S. troops will be gone, and in their stead will be a violent breeding ground for terrorists who will pose a far greater threat to this country than Saddam ever did.

And what is the administration’s proposal to remedy the mess? Why, they say, the only way to fix it is to re-elect the people who made the mess in the first place.

“To discern the truth about Iraq, Americans must simply look beyond the spin. This war is not some noble endeavor, some great struggle of good against evil, as the Bush administration would have us believe. We in the military have heard these grand pronouncements many times before by men who have neither served nor sacrificed. This war is an exercise in colossal stupidity and hubris which has now cost more than 1,000 American military lives.” (Newsweek)

A piece by Greg Mitchell in Editor and Publisher magazine quotes a letter from Wall Street Journal reporter Famaz Fassihi, who is stationed in Baghdad. The letter has been posted on the Web site of the Poynter Institute.

Fassihi wrote: “Iraqis say that thanks to America, they got freedom in exchange for insecurity. Guess what? They say they’d take security over freedom any day, even if it means having a dictator ruler.” (Sound familiar?)

She added: “Despite President Bush’s rosy assessments, Iraq remains a disaster. If under Saddam it was a potential threat, under the Americans it has been transformed into an imminent and active threat, a foreign policy failure bound to haunt the United States for decades to come.”

Fassihi said the Iraqi government does not control most cities in the country and that the resistance effort has spread throughout Iraq. She said it is a raging, barbaric guerrilla war. In four days, she noted, 110 people were killed and more than 300 injured in Baghdad alone.

An Army staff officer said: “They keep telling us that Iraqi security forces are the exit strategy, but what I hear from the ground is that they aren’t working. There’s a feeling that Iraqi security forces are in cahoots with the insurgents and the general public to get the occupiers out.” (MSNBC)

Perhaps the recent performance by Bush and Kerry on television startled some people out of their hypnotic trance. We hope so. It is time to stop believing the Pollyanna views from the White House and prepare to install some realists in the seat of power.

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