Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

What’s next?

Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2005

For the longest time, all the Bush White House had to do to answer critics of the war in Iraq was to unfurl Old Glory. The time for flag-waving, however, appears to be ending. According to a USA

Today/Gallup poll, almost six in 10 Americans think the U.S. should start bringing the troops home ASAP. Only 36 percent, roughly the hard-core Republican base, want them to stay. Majorities in several polls say the war wasn’t worth the sacrifice and doubt that Iraq was ever a threat to the United States. Would-be soldiers are voting with their feet. Despite lowering standards to include drug users and small-time criminals, Army recruiters keep significantly missing their enlistment quotas. Marine recruiters aren’t doing much better. There’s even talk of a renewed draft, but that’s not going to happen. The kinds of student deferments that helped patriots like Vice President Dick Cheney (and me) stay out of Vietnam wouldn’t pass muster today. But any move to pluck Young Republicans out of the nation’s high schools and colleges would alter the balance of American politics overnight.

Even the generals are beginning to say they see no military solution for the Iraqi disaster. On Memorial Day, Cheney claimed the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes." President Bush has expressed similar optimism.

Brig. Gen. Donald Alston, the Army’s spokesman in Baghdad, sees things differently, saying: "I think the more accurate way to approach this right now is to concede that... this insurgency is not going to be settled, the terrorists and the terrorism in Iraq is not going to be settled, through military options or military operations. It’s going to be settled in the political process."

Maybe if everybody who believes in that process simply closes his eyes and claps his hands, a solution to Iraq’s centuries-old ethnic and religious strife will magically appear. Meanwhile, Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has complained to reporters about what he called "the Pillsbury Doughboy" effect: Pressing the insurgents hard in one area only causes outbreaks of violence elsewhere.

Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force training Iraqi troops, was even blunter. In an interview with Tom Lasseter of Knight-Ridder, one of the few journalistic organizations to apply appropriate skepticism in the coverage all along, Wellman said that tribal members’ seeking revenge for slain relatives keeps the insurgency growing. "We can’t kill them all," he said. "When I kill one, I create three."

And what about those newly trained Iraqi troops? Here’s what one outspoken American soldier told The Washington Post, according to its recent news story: "‘ I know the party line. You know, the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army, five-star generals, four-star generals, President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld: The Iraqis will be ready in whatever time period, ’ said 1 st Lt. Kenrick Cato, 34, of Long Island, N. Y.... ‘But from the ground, I can say with certainty they won’t be ready before I leave. And I know I’ll be back in Iraq, probably in three or four years. And I don’t think they’ll be ready then. ’"

In a stunning piece of journalism, the Post’s Anthony Shadid, who speaks fluent Arabic, and his colleague Steve Fainaru recently spent several days on patrol with an Iraqi Army company and the Pennsylvania National Guardsmen charged with training them. What they found was profound mutual contempt.

The Americans call the Iraqis "preschoolers with guns" and deride them for cowardice. The Iraqis, who unanimously said they enlisted only for the money, predicted that the entire company would desert on payday. On patrol, they wear face scarves and masks so nobody will recognize them and sing songs praising Saddam Hussein that their American counterparts can’t understand. "Look at the homes of the Iraqis," an Iraqi soldier complained to a Post reporter. "The people have been destroyed." "By whom?" he was asked. "Them," said the man, identified as Omar, pointing at the U.S. Humvees leading the patrol.

Let’s get back to basics. Nobody ever asked the American people if they wanted an empire. Instead, the geopolitical daydreamers involved with the "Project for a New American Century"—Cheney, Rummy, Paul Wolfowitz et al. —conceived a scheme to conquer Iraq after the first Gulf War to ensure that the U.S. remain the world’s lone" superpower. "

The first President Bush knew better, refusing to march into Baghdad lest chaos ensue. Knowing little geography and less history, the second President Bush was easily tempted into rashness, using the 9/11 attacks to concoct a bogus threat largely out of his advisers’ fevered imaginations. Having dragged the country into an unnecessary war, they ignored allies and military professionals who warned that a far larger force would be needed to stabilize a large, fragmented nation like Iraq. They haven’t demonstrated American strength, they’ve dramatized American weakness halfway around the world. Afraid to admit error, they have no clue what to do next.

•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.


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