Thursday, November 16, 2006

Close the Curtains on the ‘Puppet Show’ in Iraq

Tuesday, 14, November, 2006 (23, Shawwal, 1427)

Close the Curtains on the ‘Puppet Show’ in Iraq
Linda Heard

Iraq is at the center of an almighty political blame game. Former Pentagon darling Ahmad Chalabi told the New York Times that “It was a puppet show, the worst of all worlds. We were in charge, and we had no power. We were blamed for everything the Americans did, but we couldn’t change any of it.” Sour grapes from a man who once hoped to grab the top job in Iraq or the unpalatable truth?

Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh believes the Iraqis are at fault. He wants pressure to be put on Iraqis to make decisions. Iraqis need to be led to the abyss, told to look over the edge before being asked “Is this what you want for your country: Violence, death and civil war?” But if Chalabi is right, Iraqis are victims, not decision-takers.

America’s sacked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld appears to blame the American people for failing to grasp the complexities of this new endless war against an evil ideology. More than 100 US generals blame Rumsfeld for his refusal to send more troops to Iraq and badly equipping those that are there.

Tony Blair blames Iraq’s former US viceroy Paul L. Bremer for dismantling the Iraqi Army and ousting Baathists from the civil service leaving thousands of disenfranchised Iraqis little choice but to pick up a gun.

But, in truth, the buck stops with America’s Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush, who is now being blamed by his former neoconservative supporters for failing to bring stability to Iraq, slated to be a shining example of America’s might being put to good use. In their eyes the president is guilty of the unforgivable sins — bad judgment and inefficiency.

So what happens now that the Democrats have a majority in Congress on the back of their desire to bring “our boys home” as soon as possible? It’s certainly a knotty problem for George Bush.

If he orders a swift retreat, this is tantamount to admitting failure. If he stays the course, as he’s so fond of advocating, public opinion will turn against him even more than it already has and it’s doubtful a Democratic Congress will sanction the cash to send more troops into theater. Stalemate!

There are no good options any more. People are dying at the rate of 100 per day in Iraq. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced. Thousands more have fled the country including much-needed doctors and nurses. Those who don’t have the means to leave are either taking up arms to fight the occupiers and anyone who collaborates with them or queuing to join the new Iraqi police force or military so they can feed their children. Tragically many of those children end up as orphans. The problem is those queues are like red rags to the insurgent bull. On Sunday, 35 would be new police recruits were blown up in Baghdad, 25 bodies were discovered in the capital while on the same day 50 bodies were found dumped behind the electricity company’s offices in Baqouba.

Bush’s task is unenviable. How does he make a dignified exit from Iraq and convince the world the US has successfully accomplished its mission? No doubt this question was discussed during a long trans-Atlantic telephone call between Bush and Blair last Friday. The two were probably also making sure they were on the same page before they are questioned by the White House-appointed Iraq Study Group today.

The pair are without doubt pinning their hopes on Rumsfeld’s replacement former CIA chief Robert Gates, a former member of the Iraq Study Group, which is set to urge a gradual troop withdrawal depending on the security situation in Iraq. And to this end, both Syria and Iran may be asked to use their influence.

It’s a solution that sounds feasible in the long run but Bush and his Republican Party are short of time. The US public is sick of seeing its finest returning home in body bags. The insurgents know this and are responding by stepping up the action. At the same time how can the Iraqi security services be expected to take over when they keep coming under severe attack and have been infiltrated by insurgents and militia groups?

In the final analysis there is no magic bullet. There is no fairy that can wave a magic wand and stick Iraq back together. Colin Powell famously warned George Bush that if he broke it (Iraq) he would have to fix it. Bush broke it but he is unable to come close to fixing it. In that case it’s better he faces up to the truth and cuts his losses no matter how damaging that may turn out to be for his place in history.

The president’s supporters are dwindling and so are his options. If US troops are still stomping around Iraq in 2008 the Republicans can kiss goodbye to any chance of re-election. It’s about time they listened to the Iraqis who are generally saying don’t let the door hit you on your way out. Iraq is the biggest US and British foreign policy failure since Vietnam and Suez. Deal with it.

You lost. Get over it and allow the Iraqi people to pick up the shards of their once beautiful country and put it back together in a way that suits them. You’ve had your chance and you’ve failed miserably. The Iraqis can hardly do any worse and, who knows, sans a bunch of trigger-happy hooligans dressed up as soldiers they might achieve the security and stability denied them to date.

There will be bloodshed but there’s bloodshed now. There may be ethnic cleansing but there’s ethnic cleansing now. Chances are that if the Iraqis are left to their own devices these abominations will cease sooner rather than later. America and its friends are not only part of the problem, they are the problem. It’s time to close the curtains on the puppet show once and for all and let the real show begin.

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