Wednesday, May 19, 2004

American soldiers wouldn't be dying in Iraq at the rate they are if Bush's ideologues hadn't undermined their efforts at every turn.

Before the war even started, Rumsfeld ignored State Department advice about the likelihood of looting. Even more important, he disregarded detailed State Department plans that would have kept the government running smoothly. There need not have been early chaos to set the wrong tone.

Those were sins of omission. Under the heading "sins of commission" is a longer list. Instead of allowing early elections--real elections--Cheney installed Chalabi, his favorite puppet, and gave his man in Baghdad plenty of Saddam's secret records--useful for blackmail--and a say in reconstruction contracts--useful for kickbacks. If the administration wanted a puppet, it didn't have to choose someone who had been convicted, in absentia, of bank fraud in Jordan and sentenced to 22 years in jail there. But they did pick a crook. Consequently, a poll in February showed Chalabi to be even more mistrusted than Saddam Hussein himself.

The Bushies feared and avoided early elections because they needed time to enact economic policies that the Iraqis would never have countenanced. They slashed tariffs. They enacted a flat tax in place of a tax system that heavily taxed the rich. They threw open the country to foreign investment. They employed foreigners to do jobs that Iraqis--desperately in need of work--could have performed. They disbanded the Iraqi army, causing further unemployment, when they should have foreseen how useful those soldiers could be in keeping order.

Having made a hash of almost everything over there for the last year, The White House recently announced that we plan to continue making a hash of it. To prove it, Bush is appointing John Negroponte as our ambassador once we . . . turn over power to the Iraqis? Two problems with that notion. First, we're not turning over sovereignty. As Jonathan Schell pointed out in The Nation:

Instead of saying "On June 30, the Coalition will hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people," we should say, "On June 30, the re-election campaign of George W. Bush will hand over the appearance of responsibility for the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq to certain of its local appointees."

Second, Negroponte is an insulting choice as ambassador. He'll be the de facto president, but his only expertise in Middle East affairs is the weapons sales he made to Iran during its eight year war with Iraq.

All this incompetence and corruption has helped spur the insurgency. We retaliate when our soldiers die, and innocents are killed in the crossfire. As Molly Ivins points out: "It's quite difficult to convince people you are killing them for their own good."

And all the while, rumors about Abu Ghraib have been simmering. Now they've exploded, and they're about to go nuclear--because of even more shocking pictures and because of evidence that Bush and Rumsfeld ordered the abuse.

Oh, and by the way, no one believes this isn't about oil.

If the Bushies had planned it, they could hardly have infuriated Iraqis more. Bush and his ideologues have a genius for ineptitude that cannot be counterbalanced by rebuilding a few schools and handing out candy to children.

Tomorrow I'll comment on our sorry, scant choices for dealing with our misleader's mess. Meantime, feel free to add to the list above. I'm sure it's incomplete.


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