As I See It
As the situation in Iraq continues its accelerating downward spiral, it is becoming glaringly clear that we are in this mess because of incredibly inept leadership.
Although the invasion of Iraq and defeat of its army was a brilliant military victory, that success has been totally negated by the Bush administration’s failure to develop a rational plan for the post-war transition.
Their plan was based on unfounded optimism, shows a total lack of understanding of the religious, political and social forces that shape Iraqi culture, and failed to heed warnings of dire consequences.
The plan was predicated on a welcoming populace, the cooperation of the populace in creating a functioning interim government and Iraqi police force, and strong support from the majority Shiites who had been cruelly suppressed by Saddam Hussein for decades.
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We had no contingency plan for any of the things which could have, and have, gone wrong, about which the State Department and military had warned.
We now have an ineffectual interim Iraqi government that is nowhere near ready for the June 30 deadline President Bush has dreamed up, and a police force that cuts and runs when things get tough, or even worse, is in league with the insurgents.
We also are not only fighting the insurgent Sunni militia, which has now taken over three cities in the so-called Sunni Triangle, but also are being attacked by Shiite forces we thought would be on our side.
The Mahdi Army of the rabble-rousing Shiite cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who is capitalizing on the unpopularity of our presence in Iraq to increase his power in his rivalry with the more moderate Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani, has taken over parts of three cities in the formerly quiet southern part of Iraq.
Our get-tough policy with al-Sadr, shutting down his extreme anti-American newspaper and calling for his arrest, has radicalized his followers to the point of armed insurrection.
In response our forces have attacked a mosque from which they were being fired upon and have inflicted unintended civilian casualties, which have merely served to further inflame anti-American hatred among the people.
The Bush administration has apparently adopted the Sharon retaliation strategy, which will probably be as successful for us in Iraq as it has been for Israel in Palestine.
For the time being, our actions have probably postponed an open civil war between Sunnis and Shiites, who now appear to be united in their attacks on Americans.
When that civil war breaks out, though, it will probably create a blood-bath that will make Iraqis wish Saddam were back. It will be like the atrocities in Yugoslavia after Tito, who had kept ethnic animosities under control by brute force.
It all begins to take on shades of Vietnam, only an urban instead of jungle guerrilla war, where the enemy fades into the general populace, and has recently resorted to taking hostages.
Just as in Vietnam, we again have a bull-headed Texan in the White House refusing to acknowledge his mistakes, and a Secretary of Defense like Robert McNamara, who kept calling for more troops even when he knew he was sending them to fight for a lost cause.
Only Iraq is far more serious than Vietnam because it threatens the entire world.
There is one thing that President Bush claims that is true ” that he is a strong leader. The trouble is, he is leading us in the wrong direction.
P.S. A slip of the lip in my April 1 column named South Korea as part of Bush’s axis of evil. It should have read “North Korea.”
Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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