Monday, January 01, 2007

Evidence That It's Time to Leave

It's time to start drawing down in Iraq. Bush has made a strategic blunder based on ignorance and deception. He shows no sign that he knows what he's doing. John Burns and Marc Santora of The New York Times have a report on certain aspects of Saddam Hussein's hanging that suggest we have little left, if anything, to accomplish in Iraq:
...just about everything in the 24 hours that began with Mr. Hussein’s being taken to his execution from his cell in an American military detention center in the postmidnight chill of Saturday had a surreal and even cinematic quality.

Part of it was that the Americans, who turned him into a pariah and drove him from power, proved to be his unlikely benefactors in the face of Iraq’s new Shiite rulers who seemed bent on turning the execution and its aftermath into a new nightmare for the Sunni minority privileged under Mr. Hussein.

(snip)

The American role extended beyond providing the helicopter that carried Mr. Hussein home. Iraqi and American officials who have discussed the intrigue and confusion that preceded the decision late on Friday to rush Mr. Hussein to the gallows have said that it was the Americans who questioned the political wisdom — and justice — of expediting the execution, in ways that required Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to override constitutional and religious precepts that might have assured Mr. Hussein a more dignified passage to his end.

The Americans’ concerns seem certain to have been heightened by what happened at the hanging, as evidenced in video recordings made just before Mr. Hussein fell through the gallows trapdoor at 6:10 a.m. on Saturday. ...

(snip)

American officials in Iraq have been reluctant to say much publicly about the pell-mell nature of the hanging, apparently fearful of provoking recriminations in Washington, where the Bush administration adopted a hands-off posture, saying the timing of the execution was Iraq’s to decide.

While privately incensed at the dead-of-night rush to the gallows, the Americans here have been caught in the double bind that has ensnared them over much else about the Maliki government — frustrated at what they call the government’s failure to recognize its destructive behavior, but reluctant to speak out, or sometimes to act, for fear of undermining Mr. Maliki and worsening the situation.

Let's be clear about some of the elements here. We have a president in Washington who doesn't know what he's doing. On occassion, we have people in Iraq who understand elements of the situation quite well but who are hampered by confusion in Washington. We have an elected leader in Iraq whose position depends somewhat on undemocratic elements who nevertheless are members of the Iraqi parliament. If we lean too hard on Maliki to do things the way they reasonably should be done, we undermine his legitimacy. If we don't lean on him,we are tainted by his poor decisions. All too frequently, our own ideas about what should be done about this particular situation or that leader or that city block or whether to bomb so-and-so is not very good partly because of poor local intelligence and all too often because of poor judgment by someone in the Green Zone or someone back in Washington.

And then there are those in Washington who would like to get rid of Maliki. These are the same folks who gave us Chalabi and Allawi, two would-be Iraqi leaders who are no better than Maliki. We've been down such a road in the past and it's not going to lead anywhere. Joe Lieberman, John McCain, various neoconservatives and various elements of our media need to stop pretending that George W. Bush is suddenly going to figure out what he's doing. We don't need a 'troop surge.' We need to get out of Iraq. We begin by calling a regional conference and by starting to draw down. Iraq is a fiasco. It's gone on long enough.

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