Monday, June 21, 2004

What Next in Iraq? Try CHAOS

The new Rolling Stone has a riveting panel discussion about "what went wrong in Iraq -- and where we can go from here," and the panel is not your usual anti-war suspects but rather guys -- all guys, natch! -- who supported the war going in but whose heads are actually not lodged in their lower intestines, so they can recognize FUBAR when it's plainly presented to them in all the glory that IS Bush's war.

A few choice excerpts (though I recommend clicking on the link above and reading the whole thing).

Gen. Anthony Zinni: We've had a year of disasters. The strategy going into Iraq was patently ridiculous -- this idea that we'd generate Jeffersonian democracy and plant the seed of freedom in the Middle East. The rationale was even worse: We grossly overstated the threat and cooked the books on the intelligence. Then we put on the ground a half-baked pickup team that has alienated the people and can't connect to viable leadership. [Zinni was commander in chief of Centcom, 1997-2000 & special envoy to the Middle East, 2002-2003]

Thomas P.M. Barnett: It was a major mistake for the Bush administration to say to potential allies, "If you're too big a pussy to show up for the war, we're not going to let you in on the peace or rehab process -- and don't expect any contracts." We had such a macho view of war that we completely miscalculated the dangers of peacekeeping. [Barnett was strategic adviser to the Defense Department, 2001-2003]

Fouad Ajami: Now we're a Johnny-come-lately for a U.N. resolution to internationalize the political process. You might call it deathbed multilateralism. [Ajami is director of Middle Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University]

Sen. Joseph Biden: I've been a senator through seven administrations, and this is by far the most divided one I've ever served with. The internal discord is rampant. It's not just Colin Powell, who has differed with Vice President Cheney at every turn. It isn't just Richard Clarke and the others on the intelligence team who have angrily defected. It's General Eric Shinseki, who was fired for telling the truth. It's Lawrence Lindsay, Bush's economic adviser, who was fired for saying the war was going to cost $200 billion. The price tag is even higher now, and still they submit a budget for 2005 without a single penny for Iraq. What in the hell is going on? [Biden is ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supported the war, and calls consistently for more troops in Iraq]

Zinni: To pull out now would be a tremendous defeat. It would accelerate the path to civil war and make us and the region extremely vulnerable. The boys aren't coming home anytime soon.

Barnett: The Bush team needs to eat crow and make the tough deals necessary to internationalize this. They need to call a summit meeting of the major powers, including Russia, China and India, and say, "We have a problem in Iraq. Our loss would be as big a loss for you -- economically and otherwise -- as for us. What will it take to get 10,000 Chinese troops, 10,000 Indian troops, 10,000 Russian troops? What do you want in return?" We know what the deals are. India would probably demand, for example, that we don't declare Pakistan a major ally. Russia wants full membership in NATO. China might ask us to stop planning a missile defense in northeast Asia.

Youssef Ibrahim: June 30th [target date for the supposed "turn-over" of Iraqi sovereignty] is the biggest joke around. There will still be 135,000 American soldiers in Iraq. We will pick a new governing council -- a whole bunch of new lackeys. A superambassador -- John Negroponte -- will command an embassy of 3,000 Americans. Every controversial thing that the new government does will look like Negroponte's fault. [Ibrahim was Middle Eastern correspondent for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal; is managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group]

Zinni: This is a key point. Everybody I know in this part of the world says you cannot let this become a religious war. You can't let this become Islam vs. the West. I fear that's what it's become. We're viewed as modern crusaders. We have our own mad mullahs in America -- the Jerry Falwells, the Pat Robertsons -- who criticize Islam. They are heard much louder over there than they are here.

Ibrahim: It's worse than that. Bush himself is seen to be a mad mullah. The president has repeatedly asserted that God is on our side in Iraq, that he's consulting with a "higher" father. The zealotry even infects the military. General William Boykin recently said, "My God is much bigger than their Allah" -- this was all over the Arab media. He was never fired or reprimanded for making that statement. Prisoners have given accounts of being forced to thank Jesus and denounce Islam. The perception in the Gulf, where I live, is that this administration is vehemently anti-Muslim. Like it or not, we are in a war with 2.1 billion Muslims.

Biden: I was in the Oval Office the other day, and the president asked me what I would do about resignations. I said, "Look, Mr. President, would I keep Rumsfeld? Absolutely not." And I turned to Vice President Cheney, who was there, and I said, "Mr. Vice President, I wouldn't keep you if it weren't constitutionally required." I turned back to the president and said, "Mr. President, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld are bright guys, really patriotic, but they've been dead wrong on every major piece of advice they've given you. That's why I'd get rid of them, Mr. President -- not just Abu Ghraib." They said nothing. Just sat like big old bullfrogs on a log and looked at me.

Zinni: Halliburton is spending staggering sums of money building fortified workplaces. It's killing the American taxpayer, who's footing the bill. There are two bodyguards for every worker. For $100,000 a year, you've got a truck driver from West Virginia. If I'm an Iraqi, I say, "For that cost, you could hire ten of us as drivers. And if I'm getting a paycheck, I'll have a vested interest in that truck getting through." Even the way we do contracting makes no sense.

Ibrahim: I voted for Bush, but I'd sooner die than vote for him again. The neocons are vampires through which we have to drive a wooden stake. Neoconservatism must end as an ideology if you want America to recover its position as leader of the world.

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