Sunday, November 05, 2006
Bush already handed terrorists a victory in Iraq
- Heading back to the debate in Appalachia
- Redistricting process must be taken from pols
- A shutdown remains a very real possibility
- U.S. Navy Vets case argues for campaign limits
From the RoundTable blog
Has a wartime president ever sunk this low? President Bush actually equated victory for his domestic political opposition with victory for America's enemies.
At a campaign rally, Bush said, "The Democrat approach on Iraq comes down to this: The terrorists win, and America loses."
In other words, a vote for a Democrat is a vote for Osama bin Laden.
That's a despicable new low, even for the Bush administration.
It's also, it should go without saying, not true. Democrats are no more likely to leave Iraq a failure than Republicans. Nor, unfortunately, are they much more likely to leave Iraq a success.
According to an Oct. 18 briefing by the United States Central Command, Iraq is falling toward chaos. Violence is at an all-time high and spreading geographically. The Iraqi police and military both are ineffectual, and many units are refusing orders from the central government. Militias are expanding their security role, further dividing the country along sectarian lines.
The United States military is now taking marching orders from Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, even when it means leaving a kidnapped U.S. soldier behind in Sadr City. Maliki, in turn, appears to be taking his orders from Muqtada al-Sadr, a hard-line Shiite cleric whose militia is believed to be behind the kidnapping, as well as much of the sectarian violence gripping the city.
Make no mistake: Whichever party comes out on top Tuesday, Iraq will remain an intractable problem for years, if not decades, to come.
Speaking before troops at the Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina last week, Bush said, "And now you're involved in this global war on terror, in the central front, which is Iraq. I know some in America don't believe Iraq is the central front in the war on terror, and that's fine, they can have that opinion. But Osama bin Laden knows it's the central front in the war on terror. He has called Iraq the third world war. He has said of Iraq that he will lead to victory or glory or humiliation. We have made our decision. Iraq will lead to victory and glory for the United States, for the Iraqis, and for the moderates around the world."
Bush's simplistic formulation -- either we win in Iraq or the terrorists do -- might make sense if terrorists were all we were fighting in Iraq.
But al-Qaida is not the only problem we face, or even the most serious. The most serious problem is the deep and growing sectarian divide unleashed after decades of repression under Saddam Hussein. Iraq's Shia and Sunni populations are tearing each other, and the nation, apart.
This was a predictable, and predicted, consequence of toppling Saddam's government. But it was a consequence for which the Bush administration, with all its ludicrous talk of U.S. soldiers being greeted as liberators, was thoroughly and disastrously unprepared.
In fact, according to U.S. Ambassador Peter Galbraith, months before the invasion, Bush was completely ignorant of the Shia-Sunni split within Islam, much less its ramifications for a post-Saddam Iraq
Essentially, Bush's argument goes like this: America must see Iraq through to "victory" (whatever that is) lest terrorists like bin Laden see a retreat there as further sign that the United States lacks the stomach for a prolonged fight. Furthermore, it is vital that Iraq not be allowed to become a failed state that would become a haven and a base of operations for terror groups like al-Qaida -- much as Afghanistan was, and threatens to become again.
Democrats, Bush concludes, won't see the fight through. Therefore, if Democrats win, so do the terrorists.
Bush is right about the ramifications of losing Iraq. The stakes are high. It's tragic that he failed to consider those stakes or the very real obstacles to victory that we now confront before he went through with the invasion.
And he's wrong when he implies that Democrats are less willing or capable of seeing Iraq to victory. The inescapable fact is that victory in Iraq is not achievable on the current course. Bush's grand vision of Iraq was always a mirage fueled by ignorance and arrogance.
If a Democratic takeover of Congress forces a fundamental re-examination of the goals and strategy in Iraq, that can only improve the currently dismal odds of success.
Bush says a win for Democrats is a victory for terrorists. Don't believe him. Terrorists got their victory the day Bush decided to invade Iraq.
Radmacher is the editorial page editor of The Roanoke Times.