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[casi] a right wing view of the current mess

MARTIN SCHRAM: The blame game on Iraq
16.05.2003 [02:15]

Before tackling today's topic, permit me to retool and recalibrate
the most trusty high-tech instrument on my punditry workbench.

I refer, of course, to the truth-reflecting device I invented in the
1980s - my Meese Measuring Stick. For years I used it to take the
measure of duplicitous liberals who loved to lambaste President
Ronald Reagan's conservative counselor (later attorney general) by
portraying even his slight ethical oversights as major corruption.

I held my imaginary Meese Measuring Stick alongside far more serious
transgressions committed by Democrats and asked silent fellow
Democrats: If that act had been committed by Ed Meese, what would you
be saying about it? But today's topic - the Bush administration's
performance in the weeks after its impressive victory in Iraq -
requires a new, state-of-the-craft instrument. So today I am
unveiling the Clintonian Calculator.

First, we will hold the Clintonian Calculator up against the Bush
administration's record since the Iraq war was swiftly won. It is a
record of failure to win the peace: failure to get water and
electricity up and running again for millions of Iraqis; failure to
halt the looting of government buildings, privately owned stores,
historic treasures; failure to install a functioning police force to
protect citizens from marauding thugs; failure to capitalize on the
initial euphoria of crowds that cheered U.S. troops after the
toppling of Saddam Hussein; failure to anticipate the militant
fundamentalist power of the Shiite leaders favoring Islamic rule who
rushed to fill the vacuum by filling streets with crowds chanting for
Americans to go home; and failure to do anything to make lives of
ordinary Iraqi citizens demonstrably better. All of this needed to be
well thought-out before the war began.

Second, we ask Washington Republicans: What would you be saying about
these failures of presidential policy if they had happened not under
President George W. Bush but under President Bill Clinton?

Be wary: Bush loyalists will initially howl that Clinton wouldn't
have gone to war against Saddam; also that Clinton's pathetic
responses to Osama bin Laden's terrorism on his watch (attacks on two
U.S. embassies in Africa and the USS Cole in Libya) were unacceptably
limp. Those comments have substantial merit. But they fail to address
our topic - the failures of President Bush and his high command
before the war to anticipate and address the post war

The only honest answer to our question, of course, is that if
President Clinton had permitted this nation-building collapse,
Republicans such as their unreconstructed House Majority Leader Tom
DeLay, R-Texas, would be calling Clinton every printable unpalatable
name in the book. And they would have a point - for what is happening
(or, rather, not happening) in Iraq now threatens all the beneficial
outcomes of ousting Saddam Hussein.

Who is to blame? Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who deserves
credit for having directed a stunningly victorious war plan, must
also shoulder the blame for the nation-building operation - was there
ever a plan? - that he and his department directed. Actually,
"directed" is the wrong verb. The more accurate would be that
Rumsfeld "laissez-faired" the nation building but it cannot be used
due to the technicality that there is no such verb. But Rumsfeld
reports to Bush, so the Clintonian Calculator tells us Bush is to
blame. The best that can be said of Bush is that he has jettisoned
his incompetent first nation-building team, headed by retired Lt.
Gen. Jay Garner, and sent in L. Paul Bremer III.

What happens in Iraq in the weeks to come may powerfully influence
what happens in the Middle East in the years to come. Will millions
of Iraqis cheer Americans as liberators or demand that Americans be
run out of their country? Will Iraq plunge from anarchy into a
democracy of its own invention or Islamic rule akin to Iran's? Will
Iraq and Iran, longtime enemies, unify in common hatred of the USA?
Will that lure Syria, Libya, Lebanon, et al to join in?

It's too soon to know. But this much we do know. In America, when a
storm causes electricity or water to be off for even just one day -
let alone one month - people become enraged at the mayor. Inevitably,
they toss him or her out on his or her ear or rear.

And today's hardcore reality, as millions of Iraqis see it, is that
if they don't get electricity and water in their homes, police on the
streets and food on the table, they will blame just one individual -
the new mayor of every Iraqi city, Mayor George W. Bush.

Scripps Howard News Service

Mark Parkinson

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