Thursday, August 17, 2006

Back to Iraq

In yesterday's NYT we learned that president Bush is apparently disappointed with the Iraqi people's lack of gratitude to the U.S. for their "liberation".

Today we find out that in addition to the sectarian violence between Iraqi Shia and Sunni Muslims, the Iraqi insurgency is also continuing to grow, launching the most attacks last month on American and Iraqi government forces since the start of the war. I'd almost become convinced the insurgency had more or less become subsumed if not replaced by a civil war; but apparently the turmoil in Iraq is not a zero-sum game in which either an insurgency or civil war can be waged but not both. Both are thriving as not only are attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers up, so are the number of civilians murdered in Baghdad:

As the politics in Iraq have grown more polarized since the elections in December, in which many Sunni Arabs voted, attacks have soared, including sectarian clashes that have killed an average of more than 100 Iraqi civilians per day over the past two months.

Glenn Greenwald has this to say in response to the latest news:

Once the U.S. finally extricates itself from the Iraqi disaster, a comprehensive public accounting is critical. While much attention has been paid to the pre-war misinformation disseminated by the government and the media, the post-invasion deceit has been worse -- much worse. There was, at least, a reasonable question about whether Saddam had WMDs. Nobody knew the answer to that question for certain one way or the other prior to the war. But it has long been apparent that conditions in Iraq were deteriorating, that our occupation was achieving nothing constructive, that violence was spiraling out of control, and that our invasion had achieved the opposite of the goals we proclaimed to be pursuing.

But the political establishment -- the Bush administration, its followers, and our "serious" pundits alike -- were all so invested, so personally invested, in the invasion which they advocated and caused that they just all agreed to pretend that it was not happening. Pointing out the magnitude of the disaster we caused -- both to Iraq and, at least equally, to the U.S. -- was deemed inappropriate, distasteful, hyperbolic, and even subversive. As a result, and in stark contrast to the quick and open Israeli recognition that their war was going poorly, we continued to pursue a clearly misguided and destructive path because our political leaders and their media enablers were too weak and self-interested -- and, in many cases, still are -- to acknowledge reality.

There's certainly a lot of truth to Glenn's argument that the administration's post-war behavior has been worse than its pre-war behavior. And it's also true that many of the administration's think tank and media enablers have unfortunately followed suit, denying reports of Iraq's problems and trying to intimidate administration critics and members of the press interested in a full and truthful accounting of the war.

At the same time, it's worth recognizing the efforts turned in by journalists such as Tom Ricks, George Packer and Michael Gordon, among others, in fleshing out the mistakes and misinformation both prior to and after the invasion.

In addition, conservatives in the press and in the conservative movement also deserve kudos for being willing to recognize the failings associated with the administration's fantasy based war mongering and nation building, and in some cases, these players have acknowledged their own mistaken roles and been promptly attacked and disowned by their former collaborators, including this guy. George Will and William Buckley have also expressed criticism of the war and the administration's post-invasion strategeries.

And obviously, the public has become at least partly in tune to the results of the Iraqi invasion, driving down Bush's poll numbers and leading some observers to conclude the Democrats are on the verge of a take over of Congress.

Nonetheless, at least some of the dis-satisfaction with Bush and Iraq doesn't stem from what we might think of as liberal causes. Much of the mainstream angst seems primarily rooted in issues of war-management, rather than on the war's justification and moral worth. On the far right there is added the notion that the war was not waged violently enough.

And now, with the cease-fire still holding in Lebanon, the administration, and perhaps more importantly, it's rabid supporters in the mega-church, Christian Zionest movement, want to proceed with an attack on Iran. And even if Democrats make some gains in the Fall, it's hard to see the next two years, and even the next decade, being one of rational discourse and reasonable public policy whether here or abroad.

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