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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Saturday | April 12, 2003

Morally bankrupt leadership

As I listen to yet another excuse from Donald Rumsfeld, I realize that Bush and his advisors will go to any length, bear any burden to avoid responsibility for their actions.

What astounds me, as Iraqis die in looted hospitals, a tragedy we created, is the way Rumsfeld and the PNAC cabal ran to embrace victory even as the mobs were looting the streets of most Iraqi cities. They sought to portray a crowd of 100 as a massive outpouring of liberation as a US tank pulled down a statue of Saddam. More people are gathered around a fountain in Washington Square Park on a warm spring day when class is in session at NYU.

The way the Bushies have tried to play off the chaos resulting from their actions is astounding. Not surprising, but astounding all the same. Because it is undermining their moral standing, not only in the wider world, but in Iraq. They are losing the middle class, what there is of it, as field commanders embrace militia leaders and expect people to work for free.

It is a morally bankrupt leadership which plunges another nation into chaos with no plan for its reconstitution. Bush and his aides were all about the fun part, the war planning, but as CSIS analyst and ABC consultant Anthony Cordesman said in December, 2002, the peace starts at the same time the war does. You have to plan for the peace or we will fail.

Victory in this, the most political of wars, is not about the surrender of an army. It is about establishing a just political order. Maybe they can accomplish it. But the chances look grimmer by the day.

While Bush was eagerly using wounded GI's as a photo op yesterday, Rumsfeld was whining about the media. The same media which misled people into thinking a statue was being pulled down by a mob when it was by a crowd of around 100 is now showing scenes of disorder not seen on most TV's since the collapse of the Mobutu government in what was then Zaire.

What also amazes me is that people think the anti-war movement was trying to defend Saddam or didn't want the Iraqi people to be free. I think Tom Friedman summed it up: was Iraq like Switzerland or Yugoslavia. Well, it's turning out to be like the Congo, but he asked the right question: what was under Saddam's rule? The anti-war movement, from my perspective saw two things: one, the immense human suffering war would bring, and two: the consequences of the war.

That was the problem. Not the actual war or Saddam, who could be disposed of easily enough, since he was hated by everyone. But what lay under his rule, why he ruled the way he did. Not three days after he's gone, civil war lies frighteningly close to the surface as Shia form militias and rob the Sunni rich and Arabs and Kurds square off in Mosul. They even looted the museums.

As we seek to restore power, we will rehire the police which enforced Saddam's law. As we have armed militias around. If you were a Shia from Saddam City, would you let a Sunni cop push you around when you have a couple of AK's, a few cases of hand grenades and a spare RPG around. The first time you get into a beef, an RPG round is going into the door of the police station.

The pandora's box of war seems to have opened and what we have under it is frightening.

More importantly, even if we restore basic order, clearly, the guns and militias may be with us for a while. Once a man tastes the power of a gun, putting it down isn't easy. Hundreds of thousands Iraqi teenagers are learning a simple lesson: a gun equals power.

Our leadership could have forseen that and then done things to prevent it. Instead, we mess around with Ahmed "Kerensky" Chalebi as other actors, some with various interests, plot to make things far more difficulf for us.

Instead of admitting our rush to Baghdad created these conditions, Rumsfeld, between threats against Syria, denies what any sighted person can see on their TV. It is a morally bankrupt argument.

I hope they can make it work, and quickly. But if not...the consequences of the war could make Saddam's rule look like a golden era.

Steve Gilliard

Posted April 12, 2003 01:44 PM | Comments (121)


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