August 14, 2005

Rice and Rosewater

US Lowers Sights on What Can Be Achieved in Iraq

is the headline of a Washington Post story, Sunday, August 14, 2005. Here is a translation and explanation of what the story actually says.

The First Sentence

The Bush administration is significantly lowering expectations of what can be achieved in Iraq, recognizing that the United States will have to settle for far less progress than originally envisioned during the transition due to end in four months, according to U.S. officials in Washington and Baghdad.

What was originally and publically intended to be achieved in Iraq by the Bush administration was the overthrow of badboy and so-called terrorist supporter Saddam Hussein (the one thing we actually did accomplish), and the elimination of his weapons of mass destruction (which everyone now knows was the lie upon which the invasion was based). Beyond that, there was no post-war plan other than the Rumsfeld and Cheney pipedreams of Iraqis welcoming American troops with "rice and rosewater," a traditional Arab greeting. The one thing Rumsfeld and Cheney did know, that the invasion represented a potentially huge strategic military and oil benefit for the United States, went unspoken. In fact, when Rumsfeld was asked directly about the oil connection, prior to the invasion, he just lied bald-faced about it.

Bush certainly did not have any clue about what could happen. His understanding of the complex web of religious, political, and economic conflicting interests was rudimentary, at best. And he had people around him who served him and prepared him poorly.

The Second Sentence

The United States no longer expects to see a model new democracy, a self-supporting oil industry or a society in which the majority of people are free from serious security or economic challenges, U.S. officials say.

Just at the exact time we are all waiting for the interim Iraqi governing council to complete its draft of a new Iraqi constitution, we have unnamed American officials saying that they do not expect to see a "model" democracy in Iraq, whatever that is. Do they mean a "model" democracy like ours? What are these jokers talking about anyway? Our political democracy has been whittled away so much it is barely recognizable, and we have never had an economic democracy in this country, in any event.

So just what are they talking about? They are letting us in on a secret they have known all along. There simply won't be any kind of democracy in Iraq, because there is no way we can impose one, nor is there any way we can sustain one with American troops. And despite the best efforts of the current Iraqi elite, there certainly is no way a democracy can be jury-rigged in a country that is so at odds with itself.

And look what happened to all those high hopes about Iraqi oil serving the Iraqi people in rebuilding the country. We are admitting now that it will not happen. It didn't matter whether you opposed the war or supported it, we all hoped that this Iraqi national treasure would help alleviate the suffering of the Iraqi people and contribute to its renaissance.

American officials admit that not only will their oil not help the Iraqi people, but we Americans cannot help them create a safe and secure society, to boot.

The Third Sentence

What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."

What timetable? There was never a plan, so just what is this "senior" official talking about? What does "process of absorbing the factors of the situation" mean? Simply put, it means facing the reality of our mistakes, incompetence, and silly expectations. What does "shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning" mean? Exactly the same thing -- we goofed and now we understand.

Here is some of the reality that the Washington Post enumerates:

-- 50% to 65% unemployment;
-- many of Baghdad's 6 million people go without electricity for days in 120 degree heat;
-- barbers won't shave men anymore because religious extremists murder them;
-- religious militias police large parts of Iraq.

In helping to rewrite history, The Washington Post writer actually says:

The U.S. decision to invade Iraq was justified in part by the goal of establishing a secular and modern Iraq that honors human rights and unites disparate ethnic and religious communities.

This was NEVER an initial goal, in part, or otherwise. This was a post facto declaration by Bush trying to weasel his way out of the lie he told that was the original goal.

Here's more.

U.S. officials now acknowledge that they misread the strength of the sentiment among Kurds and Shiites to create a special status.

Amazing. After all our decades-long experiences with the Kurds, we didn't know how strongly they feel about their "special status", much less how they feel about independence? I spent a little time (in the early 1970s) with Mustafa Barzani, one of the founders of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and it only took me a few minutes to understand the depth of the Kurdish desire for independence. What the hell kind of US officials could misread that? Has Bush replaced everyone with idiots?

And we have this:

"We are definitely cutting corners and lowering our ambitions in democracy building," said Larry Diamond, a Stanford University democracy expert who worked with the U.S. occupation government and wrote the book "Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq."
"Under pressure to get a constitution done, they've lowered their own ambitions in terms of getting a document that is going to be very far-reaching and democratic. We also don't have the time to go through the process we envisioned when we wrote the interim constitution -- to build a democratic culture and consensus through debate over a permanent constitution," he said.

Fancy that. Someone in the Bush administration apparently imagined the Iraqi people having the capacity for building "a democractic culture and consensus": 1) directly in the aftermath of decades of Saddam Hussein's totalitarian rule; 2) in the absence of a long-term, underground democratic resistance; 3) in the absence of any history or tradition of democracy, pluralism, and freedom; and, 4) in the absence of any semblance of economic or personal safety.

The piece ends on a low note.

The Iraqi economy was bad before we invaded, but much, much worse after we invaded. Wayne White, former head of the Iraq intelligence team for the State Department, admits that the US permitted most of the economic and industrial resources of Iraq to b e destroyed or looted in the immediate aftermath of the war. In light of that fact, he concludes: "In order to get out earlier, expectations are going to have to be lower, even much lower. The higher your expectation, the longer you have to stay. Getting out is going to be a more important consideration than the original goals were. They were unrealistic."

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