Looking for "good news" in Iraq when there is none
There is an almost pathetic quality to the complaint of the Bush Administration and its ardent supporters of the Iraq invasion that the media are failing to report the "good news" about the war. They fault the media for concentrating on the violence and the other 'bad news" emanating from Iraq. They even imply that there is some kind of media conspiracy to undermine our operations there.
What "good news" is there to report? Yes, we've promoted open parliamentary elections and the creation of a constitution in a country that has known only totalitarian rule. But after several months of political battling among Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds--and more of the same between Shiite blocs--the Iraqis have yet to establish a stable government. And, yes, the U.S. forces have opened schools and medical clinics and are improving water, power and sanitation facilities. Many of those, of course, were damaged during the invasion.
But this "good news " is overshadowed by the communal chaos we have created. The death toll of Iraqi civilians and U.S. troops continues to increase and the country is on the brink of a full-scale civil war. The situation has deteriorated to the point where civilians in Baghdad are arming themselves for protection against death squads and gangs of thugs. There is evidence that members of private militias are infiltrating the ranks of the police and even the army. We want democracy in Iraq, but the failure to create a unity government suggests that the Iraqis don't seem to want it as much as we do.
President Bush has argued that we invaded Iraq as part of the general "war on terrorism."
He disregards the fact that, in the process, we have strengthened the strategic position of neighboring Iran, a belligerent regime that is a far more serious security threat to the U.S. than Saddam Hussein ever was.
When and if the U.S. ever decides that a more aggressive stance against Iran is justified, the Bush Administration's credibility has been badly weakened by its exaggerated claims in the past about Iraq. In short, the President has "spent his capital," which he keeps talking about, on an unnecessary war in Iraq. Moreover, the nation's military forces have been so badly stretched that our capability to take on Iran--if that is unhappily found necessary-- is seriously restricted.
Aside from the benefits that our potential enemy Iran has derived from the Iraq invasion, the war has also created a recruitment tool for anti-American jihadis and has antagonized much of the Muslim world whose friendship we so much want to win. So much for conducting the war on terrorism.
Senator John F. Kerry, who failed miserably to take a meaningful stance on Iraq in his unsuccessful run for the Presidency, has belatedly come up with a plan that makes some sense. He proposes that we set a deadline for Iraq's politicians to form an effective unity government. If the Iraqis fail to meet it, he wants American troops to withdraw.
If the Iraqis succeed in assembling a stable government, Kerry suggests another deadline: a schedule for withdrawing American combat forces by year's end. "Doing so will empower the new Iraqi leadership, put Iraqis in the position of running their own country and undermine support for the insurgency, which is fueled in large measure by the majority of Iraqis who want us to leave their country," Kerry said. "Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain."
I can envisage "good news" in Iraq only when our forces withdraw from the quagmire that the Bush Administration has created.