Assumptions still drive Bush's plans

December 20, 2005|By G. JEFFERSON PRICE III

In his address to the nation Sunday night, President Bush created an image of victory in Iraq, the objective toward which he is working "behind the images of chaos that terrorists create for the cameras."

That is the image of an Iraq in which freedom and liberty prevail and democracy functions under a constitution to be developed by the powers elected in last week's polling. It also is an image of a nation secured by its own forces, without assistance or interference from the United States, Britain and others who have joined in the coalition of force that defeated the regime of Saddam Hussein. And it is the image of a land whose infrastructure has been rebuilt, with full services, education and health, all supported by the vast oil resources that Iraq possesses.

This is what Mr. Bush has in mind. "A democratic Iraq that can defend itself, that will never again be a safe haven for terrorists and that will serve as a model of freedom in the Middle East."

That's not why he said he was sending American troops to fight and die in Iraq nearly three years ago. Even Mr. Bush acknowledges now that the reasons he gave for going to war in Iraq "turned out to be wrong."

So did a lot of the assumptions that he and the architects of the war made about Iraq. Not the military commanders, or his own former secretary of state. Here, we are talking about the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz--Perle wizards who conjured up the idea of Iraq as a model for democracy in the region, standing as a bright example for the dictatorships and autocratic royals that exist all over the region - many of them our close allies.

That was the ideology that made the war so appealing to the neo-cons. They knew that the American people could not be persuaded to support an all-out war to achieve that goal. It was necessary to have compelling reasons for war, which were created out of whole cloth intelligence about weapons of mass destruction. For good measure, they mixed in the utter fiction that Mr. Hussein was an ally of al- Qaida and implicitly tied to 9/11.

Certainly, Americans were not told they were going to war to "rid the world of a murderous dictator who menaced his people, invaded his neighbors and declared America to be his enemy," as the president put it Sunday night. If that were grounds for going to war, U.S. forces would be very busy in lots of places.

The ideologists somehow allowed themselves to operate on some other false premises. One was that the conflict in Iraq would be over quickly. Another was that Iraqis, including the Shiites and the Kurds, who had been double-crossed by the president's father, would welcome U.S. forces with cheers and flowers.

The very same people who are making the assumption that Iraq will become a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, a steady, free, dependable ally of America (and, presumably, a friend of Israel) are the ones who imagined the war would be short and that invading Americans would be joyously welcomed.

They were wrong about that, and they really do not know for certain what Iraq will be like in five years, 10 years or later - long, one hopes, after the U. S. coalition forces have left. President Bush cannot guarantee that the forces at work in Iraq as little more than puppets of the occupation will be accepted after we have left.

Nor can he be sure that the forces that replace them will be America's friends, that America will "have an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror." America is having what the president acknowledged Sunday night to be a "difficult" time training Iraqi security forces. Training Iraqis in real democracy and decency could well turn out to have been another task whose difficulty the Bush administration did not anticipate.

This task is not about "another dime or another day," it's about whether this administration has planned democracy in Iraq any better than it planned or justified the war or the aftermath.

If it hasn't, the consequences will plague America long after the last of our soldiers has left the battlefield, where too many have died and too much of the nation's fortune and standing have been spent.

G. Jefferson Price III is a former foreign correspondent and an editor at The Sun. His e-mail is gjeffersonprice@yahoo.com.

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