Three blind mice

March 21, 2006|By G. JEFFERSON PRICE III

The chief architects of the war in Iraq - President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- marked the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion by encouraging Americans to ignore the images they are seeing and to think of the future.

The future, President Bush said Sunday, is victory in Iraq. And victory in Iraq, he promised, "will make this country more secure and will help lay the foundation of peace for generations to come."

Mr. Cheney said, "It's not just about today's situation in Iraq. It's about where we're going to be 10 years from now in the Middle East, and whether there's going to be hope and the development of the governments that are responsive to the will of the people, that are not a threat to anyone, that are not safe havens for terror or manufacturers of weapons of mass destruction."

Mr. Cheney, who was speaking on CBS' Face the Nation, cannot let go of the WMD issue that was a false pretense for going to war in the first place, or the proposition of creating democracy in the Middle East, which would not have been sufficient for Congress to approve the war.

Mr. Rumsfeld, appearing in The Washington Post Sunday, expressed the conviction that history will vindicate the decision to invade Iraq.

"Fortunately," he wrote, "history is not made up of daily headlines, blogs on Web sites or the latest sensational attack. History is a bigger picture, and it takes some time and perspective to measure accurately."

All of these assertions flow from the proposition that Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld believe in accuracy. History so far has revealed that they do not.

At the same time as the anniversary of the war was being marked, the senior U.S. military official in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., and a prominent Iraqi politician whom the Bush administration once viewed as the embodiment of the progressive, secular leadership Iraq needs, could not even agree on whether a state of civil war exists today in Iraq.

"We are in civil war," Ayad Allawi, a former U.S.-picked interim prime minister, told the BBC over the weekend. "We are losing each day, as an average, 50 to 60 people through the country, if not more. If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."

Not so, General Casey told CNN. "We're a long way from civil war," he said.

All of those images we're seeing just make it look as if Iraq has tumbled into civil war.

Generals who don't have to worry about the wrath of the secretary of defense and his two bosses are more persuasive than the generals who do.

One of them, retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who commanded the training of the new Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004, called for Mr. Rumsfeld's departure. Mr. Eaton, writing Sunday in The New York Times, asserted that Mr. Rumsfeld doesn't know how to run a war because he has tried to do it on the cheap and he has created an environment of "fealty" at the Pentagon that obstructs success in Iraq.

Mr. Eaton looks at the future and writes, "The true professional always looks to the `What's next?' phase. Unfortunately, the supreme commander, Gen. Tommy Franks, either didn't heed that rule or he succumbed to Secretary Rumsfeld's bullying. We won't know which until some bright historian writes the true story of Mr. Rumsfeld and the generals he took to war."

Mr. Rumsfeld assures us that history will vindicate the invasion of Iraq.

That's unlikely. But the question that will never be fully answered is what the condition of the world and America's place in it would be if Iraq had not been invaded.

The partial answer is that more than 2,300 Americans would still be alive; so would some 35,000 Iraqis.

And America would not stand before the world as a state whose leaders condoned torture, hid the truth and trampled on the Constitution for the fulfillment of an ambition that only they see as realistic.

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

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