Sunday, June 05, 2005
The Despair of Iraq
Rod Nordland at Newsweek:
What went wrong? A lot, but the biggest turning point was the Abu Ghraib scandal. Since April 2004 the liberation of Iraq has become a desperate exercise in damage control. The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib alienated a broad swath of the Iraqi public. On top of that, it didn't work. There is no evidence that all the mistreatment and humiliation saved a single American life or led to the capture of any major terrorist, despite claims by the military that the prison produced "actionable intelligence."This disaster is directly attributable to the incompetence at the top - Rumsfeld, Rice, Powell, and Bush - and it flowed downhill from there. It was all based on lies that they believed no one would uncover. They thought it would be so easy, "a cakewalk" with their propaganda juggernaut using the WMD-imminent-danger red herring.
The most shocking thing about Abu Ghraib was not the behavior of U.S. troops, but the incompetence of their leaders. ... A few soldiers will always do bad things. That's why you need competent officers, who know what the men and women under their command are capable of—and make sure it doesn't happen.
... Basic services like electricity, water and sewers still aren't up to prewar levels. Electricity is especially vital in a country where summer temperatures commonly reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Yet only 15 percent of Iraqis have reliable electrical service. In the capital, where it counts most, it's only 4 percent.
The most powerful army in human history can't even protect a two-mile stretch of road.
The four-square-mile Green Zone, the one place in Baghdad where foreigners are reasonably safe, could be a showcase of American values and abilities. Instead the American enclave is a trash-strewn wasteland of Mad Max-style fortifications.
... There's no real choice but to stay, probably for many years to come. The question isn't "When will America pull out?"; it's "How bad a mess can we afford to leave behind?" All I can say is this: last one out, please turn on the lights.