“Worse than a Crime”

More Americans and Iraqis dead as violence continues in Iraq. Meanwhile, the president refuses to back off June 30 because it’s the only thing the White House can control.

The situation in Iraq has deteriorated so far in the last two days that I frankly don’t know where to begin. But seven more troops have been killed since Monday morning:

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 6, 2004 — Four Marines with the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force were killed April 5 as a result of enemy action while conducting security and stabilization operations in Iraq’s Anbar province, a Combined Joint Task Force 7 news release reported today.

No further information on this incident was available.

Three Task Force 1st Armored Division soldiers were killed during separate attacks April 5 and today in Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, according to another release.

The first soldier died of wounds received during an attack that took place at about 11 a.m. April 5. The soldier was traveling with a southbound convoy when it was attacked with small-arms and rocket-propelled grenade fire.

A second soldier died at about 9:30 p.m. April 5 when an RPG struck his vehicle during a firefight in the same area. An RPG attack at 12:30 a.m. today killed a third soldier, who was in a Bradley fighting vehicle.
The names of the Marines and soldiers are being withheld until their families are notified.

I’m on deadline again and can’t really give a complete rundown of the news, but check out Juan Cole, Billmon and Josh Marshall for some excellent roundups.

But If I can take a moment to be frank: I cannot begin to explain how angry I am at how Iraq has been handled. Arrogance, heads-in-the-sandness and a complete lack of understanding of the culture, people and history of the country has been the hallmark of Washington’s policy toward Iraq. The original plan called for 30,000 troops in August as happy natives bought Coca-Cola and waved little American flags. Such arrogance. Now the Pentagon is mulling extra troops. “There’s no history of ethnic violence in Iraq,” we were told by Iraqi exiles and Paul Wolfowitz. Well, maybe that’s because the Iraqis have been ruled by an iron fist for a long, long time. Tom Friedman once noted that by removing Saddam, we would find out if Iraq was the way it was because of Saddam or if Saddam was the way he was because of Iraq. I think we can now say it’s the latter. Saddam was brutal and — yes — evil, but when pro-American Iraqi bloggers say Iraqis “deserve” Saddam, that’s a sign that the ballgame is almost over.

I have to admit that until now I have never longed for the days of Saddam, but now I’m not so sure. If we need a person like Saddam to keep those rabid dogs at bay then be it. Put Saddam back in power and after he fills a couple hundred more mass graves with those criminals they can start wailing and crying again for liberation. What a laugh we will have then. Then they can shove their filthy Hawza and marji’iya up somewhere else. I am so dissapointed in Iraqis and I hate myself for thinking this way. We are not worth your trouble, take back your billions of dollars and give us Saddam again. We truly ‘deserve’ leaders like Saddam.

Iraqis were glad to be rid of Saddam, make no mistake. But they had and still have a very complicated stew of feelings as to the way it happened. But if even that glimmer of goodwill and gratitude is fading, what else is there? If they’re no longer even glad for that, then why the hell is the United States there?

And why this desperate clinging to June 30? It smacks of a security blanket, of a childish administration so at a loss as to what to do that the only thing left is to cling to the one thing it has control over: the date when sovereignty will be returned. But returned to … who? The IGC is reviled on the street. The interim constitution is rejected by most Shi’a. The Kurds just want to retreat to their mountains and the Sunnis are scared to death of everyone.

And it’s not like the U.S. is going anywhere. Large bases in al-Taji and elsewhere indicate that the U.S. is planning on a long stay. The Pentagon will still have control over the $18 billion “gift” to Iraq from the people of the United States — except the Iraqis don’t actually get the money or or have a say in how it’s spent. The country’s armed forces will still answer to the U.S. military. A reporter buddy who was in Iraq in December and January said — and I agree — that the CPA has spent a lot of time convincing a lot of Iraqis — educated and uneducated alike — that on July 1, the Americans will be gone. When Iraqis wake up and the Americans are still there, that will be a rude awakening for everybody.

The White House is “playing poker and has been bluffing for a long time with a pair of twos,” my reporter friend said.

And speaking of Americans, millions are so angry at the waste of lives, money, prestige. So very angry at the incompetence on the part of America’s leaders in the foreign policy sphere. How can anyone look at facts — real facts — and not see that what passes for “moral clarity” and “steely resolve” and “resolute leadership” is actually stubbornness, incuriosity and dangerous isolation from contrary views. Yeah, I’m talking to you, Mr. President. Your act doesn’t fool me. Your self-puffery doesn’t hide your lack of imagination and your disastrous policy choices made because you’re easily swayed by powerful viziers. Your lack of engagement has killed 624 Americans as of this writing, 59 British troops and 44 other members of your coalition. God knows how many Iraqis have died. Your generals don’t bother to keep track.

You should never be forgiven for these death — you should be held accountable. Come November, I hope that you will be, because your Iraq policy and, frankly, your entire administration is what Talleyrand said of Napoleon’s 1804 execution of the Duc d’Enghien: “It is worse than a crime; it is a mistake.”