Our Iraq Legacy May be Chaos and Anarchy

former CIA analyst

Apologists for the disasters now facing America in Iraq have been, with astonishing consistency, afraid to go back to square one and admit that the idea was stupid and ill-advised in the first place. What they should be doing is taking Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and that whole gang and raking them over the coals for incredibly poor judgment — and for arrogantly ignoring the warnings of hundreds (yes, hundreds) of capable and experienced foreign policy (and military) experts who told them that they were out of their minds to believe that simply removing Saddam Hussein from power would make the world safer for “freedom”.

In a discussion last night on Jim Lehrer, former disarmament “emminence” Kenneth Adelman offered the absurd excuse that “problems have arisen since the liberation of Iraq that no one ever anticipated”. No one? Ever? We should not let that pompous ass get away with a breathtaking falsehood as brazen as that!

Particularly galling is the pious statement, so often made by apologists (of both parties) that “at least the Iraqi people are better off today than they were when Saddam was in power”. That glib assertion should be treated as the canard that it really is. Besides all the many obvious factors already recorded on the debit side of the ledger is the grim reality that the final accounting is very far from complete. There are many more heavy liabilities to be settled by both Americans and Iraqis, which I have no doubt will exceed the terrible costs in lives and treasure that have already been incurred by everyone concerned — particularly the most innocent. I’m becoming more convinced every day that anarchy and chaos may be the only legacies we leave behind when we depart Iraq with our tails between our legs, and history may well describe this as one of the greatest foreign policy disasters for America in anyone’s memory.

I wish John Kerry had the courage to say that now. But I suppose that brutal honesty today would only be portrayed as another “switcheroo” by a wishy-washy liberal. Joining the chorus of those defiantly declaring that we are going to stay the course until we achieve “victory” is dangerously short-sighted, and will limit his options to get us out of the whole mess after he is elected. I doubt that the Europeans will be very generous in helping Kerry just for the sake of venting their resentment of Bush’s past arrogance towards them. America will have to pay the piper all alone, I believe, and so Kerry should be preparing to deal with that reality instead of continually explaining, simplistically, that if he were president he would “internationalize” the problem. He’s at least two years behind the curve, unfortunately.

I was beginning to develop some serious admiration for Richard Holbrooke, Kerry’s chief foreign policy adviser, mainly because he has used his sharp tongue so effectively to cut down contemptible mischief-makers like Richard Perle. However, in the same Jim Lehrer program on Thursday evening, when challenged to explain how his patron would resolve the region’s problems, Holbrooke declared that Kerry would begin by confirming America’s full support for Israel and “putting more pressure on the Palestinians”. Here’s someone else, apparently, whose intellectual convictions (and ethnic prejudice) make it impossible for him to comprehend how Israeli occupation of Palestine and American occupation of Iraq strike the same chord in Arab emotions, and are regarded equally as violations of their national sovereignty, the dignity and sanctity of their cultural and religious heritage and their personal self-esteem. It’s not necessarily easy for all Americans to understand those subtle but vitally important realities, but Holbrooke should know better. (We can excuse Bush, I suppose. For him, the whole Middle East falls into the broad category of “nuance”, which is not for real men.)

The Chalabi fiasco today is absolutely ludicrous. How much credibility can we expect to earn when we tell transparent lies in public? The following paragraphs caught my attention in the lead article in today’s NYTimes:

“American officials scrambled to portray the raid (on Chalabis home and office) as having been initiated and directed by the Iraqis alone. Mr. Bremer’s chief spokesman, Dan Senor, deflected questions about the raid, saying all questions should be directed to the Iraqi police. “We really don’t have anything to do with the investigation or the arrests,” Mr. Senor told reporters. He said Mr. Bremer had referred the case to the Iraqi Central Criminal Court for investigation several months ago. But he said Mr. Bremer had not been informed of the raid beforehand. “As to what he knew about the actual operation, he was notified today by an aide, who was notified–I think someone from the Governing Council notified one of his aides to let him know that this operation had occurred–and that’s when Ambassador Bremer learned of it,” Mr. Senor said. “He was notified after the fact.”

Many Iraqis said they found it implausible that Iraqi law enforcement officers, who work for the American occupation authorities in the absence of any sovereign government, would have initiated such an operation on their own. “Of course they knew,” said Adnan Pachachi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

God save us from ourselves!

RAY CLOSE was a top CIA analyst in the Near East Division. He is now a member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. He can be reached at close@counterpunch.org