There is a never-ending mind game played by the administration to obscure the false premises that brought us to the dilemma we face in Iraq. Using nonsensical phrases like “operation enduring freedom” and references to 911 the president has produced a mind-numbing non sequitur of a raison d’etre for ill-advised policies that have created a future of limited options for either an ascendent U.S. or a stable Iraq.
If, however there is a unifying factor at work in Iraq it is the threat that outside forces, whether Al Qaeda or Iran, will dominate the region and undermine any attempt to develop a sense of national unity among the Iraqi people. Yet there seems to be no systematic effort on our part to secure Iraq’s borders or determine exactly who the enemy is. Definitions of the sinsiter forces at work on the battlefied shift with whatever spin the administration wishes to convey at any given moment.
The success of “the surge” in some areas has not, as promised, allowed the Maliki government to take hold either politically or by establishing well-trained, competent police or military forces. And thousands upon thousands of civilian deaths are a constant reminder that, while violence may have abated here and there, sectarian infighting continues at an unacceptable level. Meanwhile an enormous diaspora of Iraqis in Jordan, Syria and Egypt as well as large numbers of internal ‘refugees’ housed in squalid tent camps are destabilizing factors in the region as a whole.
If positive steps to pacify the country and engage civilians as allies were to be taken they would include protecting electrical grids so that electricity could flow on a regular basis, not sporadically and at the whim of regional leaders. Citizens expect their government to provide certain services; in the absence of sanitation facilities, clean drinking water and electricity, loyalty to some shadowy and unresponsive governmental structure is unlikely to develop.
In our own shadowy political world the president is asking for yet another supplemental, and we will be told of course that the funds are necessary to “support the troops”. But how much of these continuing outlays actually serve to equip, feed and house our troops? Millions of dollars disappeared early on in what Paul Bremer described as necessary disbursements when proper accounting procedures were forced to give way to post-invasion exigencies. But without accountability who’s to know where they went or how they were used?
So much for the past, but since then how much taxpayer money or borrowed funds have been spent on that enormous embassy complex outside of Baghdad and permanent military bases elsewhere in Iraq? Shouldn’t Congress demand a precise tabulation of where future monies are to be spent and stipulate that none should be funneled into the embassy project? Americans want the troops to have adequate supplies and protective gear, but do they include in their calculations huge outlays for a luxury complex that would seem to imply a long-term American presence in Iraq?
One hears continually that government should be held accountable for its policies as well as its expenditures. But there is little evidence that principle is taken seriously. Surely it is time for Congress to assert its proper role as the funding arm of government. The umbrella assertion that we are “at war” isn’t sufficient cover anymore. We are “at occupation” with no end in sight. The American people need some assurance that their leaders are responsive to their concerns and, more importantly, that they know what they’re doing.
Empty slogans and presidential expressions of confidence are not only not reassuring they are vaccuous platitudes that leave the impression the ship of state is steered by someone who has no sense of direction or vision. That this administration lacked the competence to handle national emergencies was made clear during Katrina when the president expressed his approval of “heckuva job Brownie”. And recently Mr. Bush, in one of his many embarrassing moments, assured us Prime Minister Maliki was a “good guy”, as if he were a fraternity pal, not Iraq’s elected leader, the product of our enduring-freedom project – – quite a statement from the leader of the free world.
How we ever came to be afflicted with such incompetent leadership is a question for the ages. How to extract ourselves from the morass this president has created is an issue that must be dealt with by bringing rational thought and accountability back into the political process – – no more blank checks for the president, no obeisance to a White House that has been far too secretive, dictatorial and unaccountable to have served the country well.

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