Mr. President, What Planet Are You On?

In "Spin City," the nation's capital, presidential administrations often believe their own propaganda. The Bush administration, however, has been especially self-delusional-particularly when it comes to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Not since the Johnson and Nixon administrations during the Vietnam War and Watergate has an administration been in such denial about its policy course. Like a naive fawn caught in the headlights, the Bush crowd seems paralyzed and condemned to the oncoming crash.

Legislative hawks such as John McCain (R-AZ) and John Murtha (D-PA), neither of whom may have the president's best interests at heart, have advocated sending more troops into the quicksand of Mesopotamia. But even with an additional 300,000 troops, the U.S. would still be unable to pacify a country in which public opinion has largely turned its back on the occupation. The burgeoning prison torture scandal has driven the last nail into the coffin of a botched U.S. occupation. It is unlikely that the anti-U.S. feelings of the Iraqi population-instigated by more than a decade of grinding U.S.-led economic sanctions and an invasion-can now be reversed.

General Anthony Zinni, the former U.S. commander in the Middle East, recently called the administration's Iraq policy a "failure" and added, "Somebody has screwed up. And at this level and at this stage, it should be evident to everybody that they've screwed up. And whose heads are rolling on this? That's what bothers me most." Zinni's sentiments were echoed by General Joseph Hoar, another former U.S. commander in the Middle East: "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss." You know a policy is toast when active military commanders are distancing themselves from failure. Maj. Gen. Charles Swannack Jr., commander of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq, admitted, "We are losing public support regionally, internationally and within America-thus, currently, we are losing strategically."

Yet instead of taking advantage of the Iraqi prisoner scandal to show the door to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld-the incompetent architect of the administration's Iraq policy-the president went out of his way to show support for his embattled security chieftain. The only strategy that the administration seems to have is to churn out more propaganda about how well things are going. Just last week, the president continued to indulge in the fantasy of a democratic Iraq leading to a democratic Middle East: "An Iraqi democracy is emerging... In time, Iraq will be a free and democratic nation at the heart of the Middle East. This will send a message-a powerful message-from Damascus to Tehran: that democracy can bring hope to lives in every culture." Unfortunately, the message sent to Syria, Iran, and other "rogue" states by the failed U.S. occupation of Iraq, is that they could be successful fighting a guerilla war against the United States.

The president is somehow deluded that a fake turnover of power to a puppet interim government-to replace the widely discredited U.S.-picked Governing Council-will take the fire out of the guerrilla insurgency. Bush retains that vain hope despite his administration's attempt to low-ball expectations by having senior officials warn that violence could spike after the turn over of "sovereignty" on June 30.

The violence is likely to get worse despite the administration's pretense of turning over Iraq to the Iraqis, and throwing more U.S. forces into a quagmire already unpopular at home would be a sure election loser. What's an administration to do?

How about the obvious: turning over real power to the Iraqis, allowing them to genuinely determine their own future, declaring victory and withdrawing U.S. forces. Of course, this might require the Bush administration to stomach even a partition of the country into three new states. The withdrawal of the occupying power and autonomy or statehood for the various ethnic/religious groups could actually take the fire out of the insurgency. Such a post-occupation arrangement among the groups would likely remove the fear that some would dominate the others in a unified Iraq.

This is the last chance for the Bush administration to get out of Iraq with some prestige and dignity intact. During Vietnam paralyzed U.S. policymakers behaved like investors who, instead of cutting losses, ride declining stocks to the bottom hoping that they would some day rise again. The Bush administration should not make the same mistake in Iraq.

Ivan Eland is the Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California and author of the book, Putting "Defense" Back into U.S. Defense Policy: Rethinking U.S. Security in the Post-Cold War World.

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Older Comments:
I think the real question which needs to be asked here is,

Mr. President, What Planet Are You From!?

It hurts to see the way you think John. You say:"There are many bad things going on in Iraq either because of American failures or because of terrorist activities." It's not black and white, John. Things went bad in Iraq before US ever commiting aggression toward her people, but then was in the realm of domestic violence. With the invasion of Iraq by US and the COW, terrorism by foreign fighters was made possible in Iraq, as a result of a distroyed infrastructure and thus lack of national security. Yes, we had a dictator in Iraq, but we didn't have terrorism from Iraq or in Iraq, done against others than Iraqis. Because I admit the practices of Ba'ath and Sadam Hussein are not something sane people would be proud of. Thousand of innocent people were killed, somebody said millions adding up all the killed in wars, road accidents and terminal deseases during Sadam, that's ludicrous. Let's aggree on that Sadam killed thousands of innocent people as a result of torture execution and assassination. But so did USA, 10000 civilians were counted as collateral damages. A life is a life. For the bereaved it doesn't make a donkey's behind difference who the culprit was(when he knows that the killed was innocent) whether it was Sadam or Gen. Kimmitt. It is like x or y and in their judgement, either of them need to be elliminated, so yankee go home! Your next comment baffled me:"But it's EXTREMELY important that the country be protected from people like the Taliban and Osama taking control" Taliban was disintegrated by USA before the invasion of Iraq. For your info, this sect of Islam has sympathizers only as a minority in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and still some in Afghanistan. It didn't win acceptance in the main flow Islam and not in Middle East or Western Muslims. Taliban could never ever be a threat to Iraq. Consider also the fact that Iraqis are Arabs and the Taliban are Afghanis. Or you meant Afghanistan was about to invade Iraq or what the hell are you trying to say?!

John seems to live on the same planet as most Americans. We, Muslims, are absolutely happy and hold every right to live the way we wish and recite what we want - without any interference from ugly American Brutes.
Thank you.

I disagree with much of Mr. Eland's article. There are many bad things going on in Iraq either because of American failures or because of terrorist activities. But it's EXTREMELY important that the country be protected from people like the Taliban and Osama taking control. Muslim countries can no longer be prisons where people turn off their brains and just recite the script that is given to them and risk beatings, imprisonment and even death if they step out of line. I believe in Freedom and although Americans in Iraq have fallen short in many ways, the overall, long-term result of their presence will be for good, not only for the Iraqi people but for the region at large.

The problem is: Who has gone from door to door, in all of Iraq, and asked each civilian, "Who wants the US troops here until your govt. is functioning w/o bloodshed?" Where are these poll results? I can't believe that ALL Iraqis want us out and anarchy to rule. I listen to family members who moved here from Iraq and they want the US to stay until safety is at a reasonable level and business/ economics can resume pre-Saddam. I agree with allowing the Iraqis to set up their own governments according to faith differentiation, but will that be another Palestine VS. Israel situation? I want our troops home yesterday.

I would compare the invasion of Iraq with the disturbing of a hornet nest. By not properly planning how to contain the hornets while distroying the nest, you got yourself an uncounted for mess. And like with Iraq, no neighbour would run to rescue you from the hornets. The single practicle way to tackle this botched situation both in Iraq and with the hornet nest is to get the hell out of the affected area in Mach speed. Common sense would dictate that.
Peace out!