- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 24, 2006

President Bush’s policy of giving birth to a stable, unified, secular flagship democracy in Iraq midwifed by the U.S. military is madness. But there is method in the madness. It enables Mr. Bush to avoid confessing error a shattering event for a man who believes he has never made a mistake in the White House. And sets the stage for Mr. Bush to blame the loss of Iraq on his successors.

Courageous men and women in the United States military will die in the interim. Their sacrifice will not be for an Iraqi government of the people, by the people, for the people. The soldiers will have died for political optics, unlike their predecessors at Valley Forge, Gettysburg or Normandy.

In his radio address last Saturday, Mr. Bush madly bugled: “Our goal in Iraq is clear and unchanging: our goal is victory.” That goal is unachievable.

The Tigris and Euphrates have witnessed 4,000 years of unbroken despotism. The region’s political culture has yet to reach the stage of Magna Carta in England. And six centuries were needed to move from that landmark document to responsible democratic government in Great Britain. A miracle of biblical proportion would be needed to achieve in Iraq in years or decades what required six centuries in vastly more auspicious political circumstances.

Iraq is artificial. The nation was carved from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire by the British to find a throne for King Faisal and to secure oil for Britain’s economy and navy. From its birth, Iraq was at least three nations made into one: a Kurdish state in the north; a Sunni state in the center and west; and, a Shi’ite state in the south. Those divisions were accentuated by long years of Sunni oppression of their religious and ethnic rivals, and by the no-fly zones established by the United States on the heels of the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Iraqis overwhelmingly identify themselves as Kurd, Sunni or Shi’ite. The Kurdish national flag flies in the north to the exclusion of the Iraqi flag. Kurdish political leaders silently exult at the Sunni-Shi’ite convulsions, which strengthen their argument for independence.

Sunni-Shi’ite strife has been endemic for more than 1,000 years. It has worsened since the U.S. occupation in 2003. Intermarriage is taboo. Mixed neighborhoods have degenerated into sectarian enclaves. Sectarian militias have multiplied and eclipsed the national police and army. Sectarian killings have become as ordinary as the rising and setting of the sun.

Iraq’s elected national government is a joke. On Monday, Oct. 16, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki anxiously sought reassurance from Mr. Bush that the United States would not orchestrate his ouster, tacitly conceding he lacks popular Iraqi support. The prime minister hopes to garner popularity by manipulating reported killings and punishing media critics.

No trend line points toward victory in Iraq, yet Mr. Bush insists on staying the course, reminiscent of Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.” Idiocy is to believe an experiment which yields the same result 1,000 times in succession will somehow yield something different the next time.

President Bush may not appreciate his Iraqi madness. The wish is father to the thought. More likely, Mr. Bush understands his folly, but discerns personal or political reasons for persisting. His acute insecurity makes him equate consistency with wisdom. Unlike Abraham Lincoln, Mr. Bush does not recognize that a man who does not grow wiser by the day is a fool.

Moreover, Mr. Bush’s departure from Iraq without achieving his professed goal of a unified, stable, secular and democratic government would be a confession of failure vulnerable to exploitation by political opponents or critics. In contrast, by staying the course and remaining in Iraq with thousands of U.S. troops and advisers until the conclusion of his presidency in January 2009, Mr. Bush maintains the illusion that victory on his terms is feasible.

Afterward, Iraq will inexorably disintegrate under a White House successor in the White House who will have disowned the Bush madness and removed American troops as concessions to reality. Enjoying retirement in Texas, Mr. Bush will argue for the history books that Iraq was not lost on his watch; and, that more of his madness would have been crowned with victory.

These observations will seem unjustifiably harsh to Mr. Bush’s cheerleaders. But the president has consistently shown himself a small man driven by petty ambitions. And tall and high-minded American soldiers in Iraq pay a steep price.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group.

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