As was said of Napoleon’s assassination of the Duc d’Enghein, President George W. Bush’s inanely conducted effort to summon a secular democratic Iraq into being is worse than a crime, it is a blunder.
His latest follies unwittingly aid the enemy. The president should publicly confess his monumental miscalculations over post-Saddam Iraq, arrange for an orderly withdrawal of America’s military presence, and accept the inescapable Iraqi convulsions that will follow as less horrific than would be additional aimless American casualties. As the Vietnam war taught, victory is hopeless without a discernable and plausible North Star to inform military operations.
President Bush signaled weakness to the enemy by yielding appointment authority for an interim Iraqi government on June 30 to United Nations special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi. Ahmed Chalabi, who had been the marquee choice of the Defense Department to extract an Iraqi democracy from Saddam’s dictatorship, disappeared from the power grid faster than the Cheshire cat. Mr. Bush had earlier sneered at the United Nations for its irrelevancy and effeteness. The U.N. had opposed Operation Enduring Freedom, and had endlessly indulged Saddam’s repeated violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions. The president’s turn to an impotent and derided United Nations at the eleventh hour as violence and American deaths escalate in Iraq carries all the earmarks of desperation.
Mr. Brahimi’s selection also strengthens the enemy’s recruitment claim that President Bush’s Iraqi democracy banner is counterfeit. The special envoy no more represents the people of Iraq than a name plucked from the New York City telephone directory. His legitimacy is universally disputed. Muhammed Bahr Uloum, a prominent Shi’ite member of the Iraqi Governing Council, has rejected Mr. Brahimi’s intercession, and warned Iraqis would fight against any new government picked by the United Nations. As reported in The Washington Post, Mr. Uloum amplified: “We are not under age in need of a guardian. Iraqis are not a herd of 27 million people to be directed by Brahimi and the coalition. Iraqis will take to the streets if Brahimi insists on his view.” Would Americans feel or react differently if Mr. Brahimi appointed the next president of the United States?
The special envoy’s plan for naming a new government is no more legitimate than his nondemocratic selection, which provides additional fuel to the enemy. Mr. Brahimi will unilaterally appoint 25 Cabinet officers, the prime minister, a ceremonial president, and two vice presidents. His appointees will be technocrats. They will neither command popular followings nor hold political ambitions for future electoral office, an aspiration which might rivet them to popular sentiments. In other words, Mr. Brahimi’s plan perversely aims to ensure the new government will not represent the Iraqi people. It will be even less democratic than President Bush’s 25-member Iraqi Governing Council. And as the IGC has aroused popular ridicule, Mr. Brahimi’s technocrat appointees will likewise be scorned by the Iraqi people.
President Bush’s crippling limits on the sovereignty of the new appointed government makes the entire impending exercise an insulting hoax. It will be disabled from either enacting new laws, or repealing decrees issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority, or controlling military operations of the United States. Indeed, its sole purpose is to baby-sit Iraq for six or seven months.
During that period, President Bush hopes an electoral code will be promulgated; political campaigns will be conducted; peaceful, free and fair elections will be held for the first time in 4,000 years, and, the Iraqi people will accept the results as legitimate. The number of people in Iraq who believe that blather can be counted on one hand with fingers left over.
The enemy has been further fortified by the commander in chief’s wretched military decisions in the past weeks. Victory in Iraq requires the killing, wounding and capturing of enemy combatants period, with no commas, semi-colons or question marks. To negotiate war tactics with the enemy demoralizes troops and endows enemy leaders with popular glory and fame.
Yet President Bush permitted the enemy to negotiate a cease-fire in Fallujah to avoid casualties, tacitly conceding the United States can be forced by threats of violence into fighting by Queensbury rules. The commander in chief also replaced Marines at the front lines with Iraqi forces with dubious resolve and loyalty. The enemy, Fallujah’s civilians and the U.S.-sponsored Iraqi soldiers alike, predictably celebrated their tactical defeat of America and invited imitation throughout Iraq.
In Najaf, a second edition of Fallujah is unfolding. President Bush has permitted enemy cleric Sheik Moqtada al-Sadr to negotiate a standoff with his illegal Mahdi Army. The cleric champions violence against United States troops, and has been charged with murder of a fellow religious figure. According to the newly meek commander in chief, Najaf and Sheik al-Sadr must be treated gently because widespread violence has been threatened. President Bush’s meekness has transformed terrorist Sheik al-Sadr from a marginal figure to a lion.
Finally, President Bush relaxed the bar to appointing former Ba’athists and leaders of Saddam’s military coincident with the alarming climb in United States casualties and spread of violence. Thus, Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohammed Saleh, who served in Saddam’s notorious Republican Guard, has been provisionally appointed to lead the Iraqi forces in Fallujah.
The timing of the president’s relaxation reinforces the appearance of American despair and fading resolution. The enemy has been emboldened, and a wavering civilian population lost to extremists.
Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and international consultant with Bruce Fein & Associates and the Lichfield Group.