The Way Forward in (and OUT of) Iraq: Americans are Angry


The Los Angeles Times editorial page is sizzling with anger today about the Bush administration’s missteps in Iraq.
The piece starts with the sardonic note that although Sunni, Shia, and Kurdish leaders all agree on one thing: America has to leave, the Bush administration has not yet tied them to Michael Moore (as they did with Congressman Murtha) because they have not yet set a departure schedule.
Read the entire editorial, but it opens:

IRAQ’S SUNNI, SHIITE AND KURDISH leaders have finally found an issue on which they agree: a timetable for the U.S. to leave Iraq. That’s fine. They have also agreed it’s permissible for insurgents to kill U.S. soldiers. That’s dreadful. But it’s also the realization of prewar fears that if the aftermath of the invasion went poorly, American troops would be viewed not as liberators but as occupiers.
The politicians did not spell out an exact date for U.S. troops to leave. That may be the reason the White House so far has not linked them to filmmaker Michael Moore, as it did 10 days ago in smearing decorated combat veteran Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) when he called for a immediate withdrawal of troops.
Although President Bush long ago declared victory in Iraq — remember that “Mission Accomplished” banner? — both the fighting and the administration’s campaign against its critics continue at a torrid pace. The death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq topped 2,100 in the same week that Vice President Dick Cheney called some critics of the war “dishonest and reprehensible.”

The editorial also exposes to greater public daylight the administration’s obsession with finding evidence, even bad intelligence, that made its case for war:

Last Sunday’s Times report on the Iraqi informant with the apt nickname “Curveball” was a devastating portrait of the deeply flawed prewar intelligence constantly promoted by the administration as it lined up the tanks, planes and troops in 2003.
The report quoted German intelligence officials as saying they warned U.S. colleagues of the unreliability of Curveball, a defector who was critical to the administration’s claims that Saddam Hussein possessed biological weapons. If those red flags did not get to top officials, who hid them? Who’s accountable?
Cheney’s speech on Monday worked in the usual reference to 9/11 in the same sentence as Hussein. Yet once again it’s necessary to point out that Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. The vice president also cited the prewar declarations from many nations that Hussein probably had the most devastating weapons. But he neglected to say that Hussein at the eleventh hour allowed U.N. weapons inspectors into the country, that the initial inspections turned up nothing and that the administration refused to wait for more complete searches.
Only after the successful military campaign did the thorough search occur; as everyone now knows, Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. That was the selling point for the war. Later justifications of removing the dictator and transforming the nation into a beacon of democracy shining throughout the Middle East were runners-up in the explanation derby.
The administration used too few troops for postwar reconstruction, misunderstood how occupation forces would be viewed, did not dispatch enough who understood the language and culture and refused to listen to those experienced in nation building.
The world understood the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the source of the 9/11 attacks. The Iraq war has squandered the goodwill. A survey of 16 nations in June found the U.S. “remains broadly disliked” in most countries surveyed, with the Muslim world “quite negative.” Even more ominous was another survey that found 42% of Americans agreeing that the U.S. should “mind its own business internationally” and let other countries do as best they can.

So far, George W. Bush has traveled off to major summits in Latin America and Asia — both failed trips from the perspective of securing U.S. deals the administration hoped to secure. Such trips are often used to “change the topic of conversation” with the American public, or to distract Americans from some other issue.
But the Bush administration, thus far, has been unable to get away from the now constant drum beat from critics angry about the administration’s abuse and misuse of Iraq-related WMD intelligence, its efforts to cover up this abuse, and its arrogance in matters like the Valerie Plame affair. Even nominating an anti-abortion conservative to the Supreme Court has made only a modest dent in the public’s anger about America’s Iraq mess.
— Steve Clemons