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The Point of No Return

The Point of No Return

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And so in Iraq, the hits just keep on coming. The horrific car-bombing Tuesday of the U.N. compound in Baghdad and the senseless human carnage it produced -- including the death of a true man of peace, U.N. Special Envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello -- demonstrates yet again how the Bush administration has bitten off way more than it can chew in Iraq.

The neoconservative cabal that convinced President Bush that the United States needed to wage preemptive war against Saddam Hussein last March may or may not have been guilty of lying to the American public about the seriousness of the threat posed by the Iraqi dictator. Time will tell on that score. But one thing is already certain: The administration has been guilty of what may well turn out to be the most ill-conceived and incompetently executed war strategy in American history.

Since President Bush, in his now-infamous flight suit, declared "victory" on May 1st, Iraq has become for its American occupiers a quagmire of the first order. Virtually everyone on the ground in that country -- hawk, dove, or sparrow -- agrees that our "window" for getting things right in Iraq is rapidly closing. If present trends continue, and we cannot provide for the basic human needs of the Iraqi people, this quagmire could quickly become an even bloodier debacle.

Already, most military leaders outside Donald Rumsfeld's inner circle realize that we simply do not have enough troops on the ground in Iraq to maintain a semblance of order, let alone oversee a smooth transition to an independent government.Perhaps the only voices in the Bush administration saying anything different are the neoconservatives whose wrong-headed view of how to use American military might to effect change got us into this mess in the first place.

So what does President Bush do now? His options seem limited. The administration seems unwilling to touch the political hot potato of sending additional troops into the fray.In fact, many military experts suggest that we cannot send additional troops to the region, as our military is already stretched dangerously thin. Perhaps the Bush administration will reinstitute the draft? Don't count on it, since that approach would surely turn a host of armchair Republican saber-rattlers with children of draft-age into rabid Howard Dean supporters.

That leaves just two options: soldier on as we are now, or give real authority to the United Nations. As pipelines and water supplies are sabotaged and our troops are ambushed daily, the "steady as she goes" approach seems perilous to the extreme. And ironically, just last week, the Bush administration abandoned the idea of giving the United Nations more of a role in the occupation of Iraq as sought by France, India, and other countries as a condition for their participation in peacekeeping there. "You can make a case that it would be better to do that [involve the U.N.]," an administration official told The New York Times, "but right now the situation in Iraq is not that dire."

Perhaps that official thinks differently today, with the U.N. itself having paid a direct human price for the astonishing hubris of Rumsfeld and the neocons. The man who scoffed at his own army chief of staff's concerns that too few troops were being sent to Iraq continues to believe that all this is some kind of minor rearguard action involving "Hussein loyalists" and "foreign al Qaeda operatives." Those elements may well be involved, but Rumsfeld et al. never seem to have considered that the killing of thousands of civilians with "shock and awe" tactics doubtless created tens of thousands of Iraqi "terrorists" determined to avenge their personal losses and thwart American occupation of their homeland.

We have reached the point of no return in Iraq. The United Nations must be given complete authority over the occupation of that country as soon as is practical. There are no other alternatives as long as this administration and the American public are unwilling to increase our military commitment. Moreover, President Bush needs to demand some accountability from the bumbling incompetents whose reckless and irresponsible actions with regard to Iraq have created a foreign policy disaster of unprecedented magnitude.

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