[Homestead] How long will (or can) the Great Pretender keep pretending.

Tvoivozhd tvoivozd at infionline.net
Sun Sep 19 13:38:22 EDT 2004

latimes.com <http://www.latimes.com/>


  Drop the Pretense on Iraq

September 18, 2004

The increasing deaths and injuries in Iraq demand explanations and 
concrete plans to solve the problems, not more pie-in-the-sky statements 
from President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. With more than 1,000 
U.S. soldiers dead and others unable even to enter many cities, this is 
not a time for pretense.

Cheney's comparisons Thursday between current events in Iraq and the 
United States' 13-year struggle for a constitution and democratically 
elected government following the Declaration of Independence are naive, 
except as a reminder of how hard people will fight to evict foreign 
troops. Nor is there much evidence to support Bush's claim that Iraq now 
has a strong prime minister. The president's enthusiasm for elections in 
January is genuine, but if the security situation stays this bad, 
meaningful balloting will be impossible.

Iraqis blame U.S. soldiers and Marines for everything that goes wrong, 
even when troops are nowhere near. When military expeditions do go awry, 
as happened when a U.S. helicopter fired into a crowded Baghdad street 
this week and killed more than a dozen civilians, the outrage is palpable.

Insurgents, buoyed by their success in turning cities like Fallouja, 
Ramadi and Samarra into "no-go" zones for U.S. troops, increased attacks 
this week even in Baghdad. The unity among common criminals, ex-soldiers 
in Saddam Hussein's army and Muslims from outside Iraq is ominous. The 
U.S. cannot declare any kind of victory until its troops or Iraqi 
security forces can enter all cities. U.S. officials should give a 
timetable, however rough, to meet that goal.

Also needed is a realistic schedule for training Iraqi security forces. 
In April, when U.S. forces scrapped plans to assault Fallouja, the 
Marines announced they would form an all-Iraqi force to restore order in 
the city. But some Iraqi soldiers wound up working with guerrillas, and 
last week the Fallouja brigade was dissolved. An attempt to recruit 
police ended tragically this week when a bomb exploded amid a crowd of 
Iraqis in line to join up, killing 47 people.

How many Iraqis are envisioned for an army or a police force? How long 
will training take? How will they be protected during training and 
afterward? How much will it cost? The administration already has 
proposed diverting $3.4 billion of the $18.4 billion that Congress 
authorized last November to rebuild the country to train security forces 
and provide some jobs. Whether it will be enough is an open question.

It is tempting in a presidential election year to duck hard questions, 
especially when earlier claims were wrong: Iraqi support for U.S. troops 
ended quickly; no weapons stockpiles were found; not enough troops were 
provided to secure the country. But Americans can handle bad news and be 
patient if leaders explain the goals and how to achieve them. Pretending 
all is going well when the evidence clearly shows that it isn't erodes 
confidence in government.

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Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times

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