Paul Wolfowitz’s second visit to Iraq was supposed to underscore the “good news” about the U.S. occupation how the Americans are building schools, roads, and credibility with the Iraqi people. Instead, it turned into an object lesson in how the country is on the verge of careening out of control.
It happened at a little after 6 a.m., Monday morning, as Wolfie was getting ready for his first meeting of the day: a barrage of rockets hit the Rashid Hotel, home to the media and assorted bigwigs, scoring a direct hit just beneath his room. The building shuddered with an explosion that shook the occupation to its very foundations.
Officials are denying that the Wolf was the target of the assault, but a series of well-coordinated and deadly bombings following the Hotel Rashid attack showed that the burgeoning Iraqi resistance is certainly capable of launching such an operation. The next day, inside of 45 minutes, car bombings ripped through Red Cross HQ and three police stations in Baghdad, 40 people were killed and over 200 wounded. This assault marks the beginning of what promises to be a protracted guerrilla war.
“We hope the firing will be more precise and efficient (next time),” averred Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Druze community, “so we get rid of this microbe and people like him in Washington who are spreading disorder in Arab lands, Iraq and Palestine.”
Although Jumblatt’s sentiments are no doubt representative of a growing number in the region, I’m afraid I can’t agree. We need to keep the Wolf around for the official inquiry into how and why he and his neoconservative confreres bamboozled us into war. Wolfowitz deserves to be disgraced, and his policy defeated a fate far worse than death for a man in his position.
It was the Wolf, you’ll remember, who took a bite out of General Eric Shinseki, when the outgoing Army chief of staff testified before Congress that the occupation would require “several hundred thousand” U.S. troops. Pressed for a specific number, Shinseki estimated 200,000. The Wolf pounced on this as “wildly off the mark,” and Rumsfeld agreed. But who’s “wildly off the mark” now?
There are currently close to 145,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, not counting tens of thousands more in the general vicinity a number the Congressional Budget Office says can’t be maintained. As the events of the past few days have made all too clear, it isn’t enough to secure the glorious “victory” declared by our President some months ago. Heck, it’s not even enough to ensure the physical safety of top U.S. government officials when they come to survey the “progress” of their newly-conquered province.
Wolfowitz is putting up a brave front, blithely shrugging off his own scrape with mortality and echoing the President’s fatuous remark that this just shows how “desperate” the resistance is because of our alleged “success” in Iraq, which the media is supposedly refusing to publicize. But the [UK] Independent‘s Patrick Cockburn captured the pathetic reality is his report filed from Baghdad:
“A shaken-looking Mr Wolfowitz, one of the architects of the invasion, was forced to scurry from the hotel, followed by other US officials in pyjamas and underpants.
“Iraqis interviewed in Baghdad yesterday had very different ideas from Mr Bush. All, without exception, approved of the attacks on the hotel and US soldiers, but not the suicide bombings because Iraqis were the victims.”
Jumblatt’s outburst was in somewhat questionable taste, but it is valid to ask: what was Wolfowitz doing in Iraq to begin with? Middle East scholar Juan Cole raises the important point that the deputy defense secretary’s two visits to Iraq were exercises in pure triumphalism:
“The problem with Wolfowitz’s trips to Iraq is that they are clearly political, requiring visits to touchy places such as Najaf and Tikrit, to make political points about US dominance of the country. But the Deputy Secretary of Defense should only be visiting Iraq for military reasons, and his visits should be conducted secretly so he can see military commanders and troops. If Wolfowitz goes on campaigning to be mayor of Tikrit, he is liable to get himself killed.”
Wolfowitz, the ideologue of American global hegemony, in gleefully announcing that he would be “sleeping in Tikrit,” was clearly rubbing it in the defeated Iraqis’ faces. This kind of arrogance inevitably provokes a violent reaction and it isn’t just Wolfowitz in the line of fire. The number and lethality of daily attacks on the occupation forces has been steadily rising. The Ramadan offensive brings the evolving conflict to a whole new level. The battle of Baghdad is not over.
Now that one of the nation’s leading chickenhawks a civilian warmonger who never served a day in the military has actually experienced combat, albeit involuntarily and to a limited degree, can we hope that this experience will make him think twice about the reckless course he has set?
Not a chance.
The Wolf and his fellow neocons are predators, preying on the small and relatively weak nations of the Middle East, and they smell blood. The war-maddened clique that has seized control of American foreign policy won’t give up without a fight so let’s give them one.
The neocons have not just been wrong about everything. They lied about everything: weapons of mass destruction, Saddam’s purported links to al-Qaeda, the postwar joy of the Iraqi people at having been “liberated,” and the number of troops required to restore order. They said it would be a “cakewalk,” not a “long, hard slog.” They agitated for this war for years, and when it finally came it was their dream come true.
Now it is our living nightmare.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
“Let me touch gingerly on this topic: the forged Niger documents. Who forged them? And why? It’s one of the most intriguing and possibly one of most important questions surrounding the whole manipulated Iraq intelligence story. And yet it also seems to have generated the least curiosity. I’ve picked up a few clues that tell me that could change awfully quickly. And in a pretty dramatic fashion.”
Marshall is right about this being important, but one can only wonder why he is being so coy. If it’s that important, then his readers have a right to know especially since, as he implies, it’ll all come out in the wash anyway. He promises more news to come, so keep checking his TalkingPointsMemo.com, always a good read in any event.
“In a pretty dramatic fashion,” eh? The phrase sets my pulse to racing. This may not mean that Scooter Libby is about to be arrested and frog-marched out of the Executive Office Building, but it could get that exciting.
In my Monday column, I mistakenly wrote that the Israelis sunk the U.S.S. Liberty: in reality, although they tried like hell and also tried to kill the survivors by strafing the lifeboats they didn’t succeed in sinking her.