Maureen Dowd | Who's Losing Iraq?

Sunday, 31 August 2003 01:47 by: Anonymous

     Who's Losing Iraq?
     By Maureen Dowd
     New York Times

     Karl Rove has got to be nervous.

     The man who last year advised Republican candidates to "focus on war" is finding out that the Bush doctrine of pre-emption cannot pre-empt anarchy.

     Now, General Rove will have to watch Democratic candidates focus on war.

     We're getting into very volatile territory in the Middle East.

     As Paul Bremer admitted last week, the cost of the Iraq adventure is going to be spectacular: $2 billion for electrical demands and $16 billion to deliver clean water.

     We're losing one or two American soldiers every day. Saddam and Osama are still lurking and scheming the "darkness which may be felt."

     After a car bomb exploded outside a Najaf mosque on Friday, killing scores of people, including the most prominent pro-American Shiite cleric, we may have to interject our troops into an internecine Shiite dispute which Saddam's Baathist guerrillas are no doubt stoking.

     With Iraqis in Najaf screaming, "There is no order! There is no government! We'd rather have Saddam than this!," we had one more ominous illustration that the Bush team is out of its depth and divided against itself.

     You can't conduct a great historical experiment in a petty and bickering frame of mind. The agencies of the Bush administration are behaving like high school cliques. The policy in Iraq is paralyzed almost to the point of nonexistence, stalled by spats between the internationalists and unilateralists, with the national security director, Condoleezza Rice, abnegating her job as policy referee.

     The State Department will have to stop sulking and being in denial about the Pentagon running the show in Iraq. And the Pentagon will have to stop being dogmatic, clinging to the quixotic notion that it only wants to succeed with its streamlined force and its trompe l'oeil coalition. Rummy has to accept the magnitude of the task and give up running the Department of Defense the way a misanthropic accountant would.

     Big deeds need big spirits. You can't have a Marshall Plan and a tax cut at the same time.

     It has also now become radiantly clear that we have to drag Dick Cheney out of the dark and smog. Less Hobbes, more Locke.

     So far, American foreign policy has been guided by the vice president's gloomy theories that fear and force are the best motivators in the world, that war is man's natural state and that the last great superpower has sovereign authority to do as it pleases without much consultation with subjects or other nations.

     We can now see the disturbing results of all the decisions Mr. Cheney made in secret meetings.

     The General Accounting Office issued a report last week noting that the vice president shaped our energy policy with clandestine advice from "petroleum, coal, nuclear, natural gas, electricity industry representatives and lobbyists."

     Favoritism to energy pals led to last week's insane decision to gut part of the Clean Air Act and allow power plants, refineries and other industrial sites to belch pollutants.

     Another Bush-Cheney energy crony is Anthony Alexander of Ohio's FirstEnergy Corporation, which helped trigger the blackout after failing to upgrade its transmission system properly since deregulation. He was a Bush Pioneer, having raised at least $100,000 for the campaign.

     This logrolling attitude has led to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers allowing Halliburton which made Mr. Cheney a rich man with $20 million worth of cashed-in stock to get no-bid contracts in Iraq totaling $1.7 billion, and that's just a start.

     All this, and high gas prices, too?

     When he wasn't meeting secretly with energy lobbyists, Mr. Cheney was meeting secretly with Iraqi exiles. The Iraqi National Congress leader Ahmad Chalabi and other defectors conned Mr. Cheney, Rummy and the na ve Wolfowitz of Arabia by playing up the danger of Saddam's W.M.D.'s and playing down the prospect of Iraqi resistance to a U.S. invasion.

     According to The Los Angeles Times, U.S. and allied intelligence agencies are investigating to see if they were duped by Iraqi defectors giving bogus information to mislead the West before the war.

     Some intelligence officials "now fear that key portions of the prewar information may have been flawed," the story said. "The issue raises fresh doubts as to whether illicit weapons will be found in Iraq."

     Karl Rove has got to be nervous.

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