You can always count on Thomas Friedman to figure a novel way to shore up support for the neo-con project in Iraq. At the start of this war of choice, Friedman made his position very clear. In his very own words, he was “all for a war for oil.” Among other things, the man who started his career as an oil analyst for the New York Times predicted that the “cakewalk” in Mesopotamia would be followed by a decline in crude prices. Sulzberger’s foreign policy “guru” was just slightly off the mark. Oil prices have tripled.
In the interest of brevity, let’s put aside Thomas Fraudulent’s economic talents and focus instead on how economical he is with the truth on all matters Middle Eastern. But before we forget some of his many limitations, it’s worth keeping in mind that this scribe writes for the same rag and the same publisher that gave Judith Miller a free pass to market the war by disseminating fabricated WMD intelligence. How likely is it that Friedman was not aware of Miller’s scam? Is it possible that he had no clue about the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans -- the neo-con canard factory set up by Douglas Feith with the explicit purpose of corrupting WMD intelligence?
Which brings us to Friedman’s recent comparison of the current situation in Iraq to the 1968 Tet offensive. Tom, we’re way post-Tet in Iraq. But it was a nice try, mister Fraudulent.
A lot of analysts were surprised that the administration embraced this “Thomas Fraudulent” analysis from the New York Times. Because when the “V” word in Iraq goes from “Victory” to “Vietnam” -- America takes notice that something is not going according to the original plan.
Isn’t it a bit out of character for a President who can’t be bothered to read a newspaper to take immediate notice and make extensive commentary on an article that uses the “V” word -- as in Vietnam? Is it not entirely possible that Friedman is putting on his Judith Miller hat and setting up the stage for yet another neo-con campaign to shore up domestic support for the war?
Bush and Friedman have a simple plan -- extend the war and hope for some miraculous change of fortune. If things keep going down hill -- blame the outcome on the weak stomachs of an American public that wasn’t up to the challenge of their generation. And while they’re at it -- castigate the Iraqis for being ingrates who didn’t appreciate all our efforts to “liberate” them.
The new rationale for extending the war goes something like this: “The United States militarily defeated the Vietcong and North Vietnam’s army in the 1968 Tet offensive -- but the American public lost heart and couldn’t stomach the losses and we snatched defeat from the mouth of victory. If Johnson had “stayed the course,” like the current lineup of formidable Vietnam-era draft dodgers in the White House, we could have won that war. Victory is still an option in Iraq. The American people have a choice -- Victory or Vietnam.”
There are some obvious and elementary mistakes in this analysis. First of all, the United States didn’t “cut and run” after Tet. Instead, the warmongers in the Johnson and Nixon administrations ignored public sentiment and got a stay of execution to experiment with “Vietnimasation” and other dodge and weave exit options like “peace with honor.” Seven years later, after all illusions of “victory” vanished, the South East Asian war ended in a humiliating retreat from the roof of the American embassy in Saigon.
But before throwing in the towel, Nixon and Kissinger efficiently used their seven-year grace period to incinerate and napalm hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese, firebomb Hanoi on Christmas and poison the environment with Agent Orange. The seven long years it took to read the exit signs on the wall wasted tens of thousands of young American lives. While taking post-Tet “corrective measures” in Vietnam, Kissinger and Nixon decided to expand the war to Cambodia and the Khmer people were left to pick up the tab -- two million innocents slaughtered in Pol Pot’s killing fields.
When all was said and done, we ended up with substantially worst outcomes than what could have been achieved in 1968. The post-Tet sacrifices in American blood and treasure were all made for the same reasons we remain engaged in Iraq -- to save the face of Republican and Democratic presidents and policy makers who kept hoping for anything that would pass for victory at the end of a very dark tunnel. That’s the only job that’s left to be done.
In any case, we are way post-Tet in Iraq. Vietnamization was post-Tet. Iraqization has been a work in progress for three years. And the results are well documented. Militias that were armed, trained and indoctrinated in Iran have infiltrated the police forces. By day they get government paychecks and training from the coalition forces. By night, they moonlight as gangsters in death squads.
After refusing to acknowledge an insurgency for over a year and then repeatedly casting it as a temporary phenomenon by a finite number of “foreign agitators,” the Bush administration now lives in denial about the ongoing sectarian strife.
The recipe for the Iraqi civil war was cooked up by the same neo-cons that insisted on disbanding the entire Iraqi Army to get rid of Baathist elements. Once they came to terms with the scope of the insurgency, they decided to train and build “new” Iraqi security forces organized in units that were predominantly Kurdish or predominantly Shia. The idea was to get the “good Shia militias” to fight off the “bad Sunni insurgents” and take the heat off the American army.
So far, three million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of a ruthless campaign of ethnic cleansing. Over a million Iraqis have taken refuge in Syria and Jordan. Half the Christian population has fled. Doctors, engineers, college professors and other professionals are leaving by the tens of thousands -- some of them never to return. Vietnam’s boat people were a post-Tet phenomenon. In fact, they started taking to the sea after the American withdrawal. That alone indicates Iraq is at an advanced post-Tet stage.
Complicating any credible analysis of how things might turn out, is the fact that Vietnam was a simpler war. Americans knew who they were fighting -- the Vietcong and the regular army of North Vietnam. In Iraq, there are multiple fronts and dozens of armed factions -- each with its own peculiar agenda.
In the case of Vietnam, the majority of Americans also thought they knew they were fighting international communism -- but later discovered that Ho Chi Min was an ardent patriot and that the Vietnamese had no problem confronting the communist Chinese to protect their national interests.
Thanks to Bush, Cheney and their media collaborators, an incredible percentage of Americans continue to believe the WMD canards. And many are certain that Saddam had something to do with 9/11.
In Vietnam, Americans had control of the country -- at least during day light hours and Saigon all day. Most of Iraq is a no go zone for American forces. The only safe refuge in Baghdad is a four square mile fantasy island they call the Green Zone.
The hostilities in Iraq have devolved into an inter-ethnic turf war between dozens of ethnic militias, elements from the security forces, criminal gangs and death squads. There is no tweaking the security situation. Even if George Bush decided to pack up and leave Baghdad tomorrow -- where would he leave the keys? Most likely, in Iran’s pocket.
George Bush has an unenviable track record on Iraq. His post-911 obsession with Iraq left unfinished business in Afghanistan. Instead of tracking down Bin Laden, Bush sent Al Qaeda recruitment posters against a backdrop of Abu Ghraib and Fallujah. After launching the war on the strength of deliberately doctored intelligence, the president was too quick to put up the “mission accomplished” sign and too slow to recognize the durability of the Iraqi insurgency.
Every “corrective”’ measure designed by his neo-con high priests has created additional challenges. The strategy of integrating Shia militia “allies” into the police force has given free reign to death and torture squads operated by the same parties who dominate the Iraqi National Assembly. Nouri Al Maliki’s “sovereign” Iraqi government has no interest in curbing Shia militia power. Without Moqtada Sadr and the Mahdi Army, he wouldn’t be Prime Minister and he knows it. Sadr’s militia is Maliki’s militia. That explains why the Iraqi Prime Minister gets bent out of shape every time the coalition forces tangle with the Mahdi Army.
Aside from the security breakdown that haunts the nightmares of every Iraqi family, the reconstruction efforts have not only failed -- they have been put on hold. Most parents are preventing their kids from attending classes. Virtually every economic, security and social indicator points to a downward trend spiral. Extra judicial killing, civilian casualty figures, car bombs, attacks on coalition forces, public corruption, internally displaced refugees, health care, religious repression, unemployment, mortality rates, women’s rights, oil production -- availability of electricity, clean water and sewage.
To deal with these dismal realities, Thomas Fraudulent has nothing better to do with his time than come up with a useless time warp “Tet” analysis to allow Bush a platform to make delusional promises of victory parades. So much for the foreign policy “expertise” at the paper of record. Messing with historic analogies is obviously another one of those talents that Tom needs to work on. When it comes to Iraq, think 1974 or maybe even 1975. Because those who are selling “Iraq 1968” want to prolong the ordeal and give Bush some wiggle room to dodge the bullet on the disastrous outcome of a war that never had to happen. George Bush’s secret plan is to let the next president lose the war in Iraq.
For a rational national debate on how to wrap up this war of choice, we must get the Likudnik Friedman/Krauthammer/Wolf Blitzer/Hannity crowd to shut the hell up. Throw them and their neo-con think tank fellow travelers in isolation cells away from the public square to allow more sober minds to engage in a frank non-ideological conversation on how best to contain the damage inflicted on both the United States and the Iraqi people.
Enough spin already. We need some real Middle Eastern experts to put on their post-Tet hats and get to work on an immediate exit plan that does the least possible harm.
Bush has lost control of the situation and needs some adults to do the heavy lifting. And the only way to convince him to abandon his Churchillian hallucinations is to curb his power for the rest of his term by voting his party into minority status on November 7th. That done; the Democratic Leadership Committee -- the neo-con Hillary/Lieberman enablers -- needs to be cut down to size. Retire Lieberman now. Postpone Hillary’s political punishment till the presidential primaries. As of now, the only job that remains to be done is an expedited withdrawal of American forces from the post-Tet environment in Iraq. There will be no victory parades -- unless of course you belong to the school that believes George Bush could have won in Vietnam.
You never know what Friedman’s Likudnik crowd really wants. Maybe they want to “stay the course” long enough to leave three sets of keys for a partitioned Iraq -- something the neo-cons would hail as a major achievement. It doesn’t hurt that the Iraq war has diverted attention away from Israel’s draconian repression of the Palestinians and aborted the sham “peace process.” Because of his losses in Iraq, Bush always has to raise the stakes. The devastating American backed Israeli invasion of Lebanon allowed Bush to take a summer vacation away from his Mesopotamian troubles. If Iraq is Bush’s Vietnam -- Lebanon was a Cambodian side bet. Roll the dice. See what happens next.
Thomas Friedman should put away his Judith Miller hat -- if only because he does a better job predicting oil prices.
by Ahmed Amr