There is good news
in Iraq: The chaos of recent days has not led to all-out civil
war. At least not yet.
Never mind that one
of the major Shiite religious shrines was blown up on Feb. 22.
Never mind that some 500 Iraqis have died in the ensuing frenzy
of sectarian violence. Never mind that if this is not civil war,
it's not very far from it. In Iraq, the Bush administration has
learned to set the bar low: Avoiding the worst possible outcome
now passes for success.
For nearly three
years, Americans have been told that we are making progress in
bringing stability and democratic government to Iraq. But that
state of affairs, like the horizon, keeps receding as we approach.
Lately, the carnage has been waxing, not waning. Last month, for
example, Iraq suffered 39 "multiple fatality bombings."
The previous February, there were 18.
But the administration
feigns nonchalance about events that once would have been considered
disastrous. After the Shiite shrine was destroyed, Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice said, "Obviously, it's a blow, but
whenever someone tries to tear them apart, [Iraqis] find a way
to get back together," as if she were talking about a family
tiff over Thanksgiving dinner.
Where in the world
does she get the idea that Iraqis are finding ways to get together?
They had an election three months ago, and not only have the various
groups failed to form a government, they show no sign of being
able to form one in this century. Religious and ethnic divisions
have made the creation of a parliamentary coalition a puzzle that
no one has been able to solve.
Rice may be optimistic,
but Americans find it hard to justify the loss of American lives
in a war we don't seem to know how to win, no matter how many
insurgents we kill. In the latest poll, only 30 percent approve
of how President Bush is handling Iraq.
who once identified themselves as the authentic voice of the people,
are now blaming a weak-kneed citizenry for lacking the will to
pay any price. But it's no surprise that Americans would not endorse
a costly war for purposes that now turn out to be bogus.
In the months leading
up to the Iraq invasion, no one in the administration ever prepared
them for the possibility -- which was fully foreseeable -- that
we would encounter a widespread insurgency, incur thousands of
casualties, spend hundreds of billions of dollars and be bogged
down three years later with no end in sight.
was based on the assumption that the war would be cheap, quick
and triumphant. Of course, Americans also thought back then that
the invasion was necessary to get Saddam Hussein's weapons of
mass destruction. If you tell people they're getting a hot fudge
sundae and you give them raw cauliflower instead, you can hardly
blame them for objecting.
War supporters can
no longer pretend to represent the silent majority of Americans.
So in the face of popular disenchantment, they now claim to be
speaking for the men and women fighting in Iraq. The conservative
group Progress for America has begun airing TV ads asserting that
"American troops overwhelmingly support the mission President
Bush has given them."
In this view, Americans
have turned against the war only because the news media have denied
them the truth about everything our military is achieving in Iraq
-- and anyone opposing the war is guilty of betraying the troops.
But that claim turns
out to be fraudulent. A new poll by Zogby International finds
that 29 percent of those serving in Iraq think the United States
should leave "immediately," and 51 percent favor a pullout
within the next six months. Fewer than one in four of our soldiers
agrees that we should remain as long as necessary.
More than 40 percent
of those carrying out the mission President Bush has given them
say they are not sure what that mission is. Amazingly, the people
with an up-close view of Iraq see things pretty much the same
way as those forced to rely on the defeatist news media.
The news media, however,
didn't make up the American casualties, the Iraqi casualties,
the persistence of the insurgency, the stalemate over forming
a new government, or the other unforeseen products of the administration's
policies. In this debate, war supporters are at odds not so much
with critics as they are with reality.
2006 Creators Syndicate