Sunday, October 22, 2006

How Iraq came home to haunt America


For months doubts over Iraq have risen along with the death toll. Last week a tipping point was reached as political leaders in Washington and London began openly to think the unthinkable: that the war was lost

Peter Beaumont, Edward Helmore and Gaby Hinsliff
Sunday October 22, 2006
The Observer

"For when Vail and his soldiers return, it will be in the knowledge that the United States that they are going home to is not the one that they left. That in their year-long absence a seismic shift has occurred in support for the war in Iraq. And that the deaths that Colonel Vail must carry back with him to grieving families - deaths that once seemed to Americans to be a necessary cost - now seem to the majority a dreadful and pointless waste.

It will also be in the knowledge that the battle that they began with such confidence barely four months ago, to secure and then rebuild some of the most dangerous areas of the Iraqi capital, like the campaigns before, has failed.

With that failure the entire future of Iraq and the US and British-led occupation has been brought to a tipping point of enormous consequence not simply for Iraq and the region, but for the Bush and Blair administrations.

In a few short weeks, the US and British policy over Iraq has dramatically unravelled. In the US that policy has been summed up in the phrase 'stay the course', the message designed months ago by Republican strategist Karl Rove, as a stick with which to beat the Democrats in the critical midterm elections on 7 November. It was a simple formula intended to suggest that it was President Bush, and not those calling for a rethinking of the war, who was the patriot.

It has been driven, too, by the criticisms voiced by senior military figures - both American and British - of the conduct of the war, and it has been accelerated by the most potent catalyst of all, the collapse in popular support for the handling of events in Iraq, most notably in the US. Recent polls have suggested that disapproval of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq is now hovering around 63-64 per cent.

Most damning of all, however, were the comments of Richard Haass, a former Bush administration foreign policy official, who told reporters yesterday that the situation is reaching a 'tipping point' both in Iraq and in US politics.

In a second uncomfortable comparison with Vietnam and the Tet offensive, some are now beginning to compare Baker's bilateral group with the 'three wise men' who advocated the change of US military policy in that war.

If there is a hope of wide-ranging change in large quarters of the Republican Party and in Washington's political circles at the week's end it was not being articulated by the two men most closely associated with the war, Bush himself, and his closest lieutenant, the combative Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, whom many believe should be sacrificed for the errors of the war so far."

No comments: