Monday, October 23, 2006

Scuttling to victory

Monday October 23, 2006
The Guardian

"Mr Bush's nonsensical message, a variant of his stock line about "staying the course", is likely to be quickly forgotten. The phrase that will be long remembered is that of Alberto Fernandez, head of public diplomacy at the state department: he told al-Jazeera that US policy in Iraq had suffered from "arrogance" and "stupidity".

Recent days have seen policy-makers in Washington scuttling to catch up with ordinary voters, and with some leading Republicans, who have had enough of this misconceived and incompetent war, their interest galvanised by leaks from James Baker's blue-ribbon, bipartisan Iraq study group. Mr Bush and Condoleezza Rice both say there is no fundamental shift of strategy in the offing, merely a review of "tactics" in pursuit of a stable democracy. But talk of milestones, yardsticks and benchmarks attests to an increasingly urgent desire to quit before the going gets very much worse.

There is something profoundly selfish - arrogant even - about America's Iraq debate, though it is about 2,700 dead and many thousands of wounded as well as the prestige of the world's only superpower. But this is not just about geopolitics. Whether or not this war is America's Vietnam for the 21st century, Iraq is first and foremost about Iraqis. The Americans will be gone, sooner or later - and we will hear more about that after November 7. It is the Iraqis who will be left to pick up the pieces."

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