2004/08/28

News Flash! Bush admits screwups in Iraq!

Very, very interesting.

In the New York Times we hear that:

Mr. Bush also acknowledged for the first time that he made a "miscalculation of what the conditions would be'' in postwar Iraq. But he insisted that the 17-month-long insurgency that has upended the administration's plans for the country was the unintended by-product of a "swift victory'' against Saddam Hussein's military, which fled and then disappeared into the cities, enabling them to mount a rebellion against the American forces far faster than Mr. Bush and his aides had anticipated.

He insisted that his strategy had been "flexible enough'' to respond, and said that even now "we're adjusting to our conditions'' in places like Najaf, where American forces have been battling one of the most militant of the Shiite groups opposing the American-installed government.

Mr. Bush deflected efforts to inquire further into what went wrong with the occupation, suggesting that such questions should be left to historians, and insisting, as his father used to, that he would resist going "on the couch'' to rethink decisions.

So, exactly how costly has this insurgency been?

2004 Iraq deaths now exceed 2003 deaths

It happened this week almost without notice: The number of Americans killed in Iraq during 2004 now exceeds the number killed in 2003.

More remarkably, the 488 killed thus far this year died in just 239 days (2.04 daily average), while the 482 killed last year died during fully 287 days (1.68 daily average), which means that not only has 2004 been bloodier than 2003 in absolute terms, but in relative terms as well.

Is this progress? Is this stability and safety?

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MaryScott OConnor adds that there are about 11,000 dead Iraqis.

And how are things in Iraq after the glorious American victory at Najaf?

Insurgents evacuate ruined Najaf, fail to disarm. “They stood in a scene of devastation. Hotels had crumbled into the street. Cars lay blackened and twisted where they had been hit. Goats and donkeys lay dead on the sidewalks. Pilgrims from out of town and locals coming from home walked the streets agape, shaking their heads, stunned by the devastation before them. As the Mahdi Army fighters did not surrender themselves, neither did they give up their guns. Instead, they took the assault rifles and rocket launchers with which they had commandeered the shrine and loaded them onto donkey carts, covering them with blankets, grain sacks and television sets, and sending them away. Hours later, Mahdi fighters, some still dressed in their signature black uniforms, could be seen stashing rocket launchers in crates and pushing them into roadside shops.”

As Melanie points out in Bump in the Beltway:

Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is the most powerful man in Iraq. By treating with him successfully, Moqtada has become the power broker of the poor of the slums in the Shiite south. Ayyad Allawi may be a strong man and a thug, but he has just been made extraneous, for all the world to see, even John Negroponte.

The emergence of the Shiite cleric as the real power in Iraq (this was predictable, and predicted by everyone from me to Juan Cole to Steve Gilliard) is going to make the Sunni, Turkmen and Kurds less than happy. They are restive now, whether or when they will be provoked to uprising is a guess.

Allawi and the fake council which was just selected will have everything they do ratified or vetoed by Sistani. They were a joke before, they are extraneous now. Note to Ambassador Negroponte: the same is true for you.
As several readers pointed out on Hullaballoo, the determination of the Bush Administration to go to war regardless of the anticipated problems was not due to not having the information, it was due to wanting to go in anyway and not having a competent Secretary of Defense to plan apropriately.
One of the comments:

digby, it isn't that Bush "miscalculated" what he would face in post-war Iraq...it's that, faced with expert advice and carefully laid out scenarios that truthfully gave him the information he could have used to do the job right, he and his neo-con artists deliberately CHOSE to ignore such information, and forged ahead with their usual "fuck you" attitude.
James Fallows did a remarkable piece for The Atlantic in January called "Blind Into Baghdad", in which he logged the progress of the war, including missteps and screw-ups, and the dogmatic devotion of BushCo to the party line that got us there.
In the article he details the State Department's carefully researched Future of Iraq project, which final report described all the problems we have since faced, and how we could have avoided them.
The cold truth is that this man started an illegal war and has the blood of thousands of innocents and American soldiers on his hands precisely because, far from "miscalculating", he deliberately ignored all the information that would have saved lives and Iraq's patrimony. His legacy will haunt us for decades, while he safely slumbers the rest of his worthless life in the womb of his ranch. He should be in the dock with Milosovic.



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