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Iraq Diaries By: Andrew Sullivan
AndrewSullivan.com | Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Monday, May 03, 2004

WORSE THAN SADDAM: It's inevitable. Across the world, after the hideous pictures of prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib, headlines will announce that the U.S. is as bad, if not worse than Saddam. Finally, the far left will concede the evil of Saddam, but only so they can declare the U.S. worse. Here's the Sydney Morning Herald's version. They have one single quote to justify their headline: "US abuse worse than Saddam's, say inmates." Here's the quote:

Mr Shweiri said that while jailed by Saddam's regime he was electrocuted, beaten and suspended from the ceiling with his hands tied behind his back. "But that's better than the humiliation of being stripped naked," he said. "Shoot me here," he added, pointing between his eyes, "but don't do this to us."

Who's Shweiri? "Mr Shweiri, 30, is a diehard fighter in the Mehdi Army, the anti-US militia of a Shiite Muslim imam." I want the morons and perverts who did this to be punished to the most severe extent possible because of the evil of what they did and the damage they have done to what is a noble and important cause. But even then, the equation with Saddam is grotesque and wrong. Please send in examples of the anti-war media peddling this notion. They need to be exposed.


WHAT THE FALLUJAH? All I can honestly say is that I have no clue what is going on in Fallujah, the critical battle of the war in Iraq. The obvious interpretation is that the Bush White House, under political pressure at home, has decided to all-but surrender the city to the enemy. That has certainly been the message sent to (and received by) the wider terrorist world. The Marine asault we were promised has failed to materialize. Various truces were negotiated and violated by the enemy many times. Then we responded by appointing a Saddamite Baathist in charge of eradicating the terrorist elements in the city, alongside the Marines. The only problem is that the Baathist general doesn't believe there are any foreign fighters in Fallujah. From the Washington Post:

In Fallujah, Jassim Mohammed Saleh, the former Iraqi major general entrusted by the Marines with forming a new security force in the violence-wracked city, said in an interview with the Reuters news service that "there are no foreign fighters in Fallujah." He also insisted that onetime members of former president Saddam Hussein's Baath Party should be allowed to return to the government and the army, saying they were "capable of administering the country in times of crisis."

This is the man the Bush administration is now entrusting the war on terror with. Or is it? Joint Chiefs Chairman, Richard Myers, says the mini-me Saddam is not the new commander in Fallujah:

Myers, who appeared on three Sunday morning news shows, cautioned that neither of the generals had been approved by the Pentagon. "They have not been vetted. They have not been placed in command. They are not in charge," Myers said on "Fox News Sunday." Myers said the leadership of the Fallujah Brigade also would have to be approved by the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad and Iraq's interim Defense Ministry. The decision to form the Fallujah Brigade and put Saleh in charge was made from "the bottom up," the senior official said. "Now we have to have a policy to catch up with what is happening on the ground."

I think the obvious answer to the question as to what is happening in Fallujah is that the White House doesn't have a clue. In a critical battle, we have made sure that the enemy understands we can have overwhelming military power and not be willing to use it; we have appointed a new commander who hasn't even been vetted; and people on the ground are making up policy that has far-reaching political and military implications, while the White House has to adjust. The only word for this is incompetence and chaos.

BLINKING?: If you want a more optimistic view of what is going on, check out the
Belmont Club blog. They believe that an Iraqi force for the pacification of Fallujah was always part of the plan; and that what appears to be genuine weakness, vacillation and indecision on the part of the U.S. is in reality good tactics. I hope thyey're right. And I guess history will judge. I also know that it's easy to sit here in D.C. and pontificate while, on the ground, political compromises and military messes are inevitable. But last week seems to me to have reached a point where even hopeful, pro-war, Bush supporters like me have to acknowledge the epic mishandling of the post-war occupation. The U.S. is beginning to look both cruel and (a much bigger problem) weak. The huge propaganda victory handed to the enemy by the celebrations in Fallujah by Islamo-fascists shouldn't have happened. Nor should the disgusting pictures of prisoner abuse and humiliation simply exist in a military as professional and ethical as that of the U.S. The misconduct is unforgivable, and shows simply a lack of control of the situation. The complete disarray in Fallujah - the inability of anyone from Bremer up even to expain what's happening, let alone tell us what they're doing about it - is a further sign of drift. It is no longer unreasonable to surmise that the administration is preparing to hand over power to any U.N.-blessed Shiite or Baathist general it can find, while indicating to the wider terrorist enemy that we will buckle under to pressure. At a critical moment when Fallujah should have been the occasion for a critical wiping out of the terrorist and insurgent infrastructure, we seem to have blinked. The consequences for our future credibility, for the lives of coalition servicemembers, for the lives of Western civilians, could not be graver.

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