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The Path to Iraqi "Failure" By: Kenneth R. Timmerman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Harlan Ullman, who frequently touts himself as the "academic mentor of Condoleeza Rice," believes that the United States has "lost" the war in Iraq, and that the administration's handling of Iraq has been "a catastrophe" since the U.S. "lost control of events on the ground" in April or May 2003.

In an interview with Australian television earlier this month, Mr. Ullman joined Bob Woodward and Congressional Democrats in accusing the president of refusing to recognize reality. "Iraq is a disaster. It is a disaster at every level, and to think that they've got a functioning government and to think that the situation is better today than it was in 2003 or 2004, or 2005, is unbelievable," Mr. Ullman said.

"We have a catastrophe on our hands," he went on, "and the only guy in town who seems not to be able to recognize that, sadly, is the president." The U.S. was on "a stupid course" in Iraq and needed a radical change of direction, he added.

Harsh words, indeed. They come in the midst of an election season where Republicans are having to defend a war in Iraq that opinion polls say has become widely unpopular.

The only problem is, Mr. Ullman and the war critics are wrong. And this type of pseudo-critique from a man who wants us to believe that he is a treasured advisor to Republican policy-makers raises questions about Mr. Ullman¹s own political agenda. Is he hoping to convince voters to oust Republicans in November's midterm elections?

No, we have not "lost" Iraq. Anyone who thinks we have has never set foot in that country or the Middle East, and thinks we are engaged in some kind of failed law enforcement exercise akin to routing out the mafia in Hudson County, New Jersey (something U.S. Senator Robert Menendez ­ D-NJ, knows quite a lot about, or so I'm told).

Does Mr. Ullman really believe that the Democrats "cut and run" alternative would better serve our national security interests than continuing to train the Iraqi army and the Iraqi police, than continuing to help them to bridge the sectarian divide and to track down terrorists and kill them?

Does he believe that sitting back and doing nothing in 2002, and allowing Saddam Hussein not only to remain in power but to escape from international sanctions, would have been better than the risks and the costs of war? Because that is the policy that the State Department Arabists­ and that other protégé he sometimes claims, former Secretary of State Colin Powell ­ were pursuing at the time, with rousing support from the French. They called it "smart sanctions." But there was nothing smart about it.

The U.S. effort in Iraq is nothing short of historic. It is massively ambitious, and was dramatically necessary, something for which all Americans and all Middle Easterners should be thanking this president for the next five generations.

Not only has the war in Iraq rid the world of a gathering threat, which was that of a Saddam Hussein closely allied to international terrorists, armed with long range missiles and a variety of unconventional weapons. This war has also changed the political landscape of the Middle East.

And that may be what Mr. Ullman and his friends ­ the "pragmatists" and the Arabists at the State Department - fear the most.

Instead of treating the symptoms of the Middle Eastern malady, which State and its Sunni Arab allies have done since the end of World War II, President Bush has gone to the heart of the matter, which he rightly calls "the freedom deficit."

The State Department Arabists and the pragmatists have long argued that Arab dictators are a necessary evil. Islam prepares Muslims for submission, they say. It is not America's mission to change the Arab world. If the Arabs wanted dictators, let them have them. (And besides, some of those dictators pay very well, especially if you are a senior State Department official about to retire and embark on a new life as a talking head, think tanker, or international consultant).

Here's where the real problems began in Iraq. It was not with the Coalition military operation to oust Saddam Hussein. Nor was it with our noble efforts to help freedom-loving Iraqis to stand up a government in the immediate aftermath of Saddam¹s demise.

It occurred on May 16, 2006, when the State Department Arabists and the CIA ghost-whisperers who stood looking over their shoulder told the seven members of the Iraqi Leadership Council that they were toast.

That meeting was led by L. Paul Bremer, the U.S. "Viceroy," who had just arrived in Baghdad four days earlier.

In his account of the hours that preceded this monumental historic error, for which he takes full credit as if it were a tremendous success, Bremer gloats at the prospect of firing the Iraqi freedom coalition.

Allowing Iraqis to run their own country so soon after Saddam¹s ouster was a "reckless fantasy," Bremer writes on page 12 of his autobiography (My Year in Iraq, published earlier this year by Simon & Schuster). "I'll let them know that we're not about to turn over the keys to the kingdom," he told his Arabist aide, Ryan Crocker.

In fact, the only "reckless fantasy" at work here was that of the Arabists, the CIA, and Jerry Bremer, who believed the United States could become an imperial power, rather than fulfill our historic destiny as an exporter of freedom and (small-r) republican values.

The seven-man Iraqi Leadership Council had been elected at three successsive conferences of hundreds of delegates representing all the major political parties in Iraq, except for Saddam Hussein's Baathists. But that wasn't good enough for the Arabists or the CIA or Jerry Bremer.

Why? Because the ILC was chaired by Ahmad Chalabi, a man who has been accused of every perfidy in the book - Iranian agent, convicted felon, intelligence fabricator, you name it. These allegations are not only a pack of lies: they were motivated by the very people who brought us the "disaster" in Iraq of which Mr. Ullman complains: the State Department Arabists and their CIA helpers.

Instead of empowering these Iraqis and the established political constituencies they represented (around 80 percent of the Iraqi population), Ambassador Bremer preferred direct, imperial-style rule.

By doing so, he transformed the U.S. liberation of Iraq into an occupation.

If we are paying a price today for "mistakes" made in Iraq, this was the first and the biggest mistake, the one moment that irrevocably changed the way Iraqis viewed the United States.

And it was perfectly foreseeable at the time.

When Chalabi was informed of Bremer's decision to cast aside the Iraqi Leadership Council on May 16, 2003, he turned to Bremer¹s messenger (British ambassador John Sawers), and said, "OK, in a way you're doing us a favor. Now you're going to have to take the blame for everything that goes wrong."

Prophetic words. Foreseeable future. Tragic failure.

But please, Mr. Ullman: don't wring your hands for a president you say is in a "state of denial."

The only ones in that state are the State Department Arabists and their helpers at CIA, the Democratic party, and the Scowcroft Group.

Is Iraq difficult? You bet. We do difficult. We are the United States of America.

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Kenneth R. Timmerman was nominated for the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize along with John Bolton for his work on Iran. He is Executive Director of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and author of Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran (Crown Forum: 2005).


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