Everyone has their favorite analogy about America’s position in Iraq: some compare it to Viet-Nam, some to Lebanon, and some to the Algerian war of independence. My choice is Algeria.
Something happened in Iraq Tuesday that was quite extraordinary. The Pentagon revolted. Against the Pentagon.
Paul Bremer has always been the neo-con’s on-the-scene toady in Baghdad. Bremer talks the muscular language of Washington armchair "conservatives," who like to play at war. At a distance. Bremer has been the Pentagon’s man, picked to be Rumsfeld’s "tough guy." Well, it didn’t quiet work out that
Paul Bremer has been perhaps the most incompetent idiot in U.S. diplomatic history. He had been ambassador to the Netherlands, not exactly a world hot spot. He had been another Washington armchair "terrorism" expert. Another toady, who ended up working for the toady di tutti toadi, Henry Kissinger.
Bremer’s first actions in Baghdad were to dismantle the Iraq army–and shoot helpless, starving Iraqis who protested peacefully. And to disband the Baath Party. Both decisions were disastrous.
Make no mistake: Americans are dying in Iraq today because of Bremer’s incompetence and steadfast stupidity in the face of months of "experience." He cares more about his hairdo and handkerchief than he cares about the reality of being an "administrator" of a proud but defeated nation.
My choice of "Algeria" as the most analogous conflict stems from the fact I predicted long ago that we would face the kind of confrontations we are now facing: insurgencies, guerillas, and general resistance. Urban warfare. I go to Baghdad to gather firsthand experience and information, and I use it to analyze and predict developments. Correctly as it turns out.
Bremer went to Baghdad, is now leaving, and learned nothing.
In Algeria, the generals revolted, and almost overthrew the French government. In Iraq, America’s generals are now in rebellion. Quiet, polite, but rebellious nonetheless.
I don’t think the General’s revolt in Iraq will overthrow President Bush (some might say, "no such luck") but the generals’ revolt is nevertheless astounding. And having an immediate effect.
Tuesday, two United States Army generals castigated Bremer’s policies of deBaathification and disbanding the Army. They were quoted as saying that the cornerstones of Bremer’s policy in Iraq were "self-defeating" and "breeding resentment."
The general’s revolt was so powerful that within twenty-four hours, Bremer surrendered. Bremer announced he is suspending year-long policies and will rehire from the former Army and Baath Party. What took him so long?
Well, finally it took the "revolt of the generals."
Our military men are genuinely nonpolitical. They do not criticize policies that have been set by "General" Rumsfeld and his right-wing toadies. What happened Tuesday was unprecedented, and reflected a veritable volcano of anger and frustration at Bremer’s policies. Indirectly, of course, Rumsfeld was also a target. Just as the useless and senseless Algerian war came to undermine the French military, we now see seeds of resentment growing among America’s soldiers in Iraq .
They are dying for nothing. And they know it. Can you blame them for being angry?
Our officers knew it was stupid to disband the Army. They knew it was stupid to kill helpless, unarmed soldiers last year, who had come to plead for their paychecks. They knew that just as many people join the Democratic Party in Chicago–a one-party state–to get ahead in government, people in Iraq joined the Baath Party to get ahead and for no other reason.
Bremer is seeing his own legacy dismantled before his own eyes. He is being forced to dismantle his own legacy in the waning days of his administration. Better late than never.
I bear Bremer no personal ill will. I just criticize him professionally because I saw before anyone else what an incompetent jerk he was, and is.
Surprise: now Bremer realizes and admits to himself he is an incompetent jerk. He is dismantling his own policies. He can smile, and he can shuck-and-jive, he can pretend and prevaricate. But deep down he knows Baghdad has claimed him as another victim.
As for myself, I salute the generals. Just because they are required to be nonpolitical doesn’t mean they have to keep quiet when they see our men and women dying for nothing, for incompetent policies and incompetent civilian leadership.
I have been an avatar of policy criticism, of policy change, of Bremer deconstruction since last June. I am not happy to have been so right about our mistakes or his mistakes. But how could Bremer have been so wrong? And lasted so long?