Triangulating the truth on Iraq
Carlton M. Caves
2005 August 23

How informative---and depressing---it is to juxtapose three news stories on Iraq that ran in the last two days in The Washington Post.

It is instructive to read these three stories in quick succession. The first two send a clear signal: the situation on the ground in Iraq makes the constitution writers in Baghdad nearly irrelevant. Since before the U.S. invasion, the Kurds have controlled their own autonomous region in northern Iraq, which they have expanded in the aftermath of our invasion. They are not going to give up any of their gains. The Shia are consolidating control of a similar region in southern Iraq. They, too, will insist on retaining the authority they now have and on instituting Islamic law in their area, with the result that southern Iraq will become an Islamic autonomous region with close ties to Iran. The best outcome we can hope for is that the Sunnis accept the diminution of their power that is a chief result of our invasion and see the wisdom of converting their insurgents into a militia that controls the central regions where they predominate and that all three groups acquiesce in supporting a weak central government, which controls Baghdad and the immediate vicinity. The worst and perhaps most likely outcome is a Mesopotamian Yugoslavia.

Then there's our President. Wind him up, and out spew the familiar lines about 9/11, protecting the homeland, total victory over terrorism, and advancing freedom everywhere. What world is he living in? Can't he see that we're in big trouble in Iraq? You want to shake him till he levels with the American people and tells us how we're going to get out of there.

Bush's hubris in invading Iraq and incompetence in occupying it have combined to produce an impending disaster. Surely he knows that, to say the least, things are not going well, yet instead of acknowledging, analyzing, and confronting the difficulties, his response is to invoke the difficulties we Americans have overcome in our glorious past, as though faith alone were sufficient to overcome all difficulties. Therein perhaps lies the answer to the puzzle. Maybe he really doesn't see where we're headed in Iraq, because he is living in a different world, a world where faith and invocations of faith are all that matter.

An alternative explanation is that Bush is deliberately lying to us about the situation in Iraq. That would be better than being clueless, because he might be taking some effective actions that we don't know about. For tonight, however, I'm leaning toward the idea that he lives in his own world, a tightly insulated shell where he constructs his own reality, where he stubbornly refuses to confront and deal with the actual situation in Iraq. How sad and depressing it is to think that the President might be the last person to get the message that his adventure in Iraq has failed. Who will be the last to die in a war whose futility the President is the last to recognize?

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