What could US State Department official Alberto Fernandez possibly have
meant when he blamed his own government for "arrogance" and
"stupidity" in Iraq? The White House is so overcome with disbelief
that its spokesmen are claiming Fernandez's words were lost in translation as
he was, after all, speaking in Arabic for the benefit of Al Jazeera's viewers.
That must be it then. Fernandez probably meant "conceited" and
just plain "dumb" when we take into the account the richly textured
nuances of the Arabic language. But let's stick with the official version.
According to the Encarta Dictionary, "arrogance" equates to "a
strong feeling of proud self-importance that is expressed by treating other
people with contempt or disregard." How does that fit?
Some might say invading on a fabricated tissue of mendacity, moving
viceroys into presidential palaces, dismantling an entire army, dismissing
civil servants, distributing crony reconstruction contracts, inserting puppet
governments, shooting civilians at checkpoints, sexually abusing prisoners,
torturing, murdering and raping could be construed as a teeny-weeny bit
Moving on to "stupidity" which the Encarta defines as a
"lack of intelligence, perception, or common sense" it seems to me
that the Bush administration is guilty as charged. The belief that Iraqis would
relish being referred to as "rag-heads" by their trigger-happy
occupiers and turn into Sweden overnight showed an extreme lack of
intelligence, perception and common sense on the part of Washington's armchair
Now a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator Jack Reed
has added a new addition to the pessimistic lexicon describing Bush's Iraq
policy as a "failure."
Anarchy and chaos
Waging a war of choice and sacrificing 665,000 lives -- not to mention
$336 billion -- in the name of democracy when all that has been achieved is
anarchy and chaos could, indeed, fall into the failure category.
Aficionados of the neoconservative creed may still believe the end is
worth the means but, in truth, the future looks gloomy. According to the United
Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), more than 3 million Iraqis forced to flee their
homes are facing "a very bleak future."
At the same time, Iraq's health service has disintegrated due to the
deaths of over 2,000 doctors and nurses, while 18,000 medical personnel have
Billions earmarked to reconstruct clinics and hospitals have disappeared
into the ether and essential equipments and drugs are simply not available.
Patrick Cockburn, writing in the Independent, says Iraq's hospitals are now
"a battleground in the bloody civil war."
Even America's Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush is no longer able to
spin the situation on the ground. During a television interview, he hesitantly
agreed with New York Times' columnist Thomas L. Friedman's comment (published
also in Gulf News on October 19, titled "Barney and Baghdad") that
Iraq was the "jihadist equivalent" of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam --
credited for turning public opinion against the war .
The president was only making the point that "the enemy is trying
to affect the psyche of Americans," later explained one of the loyal White
House spinmeisters in a valiant attempt at damage control.
But there surely comes a point when no amount of sugar-coating will
work. A leaked report from the Iraq Study Group, set up by Congress and headed
by James Baker, rejects the argument for "staying the course." It even
goes as far as to suggest Iraq's neighbours, Iran and Syria, should be drawn
into the equation. America's allies are emerging out of their sycophantic
A respected Australian former diplomat Richard Woolcott said the war has
increased the terrorist threat to his country. While calling for an urgent exit
strategy he accused the US, Britain and Australia of "having made a
catastrophic foreign and security policy blunder" that has them
"trapped in a dilemma of their own making."
Head of the British Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, went a step
further in calling for the withdrawal of occupation troops whose presence, he
says, exacerbates security problems.
"We are in a Muslim country and Muslims' views of foreigners in
their country are quite clear," he said. "As a foreigner, you can be
welcomed by being invited into a country, but we weren't invited, certainly by
those in Iraq at the time. Let's face it. The military campaign we fought in
2003 effectively kicked the door in."
Finally someone at the top has not only got it but is prepared to put
his neck on the line to deliver the message. In the face of so much
overwhelming evidence and analysis put forward by respected diplomats,
generals, intelligence agencies and think tanks, will Bush reconsider his
Despite conferring with his top advisers and generals last week, the
answer is a resounding no. The mission is "clear and unchanging" said
Bush. "Our goal is victory" and we will "not pull our troops off
the battlefield before the mission is complete."
Where is Alberto Fernandez when he's needed? If that isn't arrogance and
stupidity then I don't know what is. How many Iraqi civilians and soldiers need
to be sacrificed just to save George W. Bush's face? With the mid-term
elections on the horizon, let's hope Bush and the loyalists within his
government and party get to pay a long overdue price.
S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes
feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.