What arrogance and stupidity?
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 25, 2006, 00:34

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 "arrogant."

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 warriors.

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 fled.

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 stupor too.

Terrorist threat

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 strategy?

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.

Linda S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes feedback and can be contacted by email at

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