Tuesday 27 May 2003

Oh, what a tangled web Bush weaves

by Eric Margolis

U.S. President George Bush justified his invasion of Iraq by claiming Baghdad was behind 9/11 and threatened America with weapons of mass destruction.

To Washington's profound embarrassment, U.S. forces in Iraq have so far failed to find any unconventional weapons or any links between Iraq and al-Qaida. Most Americans don't seem to care their government launched a war of unprovoked aggression based on fabricated evidence and untruths, or that the president and secretary of state repeatedly misinformed and misled the nation.

But now Democrats are accusing Bush of trumping up a war against a nasty but unthreatening Iraq, while failing to combat terrorism, evidenced by last week's bloody terror attacks in Morocco and Saudi Arabia.

The White House is trying to deflect rising criticism of its Iraq policy by blaming the Central Intelligence Agency for supplying erroneous information, a ploy originated by former president John F. Kennedy after his Bay of Pigs fiasco in Cuba. But the CIA was not wrong. The agency repeatedly warned the Bush administration, both privately, through leaks and openly, that Iraq was not a threat, did not possess significant offensive weapons systems, and was unlikely to greet American and British invaders as "liberators."

Where the CIA went wrong was predicting heavy urban fighting in Iraq. In fact, most pre-war military estimates were mistaken. For example, this column predicted a U.S. victory within two weeks. However, the war lasted for three weeks due to unexpected Iraqi resistance that wrong-footed the U.S. offensive.

Most defence analysts, this writer included, foresaw heavy urban combat. But there was only limited city fighting. What happened to Iraq's Republican Guard divisions around Baghdad remains a mystery: they simply vanished or were blown to bits. Guard commanders may have been bought off or gave up when Saddam Hussein went into hiding or was allowed to flee the country - thanks, it is rumoured, to a Saudi-brokered deal.

But the CIA was correct in warning the White House and Pentagon that Iraq would turn into a tar-baby for the U.S. This is precisely what is now happening. Iraq is in chaos and near-anarchy. U.S. occupation forces have so far been unable to form even a puppet regime, as was done in Afghanistan.

The initial American-appointed ruler of Iraq, Jay Garner, a retired general who looked more like a building contractor than an imperial viceroy, has been relieved, along with a State Department lady who was bizarrely named mayor of Baghdad. A neo-conservative diplomat has been brought in to run Iraq.

Meanwhile, U.S. firms, led by Texas oil giant Halliburton, VP Dick Cheney's old firm, are fighting like hungry vultures to get a slice of Iraq's petro-wealth.

But America now risks a colonial morass in Iraq that may cost even more than the profits it may make from "liberating" Iraq's oil.

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