May 20, 2004

"I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss," General Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of US central command, told the Senate foreign relations committee.

The Emperor has no uniform...

Julian Borger, Guardian: "I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure. We are looking into the abyss," General Joseph Hoar, a former commander in chief of US central command, told the Senate foreign relations committee.

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http://www.commondreams.org/headlines04/0520-01.htm

Published on Wednesday, May 19, 2004 by the
Guardian/UK
Hostilities Force Bush into Deep Hole
Strategy Pushing US into 'Abyss'

by Julian Borger in Washington

The Pentagon was attempting the difficult task of
digging itself out of the hole dug by the Abu Ghraib
prison outrage when it suffered yet another
potentially serious setback in Iraq.

As in Najaf and Falluja and at other flashpoints, US
forces appeared to have been sucked in by the
insurgents' strategy: fighting back, killing civilians
and in turn strengthening the rebels' support base.

George Bush continued to paint a determinedly
optimistic picture, insisting that "a lot of progress"
had been made towards the transfer of sovereignty on
June 30, despite the assassination at the weekend of
the head of the US-appointed governing council, Abdul
Zahra Othman, also known as Izzadine Salim.

He also claimed that 11 ministries were being "capably
run by Iraqi citizens".

But across town in Congress even those instinctively
sympathetic to the US military cause in Iraq were
warning that America was facing a strategic disaster.

"I believe we are absolutely on the brink of failure.
We are looking into the abyss," General Joseph Hoar, a
former commander in chief of US central command, told
the Senate foreign relations committee.

The apocalyptic language is becoming increasingly
common here among normally moderate and cautious
politicians and observers.

Larry Diamond, an analyst at the conservative Hoover
Institution, said: "I think it's clear that the United
States now faces a perilous situation in Iraq.

"We have failed to come anywhere near meeting the
post-war expectations of Iraqis for security and
post-war reconstruction.

"There is only one word for a situation in which you
cannot win and you cannot withdraw - quagmire."

The growing fear is that the US will able neither to
defeat the insurgents in Iraq nor to find an honorable
means of withdrawal, while every week there will be an
hemorrhaging of US credibility in the Arab world and
far beyond.

"With at least 82% of the Iraqis saying they oppose
American and allied forces, how long do you think it
will be before the Iraqi government asks our
departure?" said Senator Joseph Biden, the senior
Democrat on the foreign relations committee.

Meanwhile, traditional conservatives who see American
interests in the Middle East as focused on a regular
supply of oil are anxious because it has pulled its
troops out of one big producer, Saudi Arabia, without
establishing a sustainable military presence in
another, Iraq.

"Anyway you look at this, outside the most extreme
optimistic assessments, we end up weaker," a senior
Republican international strategist said.

The conservatives' growing awareness that failure may
be imminent has generated a backlash against the more
radical "neo-conservatives" such as Paul Wolfowitz and
Douglas Feith at the Pentagon, who are blamed for
persuading President Bush that an invasion would be
relatively easy.

Anthony Cordesman, a military scholar at the Center
for Strategic and International Studies, said the most
serious problem in US government was "the fact that a
small group of neo-conservative ideologues were able
to substitute their illusions for an effective
planning effort by professionals".

General Hoar was equally scathing about the caliber of
the Bush administration.

"The policy people in both Washington and Baghdad," he
said, "have demonstrated their inability to do a job
on a day-to-day basis this past year."

Administration critics, as well as a growing number of
Republican moderates, are arguing that to salvage the
situation in Iraq the administration will have to
jettison many of its other policy goals and political
ambitions.

For example, it will have to give up all hope of
establishing permanent military bases in Iraq,
securing advantages for US firms, and staying out of
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Phebe Marr, an Iraq expert at the National Defense
University, says the minimal US goals should include
"a state free of terrorism, a state free of weapons of
mass destruction, a government, if not friendly, at
least not hostile to the US and Israel", and a clear
intention not to have "long-term designs on military
bases or control of oil".

First, the US has to be seen to be transferring at
least some power to Iraqis. Mr Bush predicted
yesterday that the leaders of a new caretaker
government would be picked "in the next couple of
weeks".

But Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN envoy who is supposed to
select that government, is reported to be facing
extreme difficulties in finding fresh faces to fill
the top jobs, particularly since the assassination of
Mr Salim.

There is increasing speculation that, in the absence
of any better options by the transfer date of June 30,
nominal sovereignty will be handed to the governing
council, which has very limited credibility with
ordinary Iraqis.

Meanwhile, the head of US central command, John
Abizaid, warned that the period after the handover
could be even more violent than the present, perhaps
requiring the deployment of more US troops.

That would be politically damaging for the president,
but so would a descent into more chaos in Iraq.

As Mr Bush nears re-election, the burden of Iraq grows
heavier with every passing week.

Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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Posted by richard at May 20, 2004 02:01 PM