If deception and unilateralism characterized America's war on Iraq, then naοvetι, incompetence and, increasingly, desperation mark its shaky occupation of that troubled land.
The killings of Saddam Hussein's sons, the exhibition of grisly photos of their corpses and the macabre reconstruction of their shattered bodies for public display are only the latest indices of the quagmire America has got itself into.
It is a sad day when the U.S. secretary of defense has to fend off suggestions that he may have placed America in the same league as the Taliban.
Upon conquering Kabul, they killed the former Afghan president a man as evil and psychopathic as Uday and Qusay Hussein and strung up his mangled body in a public square to discourage resistance to the new order.
It is good that Uday and Qusay are accounted for. It is bad that they won't be around to be tried for crimes against humanity.
It is hard to believe that American troops could not have waited the brothers out without endangering their own safety.
Uday's and Qusay's crimes were so many and so horrific raping an unknown number of women, torturing and killing not only real and imaginary political foes but also servants, soccer players and Olympic athletes on a whim that a trial would have permitted a full accounting and allowed victims and their families a measure of belated justice.
It also would have signaled a sharp departure from the era of Baathist, particularly Saddamist, bloodletting and revenge. Ending that gulag has been an honorable achievement of the Iraq war.
We do not now want Iraqis to be cheering killings, even of evil men. We want them celebrating the advent of the rule of law, courtesy of America.
Practical reasons also dictated keeping the brothers alive.
Qusay in particular would have been an invaluable source on what happened to the weapons of mass destruction.
There will be another opportunity, if and when Saddam is found. Iraq is not Afghanistan, with desolate mountains and millions of caves.
Unlike Osama bin Laden, Saddam cannot hide for long.
The killing of Uday and Qusay will, as Bush says, discourage remnants of Saddam loyalists from attacking Americans. But it will not end all resistance, as he hopes.
It is hard to know who all are part of what U.S. commander Gen. John Abizaid an Arabic-speaking Arab American expert on the Mideast whose candor stands in welcome contrast to his bosses' lack of it has called the growing "guerrilla-style campaign."
Besides Saddam loyalists, some Islamists and thousands of angry laid-off soldiers and police officers, the populace is clearly most upset with the Americans for botching the occupation.
Despite improvements in recent days, essential services are yet to be restored to even pre-war levels. But the real sleeper issue is cultural: American soldiers know how to kill but not how to make and keep peace.
They have a particular knack for escalating ordinary situations into Wild West shootouts.
They barge into homes in the middle of the night, kicking doors, pushing and shoving women the worst sin an outsider can commit in Arab society and placing bags over the inhabitants' heads.
This is no way to win friends, especially since the soldiers, acting on faulty intelligence, often end up at the wrong address.
It also does not help that dozens of innocents have been casually killed in three attempts at assassinating Saddam.
U.S. administrator Paul Bremer is learning from his mistakes and has had the good sense to reverse himself on several hasty decisions. He has recalled many soldiers and civilians to retrain them as police and militia.
He has and allowed local elections in almost all the 67 cities and towns, albeit while controlling who emerges on top.
He has ushered in a representative, and potentially powerful, Iraqi Governing Council to write a constitution and arrange eventual elections.
But America cannot do it all alone. It needs the United Nations, yet the Bush administration is trying to do an end-run around the world body, as it did in waging war.
It is ready to internationalize the Iraq operation but not U.N.-ize it. It wants nations to donate soldiers and money, while keeping strategic, military and economic control U.S. colonialism subsidized and manned by others. Just as the U.N. bowed to post-war reality and legalized the American presence in Iraq, the U.S. needs to hand over responsibility for Iraq to the U.N.
As the occupying power, it will retain control while letting France, Germany, India and others come under the U.N. flag.
There is also an urgent need to restore American credibility, at home and abroad, starting with the narrative on weapons of mass destruction.
The White House now admits it was wrong to peddle faulty intelligence that Iraq sought uranium from Niger. But it also insists the intelligence was solid.
Got that? It was wrong to have said something that was right.
CIA director George Tenet accepts blame for not stopping Bush from citing the true/false allegation in the State of the Union address, even though Tenet did not vet that speech.
His officials did warn the White House in July about "several concerns about the fragmentary nature of the intelligence" and in October he did get that same "highly dubious" reference axed from another Bush speech.
Got that? The fall guy did nothing wrong.
But he is not flawless. Last fall, Tenet said CIA evidence does "not add up to a compelling case" that Saddam was pursuing a nuclear program.
He also said Saddam was likely to use weapons of mass destruction only if attacked.
But when Bush used the same intelligence to draw exactly the opposite conclusion, to wage war, Tenet called the president's sources "credible and reliable."
Got that? Reading the same sign, Tenet went one way and Bush the other, but neither took the wrong turn.
The imbroglio over the Niger link is only the beginning of the unraveling of the administration's hyped-up case for war.
After 15 weeks of scouring nearly 600 suspect sites in Iraq by 1,500 U.S. inspectors, there's no sign of a "weapons program," as Bush has lately taken to calling it, let alone the weapons he used to harp about.
Still to be fully scrutinized are a host of other dubious claims, some asserted in Secretary of State Colin Powell's theatrical presentation to the Security Council in February: Saddam's Al Qaeda connection; his two dozen Scud missiles; his pilotless planes capable of attacking neighbors, including Israel, with chemical and biological weapons; and his potential to attack America itself.
"Iraq could decide on any given day to provide a biological or chemical weapon to a terrorist group or individual terrorists," Bush said in October, with the requisite gravity of voice and expression. "Alliance with terrorists could allow the Iraqi regime to attack America without leaving any fingerprints."
There is also the little issue of widespread American bombing of Iraq prior to the war.
It was presented as continued enforcement of the two no-fly zones. It was nothing of the sort.
As suspected, it was "a comprehensive plan to disrupt Iraq's military command and control system before the war," according to a story in the New York Times, based on Pentagon documents. A total of 606 bombs were dropped on 391 targets, many well outside the no-fly zones in clear violation of international law.
It is vital for the world that America succeeds in Iraq.
It is vital for America that the Bush administration fails in its attempts to obfuscate the truth.
Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus.
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