The Bush team has now created the very monster that it conjured up to alarm Americans into backing a war on Iraq.
Rushing to pummel Iraq after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush officials ginned up links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. They made it sound as if Islamic fighters on a jihad against America were slouching toward Baghdad to join forces with murderous Iraqis.
There was scant evidence of it then, but it's coming true now.
Since America began its occupation, Iraq has become the mecca for every angry, hate-crazed Arab extremist who wants to liberate the Middle East from the "despoiling" grasp of the infidels.
"Increasing numbers of Saudi Arabian Islamists are crossing the border into Iraq, in preparation for a jihad, or holy war, against U.S. and U.K. forces, security and Islamist sources have warned," The Financial Times said Tuesday, quoting a Saudi dissident who noted that Saudi authorities are concerned that "up to 3,000 Saudi men have gone 'missing' in the kingdom in two months."
One of the things the terrorists in Baghdad and Jerusalem blew up Tuesday was the credibility of the Panglossian Bush version of what's happening in the Middle East.
The Bush administration's optimism was exposed as a fantasy when the two efforts it holds most dear - the reconstruction and democratization of Iraq, and advancing the Palestinian-Israeli peace process - both went up in smoke on Tuesday, literally.
Before the Iraq war, the Bush team inflated the threats to America; since the war, the Bush team has deflated the threats to America.
In yet another spun-up government document on Iraq, the White House listed 100 ways that things were going great in the 100 days we've been on the scene. The report burbled with gimcrackery about the "10 signs of better infrastructure" - days before an oil pipeline and then a water pipeline were blown up - and about distributing soccer balls and science textbooks.
"Most of Iraq is calm, and progress on the road to democracy and freedom not experienced in decades continues," it said. "Only in isolated areas are there still attacks."
Even the Bush people, who tend to look at excruciatingly difficult problems and say no prob, were shaken by the carnage Tuesday, which delivered a terrible truth: Just because America got Saddam Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay, Iraqi militants are not going to stop blowing up Westerners. Even if America gets Saddam, the resistance will no doubt keep at it, hoping the dictator will enjoy the carnage from paradise.
Osama bin Laden was inspired to attack the United States partly by his hatred of the American military presence in Saudi Arabia. Now foreign zealots from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria, enraged about the American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, are slipping over the Iraqi border to help Saddam loyalists.
Bush officials, who before the war also overdramatized the connection between Saddam and the Ansar al-Islam militants based in an autonomous region of northern Iraq, have now become spooked about hundreds of fighters coming back from Iran to attack Americans.
The Qaeda and Ansar terrorists, along with old Baath soldiers and new foreign recruits, are intent on keeping Iraq in anarchy, even as Afghanistan also slips back into chaos, with a reconstituted Taliban fighting machine killing 90 in the last month.
The democracy dominoes are not falling as easily as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and other neoconservatives had predicted.
It's hard to believe that this is just a few "dead-enders," as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says. It's hard to believe that it's going to be easy for America to get control of the streets. It's hard to believe the occupation is not going to last a very long time. It's hard to believe that liberal institutions will flourish where basic security is a distant dream.
Some UN experts have been saying that America has only half the number of troops it needs to subdue Iraq, and Senator John McCain and others agreed Tuesday that more reinforcements are needed.
The countries that could help America out with more troops won't do it unless Iraq is turned over to the United Nations. And Rummy Co., always doctrinaire, don't want to turn Iraq over to those wimpy guys with blue helmets.
We Americans can't leave Iraq, and we can't stay forever. We just have to slug it out.
Copyright © 2003 the International Herald Tribune