The Bush Administration could have done the invasion of Iraq "right." They could have used more troops. They could have discouraged, rather than sanctioned, the post-invasion looting. They could have established order by keeping the Iraqi Army intact. They could have cultivated popular support by hiring Iraqis to rebuild the country rather than giving no-bid contracts to their friends, at much greater cost. They could have conducted elections sooner rather than later.
But if they had, the Iraqi people would have elected an anti-American, Islamist government.
So, instead, they allowed the country to fall into chaos so that most Iraqis would reluctantly accept a pro-American Iraqi strong man as their head of government. Thus far, it's working. Even Ayatollah Sistani accepts the secular Iyad Allawi as Prime Minister, for now. The Bush scheme may soon accomplish its primary goal: the re-election of the "War President" this November.
The Bush Administration is brazenly driven by election-year politics. The rush to war against Iraq was dictated by the election calendar. As reported by the New Republic, the Bush Administration is explicitly pressuring Pakistan to capture bin Laden prior to the election. The Administration has violated core conservative principles by getting Congress to pass legislation hypocritically designed to gain votes in November.
Concerning the recent transfer of limited power to an interim Iraqi government, Seymour Hersh reported in the June 28 New Yorker that a former White House official depicted the Administration as eager-almost desperate-to "put together something by June 30th-just something that could stand up" through the Presidential election.
There may be no limit to what Team Bush will do to win November 2. If there is, it's impossible to define.
In early April 2003, shortly after the Marines arrived, an Iraqi college student in Baghdad who had refused to join the Baath Party told me, "I'm afraid that the Americans will just secure the resources of Iraq and leave Iraq in the hands of another crazy leader." This student was not alone. Many observers anticipated that the U.S. would install another Saddam clone to take charge in Iraq. The selection of Allawi is consistent with this suspicion.
"Allawi helped Saddam get to power," an American intelligence officer told Hersh. "He was a very effective operator and a true believer." Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer, commented, "His strongest virtue is that he's a thug." According to Hersh, one of Allawi 's former medical-school classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, depicted Allawi as a "big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students."
Hersh wrote that when Allawi moved to London in 1971, he was in charge of the European operations of the Baath Party and the local activities of the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975. Vincent Cannistraro, a former C.I.A. officer, said, "Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London." A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat told Hersh that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat "hit team" that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. Why Allawi fell out of favor with Saddam and became the victim of assassination attempts himself is unknown.
Bush-Allawi are demonstrating considerable political skills. Partly by reminding the Kurds that they would need pipelines even if they seized Kirkuk and the Northern oil fields, Bush-Allawi, with military assistance from Israel, are keeping the Kurds on board. Bush-Allawi have kept the Shiite elites in the South relatively quiet by attacking and weakening the forces of Ayatollah Sistani's fierce opponent, Muqtada al Sadr.
And Bush-Allawi allowed the insurgents to take over in Fallujah, which has enabled the Sunnis to centralize a political base. From this strengthened position, the Iraqi Sunnis have openly, forcefully told the foreign jihadists to stop their suicide bombing, with considerable success. Now Allawi is planning to revive the Army and is promising amnesty for Iraqi insurgents if they back off. Given his connections with the former Baathists in the Sunni Triangle, Allawi might well persuade the Iraqi insurgents to focus on the U.S. military and permit him to restore security for the Iraqi people.
With increased security, Allawi's honeymoon could well last for a while. He might cobble together a confederation with the Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites each having regional power. If he were to tell the Americans to withdraw their troops completely and Bush agreed to a date certain, the national assembly, if one is elected in January, would more likely select him as their Prime Minister.
But a more probable scenario is that once the U.S. election is over, Allawi will "postpone" the Iraqi election and perpetuate martial law. If Bush pulls the rabbit out of the hat and beats Kerry, Bush probably won' t have democracy in Iraq, but at least Iraq's dictator will be "our" dictator.
Wade Hudson (email@example.com), Editor of Toward Peace served in Baghdad with the Iraq Peace Team before, during, and after the invasion.