Little Green Footballs

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The Shiite Crescent

Jesse Jackson hits the nail on the head.

Would you buy a used car from George W. Bush? On the fundamental questions of war and peace, of calling on the bravest young American men and women to sacrifice their lives, this administration and this president no longer have a shred of credibility. With U.S. forces mired in Iraq, it grows harder to separate the logic from the lies in this president's ''war of choice.''

Consider the headlines of the past week. The new Iraqi president, Ibrahim al-Jafaari, has traveled to Iran to cement a security alliance with the fundamentalist Iranian mullahs, prime members of the president's Axis of Evil. Ali Shamkhani, the Iranian defense minister, hailed the pact as ''a new chapter in our relations with Iraq.'' Has the United States spent $200 billion and sacrificed nearly 2,000 lives and left thousands more maimed and wounded so the mullahs of Iran who despise the United States could gain an ally in Iraq and create a ''Shiite crescent'' in the Persian Gulf? It is hard to imagine any outcome that could be more destabilizing in this critical region of the world.

This nightmare sensibly haunts the administration. Thus, Seymour Hersh, the New Yorker reporter who has done more to bring forth the truth about the war than anyone, reports that the administration sponsored an ''off the books'' covert effort to fix the elections in Iraq to deny Shiite parties a majority.

The White House hailed the elections as a grand success, a free and unfettered expression of democracy. But according to Hersh's intelligence sources, fraud was widespread on all sides. And the White House cooked up an off-the-books operation designed to help the party of acting Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a U.S. ally and former CIA retainer. It apparently worked. Allawi's party did much better than expected. The pro-U.S. Kurds did better than expected. The Shiite religious parties were denied a majority. Despite this, al-Jafaari, head of the Shiite Dawa party and a fundamentalist who spent a decade in exile in Iran, became head of the government.

The administration, of course, issued a formal statement denying any covert operation designed to rig the election. But the statement is worded carefully to deny only ''any covert helping of individual candidates for office.'' It doesn't mention political parties.

And even if the White House spokesmen end up denying it all, who could believe them? This is the White House that dismissed as ''ridiculous'' reports that political guru Karl Rove was involved in an effort to discredit former ambassador Joseph Wilson by outing his wife, who was a CIA employee operating under cover. ''This White House doesn't operate that way,'' we were assured. If any aide were involved, he or she would be dismissed immediately. Now it is clear that that denial was a lie. This White House does operate that way. Rove was up to his eyebrows in the effort to discredit Wilson. And the president's promise to remove anyone involved is apparently inoperative.

This is a disgrace for President Bush and the Republican Congress, but it is a calamity for our country. We are mired in a war launched on false pretenses by an administration that, as our British allies concluded, fixed the intelligence to fit the policy. U.S. forces are mired in an occupation that, according to the CIA, is generating recruits for al-Qaida. The new leadership of Iraq is forging a close alliance with Iran's fundamentalist rulers, our leading enemies in the region. Within Iraq, not surprisingly, a civil war is beginning, for neither Sunnis nor Kurds will accept fundamentalist Shiite rule.

We desperately need wise and credible leadership to guide us though this catastrophe. But Americans are slowly beginning to understand that this president and his administration lack both candor and credibility. The craven and corrupt GOP Congress puts partisan politics over the nation's security and insulates the White House from public accountability. Our bitterly divided, partisan political culture turns vital and difficult questions of war and peace into political spitball fights.

Surely the young men and women at risk in Iraq deserve far better than this. Republicans control the White House and the Congress. Is there a profile of courage among them who will call this administration to account?

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