Robert Fisk is a reporter for the British newspaper The Independent. He has spent decades in the Middle East, and I know of no reporter who is his equal in that area of the world.
After five weeks in Iraq, he recently reported a very pessimistic assessment of the situation. Keep in mind that Fisk is not the kind of hotel-bar reporter who occasionally picks up a press release. He risks his life to get out among the Iraqis to find out what's really going on. He recently drove south on the main highway and found that for 70 miles every single Iraqi police post had been abandoned.
He said that in the past five weeks, he has not found a single Iraqi, a single American soldier or a single mercenary — American, British or South African — who believes there will be elections in January. He says that the American-appointed government doesn't even control all of Baghdad, much less the rest of the country. He reports that the country is in chaos, so much so that the cheerful assessments being put out in London and Washington are mystifying.
What he reports is verified by other non-establishment reporters who take the risk of going outside the heavily fortified "Green Zone." The situation is bad and it is getting worse, and why should that surprise anyone outside of the present administration?
Iraq has never been easy to govern, even by a dictator. And one thing all Iraqis share is a hatred of foreign occupiers. And, despite the public-relations sleight of hand in supposedly giving sovereignty to a government with no power to assume it, we are still viewed as occupiers — which, in truth, we are.
Unfortunately, we are occupiers who, despite all these months and all these billions of dollars, cannot get the electricity up and running on a consistent basis, cannot repair the sewer and water plants our bombs destroyed, and cannot keep the oil flowing to the world market at a regular pace. Some progress, naturally, has been made. After all, not even Halliburton can spend billions of dollars without stacking some bricks. But most Iraqis live in fear and squalor, and they blame us. After all, we bombed them for a decade and imposed sanctions that were the equivalent of a medieval siege. We stood by while looters destroyed what the bombs had left. We disbanded their army and police force.
If we don't get out of Iraq soon — and I'm talking months, not years — we're going to be as intensely hated by the Iraqis as the Israelis are by the Palestinians — for the same reason. Nobody likes an occupier. Sovereignty, of course, is defined by power, not by a piece of paper, and the Iraqis know the true situation.
The failure to anticipate and plan for what would happen after our military victory is reason enough to dump the members of the administration in Washington. They had to disregard a huge amount of wise advice and be skull-dense stupid to get us into this bloody, multibillion-dollar cesspool. To this day, they don't know how they are going to get out. It's hard to reconcile elections in January, assuming they even happen, with simultaneous talk about American troops staying for years.
In the meantime, the number of Americans killed is pressing steadily toward the 1,000 mark, and the number of permanently maimed is already profoundly sad.
For what have these brave young men and women sacrificed their lives? I think Rudyard Kipling has the answer. "If any question why we died, Tell them because our fathers lied," he wrote in a bitter poem after the war that had claimed his only son. There were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no cooperation with al-Qaeda, there was no threat, gathering or otherwise, to the United States, and, as of Aug. 2, 912 young men and women have died to prove that.
Arms inspectors could have proven the same thing without the grief blight on American families.
August 9, 2004
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.