The Jihad All-Stars
By Maureen Dowd
The New York Times
Wednesday 27 August 2003
WASHINGTON Yep, we've got 'em right where we want 'em.
We've brought the fight to their turf, they're swarming into Iraq and blowing up our troops and other Westerners every day, and that's just where we want to be.
Our exhausted and frustrated soldiers are in a hideously difficult environment they're not familiar with, dealing with a culture America only dimly understands, where our desperation for any intelligence has reduced us to recruiting Saddam's old spies, whom we didn't trust in the first place, and where we're so strapped that soldiers may have to face back-to-back yearlong overseas tours.
We don't know exactly which of our ghostly Arab enemies are which, how many there are, who's plotting with whom, what weapons they have, how they're getting into Iraq, where they're hiding, or who's financing and organizing them.
And we certainly don't understand the violent internecine religious battles we've set in motion. At first the Shiites were with us, and the Sunnis were giving us all the trouble. Now a new generation of radical Shiites is rising up and assassinating other Shiites aligned with us; they view us as the enemy and our quest as a chance to establish an Islamist state, which Rummy says won't be tolerated.
In yesterday's milestones, the number of U.S. soldiers who have died since the war now exceeds the number who died during the war, and next year's deficit was estimated at a whopping $480 billion, even without all the sky-high costs of Iraq.
But Republicans suggest that Iraq's turning into a terrorist magnet could be convenient one-stop shopping against terrorism. As Rush Limbaugh observed: "We don't have to go anywhere to find them! They've fielded a Jihad All-Star Team."
The strutting, omniscient Bush administration would never address the possibility that our seizure of Iraq has left us more vulnerable to terrorists. So it is doing what it did during the war, when Centcom briefings routinely began with the iteration: "Coalition forces are on plan," "We remain on plan," "Our plan is working."
Even though the Middle East has become a phantasmagoria of evil spirits, and even though some Bush officials must be muttering to themselves that they should have listened to the weenies at State and nags at the C.I.A., Team Bush is sticking to its mantra that everything is going according to plan.
As Condoleezza Rice put it on Monday, the war to defend the homeland "must be fought on the offense."
Taking a breather from fund-raisers yesterday, Mr. Bush discreetly ignored his administration's chaotic occupation plan and declaimed, "No nation can be neutral in the struggle between civilization and chaos."
Echoing remarks by other officials implying that it's better to have one big moment of truth and fight our enemies on their turf rather than ours, Mr. Bush said, "Our military is confronting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other places so our people will not have to confront terrorist violence in New York or St. Louis or Los Angeles."
So that's the latest rationale for going into Iraq? We wanted an Armageddon with our enemies, so we decided to conquer an Arab country and drive the Muslim fanatics so crazy with their jihad mentality that they'd flip out and storm in, and then we'd kill them all?
Terrorism is not, as the president seems to suggest, a finite thing.
Asked at a recent Pentagon town hall meeting how he envisioned the end state for the war on terror, Donald Rumsfeld replied, "I guess the end state in the shortest response would be to not be terrorized."
By doing their high-risk, audacious sociological and political makeover in Iraq, Bush officials and neocons hoped to drain the terrorist swamp in the long run. But in the short run, they have created new terrorist-breeding swamps full of angry young Arabs who see America the same way Muslims saw Westerners in the Crusades: as Christian expansionist imperialists motivated by piety and greed.
Just because the unholy alliance of Saddam loyalists, foreign fighters and Islamic terrorists has turned Iraq into a scary shooting gallery for our troops doesn't mean Americans at home are any safer. Since when did terrorists see terror as an either-or proposition?
"Bring 'em on" sounded like a tinny, reckless boast the first time the president said it. It doesn't sound any better when Mr. Bush says it louder with a chorus.
Jump to TO Features for Thursday 28 August 2003