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Nearly three years ago the United States of America took the unprecedented step of invading a country that posed no immediate threat to our security, launching a war based on fabricated intelligence, false assumptions and outright lies.
Today, as that country plunges headlong into civil war, our leaders continue to fabricate claims of improvements, make false promises of progress and lie outright about our prospects. Their missteps have cost thousands of American lives along with the lives of tens of thousands of innocent civilians.
Because of the Iraq war, America is less safe than before September 11, 2001, more reviled throughout the world as an arrogant bully that ignores its own self-professed concern for human rights or integrity, and that has become a laughing stock among the intelligence agencies of other nations.
While the Bush administration claims progress, insurgent attacks are on the rise and Iraqis, in general, are worse off then they were before the U.S. invaded three years ago.
The Brookings Institution, which tracks progress (or the lack of it) in Iraq, reports power outages plague the country and fewer Iraqis have electricity now than before the war. Fewer have access to clean water or a sanitary sewer system.
"This winter is the first time I am generally discouraged about economic trends in Iraq," Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at Brookings, told Lisa Zagalori of McClatchy Newspapers this week. "While there is some good news, for the first time there is no more good news than bad news," he added.
The U.S. has spent $21 billion to supposedly rebuild Iraq and nobody is really sure where the money went or what such spending has accomplished, if any.
Retired Rear Admiral David J. Nash, who headed the office to oversee reconstruction of Iraq, now admits that if there was a plan to rebuild Iraq it never got to him and his office started with a "blank sheet of paper."
After nearly three years, those on the ground in Iraq say that paper is still blank.
Stuart Bowen Jr., special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, says the effort to rebuild Iraq is, by and large, a failure.
"The lethal environment in Iraq continues to pose extraordinary challenges to reconstruction contractors," Bowen admits. And that "lethal environment" is getting worse, not better.
"For the last 18 months, we’ve been in a low-grade civil war," says former Associated Press and New York Times reporter Christopher Albritton, now blogging from Iraq. "The Askariya bombing kicked us up to ‘medium-grade,’ I guess you might call it. Both Sunnis and Shi’a I’ve spoken with are waiting and preparing for it, and that very preparation might make for a self-fulfilling prophecy. For too many Iraqis, it’s only a matter of time."
Some American commanders on the ground saw the trouble coming but their concerns were ignored at the Pentagon where the battle plan called for dealing with the meaningless resistance from Saddam Hussein’s defunct Republican Guard while ignoring the more real threat of the Fedayeen, the grassroots militant group that continues to fight and disrupt today.
"The unexpected tenacity of the Fedayeen in the battles of Nasiriyah, Samawa, Najaf and other towns on the road to Baghdad was an early indication that the adversary was not merely Saddam Hussein’s vaunted Republican Guard," writes New York Times reporter Michael Gordon and retired Gen. Bernard Trainor in their new book, Cobra II.
"But while many officers in the field assessed the Fedayeen as a dogged foe, Gen. Tommy Franks and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld saw them as little more than speed bumps on the way to Baghdad," they add.
A Mossad officer tells me the U.S. intelligence agencies never understood Saddam Hussein or the Middle East and the CIA is a "laughing stock" among other world spy organizations.
"CIA and NSA have become too dependent on high tech gizmos and analysis and don’t have enough feet on the ground in sensitive areas to fully understand the mindset of their enemies," she says. "They watch CNN and stare at their computer screens and think this is how to gather intelligence. It is not."
Americans on the ground in Iraq aren’t laughing. They’re dying and will continue to die in a war based on threats that did not exist, launched by dishonest leaders with private agendas and managed by Pentagon-bound generals who will not listen.
Iraq is not the only country worse off than before the invasion. So is the country that invaded it, a once-proud nation turned international bully, a nation that can no longer call itself the home of the brave or the land of the free — The United States of America.