After five months of brutal press coverage, the Bush administration is calling on the United Nations to “save the day” in Iraq—news that is most unwelcome for anyone who wants to see improvement in the country, particularly Iraqis themselves.
To hear the “mainstream” media tell it, the land liberated from Saddam’s tyranny is in shambles and the U.S. effort is a devastating failure. As usually happens on cable television debate segments, the question posed—“should the U.S. pull out of Iraq?”—helped frame the debate. But since completely pulling out of Iraq is simply not an option, the next “best” thing is bringing in the UN.
As much as the UN is bound to screw things up, the sad fact is that the bar has already been set quite low by the U.S. Mistakes have been piling up since almost day one—some benign, some scandalous—as the U.S. seems not entirely up to the task of rebuilding a devastated nation.
In the center of the country—including Baghdad and surrounding areas—the electricity is still three hours on, three hours off. Checkpoints are causing massive frustrations and annoyances, such as when a young Iraqi man was shot in the back after a soldier’s gun accidentally went off. (The young man survived, though he is badly injured.) And the U.S. forces have been slow—sometimes exorbitantly so—in responding to tips from Iraqis about Saddam’s regime or current threats.
Although fixed months ago by civilian administrator Paul Bremer, the State Department’s habit of naming Baathists and Saddam loyalists to key positions in the transitional government still rankles ordinary Iraqis. “They have not forgotten,” explains someone in Iraq who has worked with the U.S. efforts there.
But of all the problems with the U.S. “occupation” of Iraq, far down the list is the size of the military presence. Critics—including almost the entirety of the “mainstream” media—have groupthinked their way to the conclusion that most of the difficulties stem from the “lack” of soldiers on the ground.
The 160,000 American and British soldiers had little to do with the electrical problems and the slow response time to tips from local Iraqis. And the troops certainly had nothing to do with placing into positions of power Saddam loyalists.
Joel Mowbray, who got his start with Townhall.com, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.
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