Sunday, July 10, 2005

STRONG WORDS from our (former) man in Iraq:

Iraq's former interim prime minister Iyad Allawi has warned that his country is facing civil war and has predicted dire consequences for Europe and America as well as the Middle East if the crisis is not resolved.

“The problem is that the Americans have no vision and no clear policy on how to go about in Iraq,” said Allawi, a long-time ally of Washington.

In an interview with The Sunday Times last week as he visited Amman, the Jordanian capital, he said: “The policy should be of building national unity in Iraq. Without this we will most certainly slip into a civil war. We are practically in stage one of a civil war as we speak.”

Allawi, a secular Shi’ite, said that Iraq had collapsed as a state and needed to be rebuilt. The only way forward, he said, was through “national unity, the building of institutions, the economy and a firm but peaceful foreign relation policy”. Unless these criteria were satisfied, “the country will deteriorate."

Allawi told the London Times that Pres. Bush had promised him $5.7 billion last year for rebuilding Iraq's military and security services, but he has not received the money.

Even if he gets the money, though, there will be no forward movement unless the Bush administration comes up with specific benchmarks for measuring progress in achieving "national unity, the building of institutions, the economy and a firm but peaceful foreign relation policy."

And by law, the Pentagon must spell out these benchmarks by July 11 (tomorrow, in fact).

Under a little-noticed provision of the defense spending bill passed by Congress in May, Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld has until July 11 to send Capitol Hill a "comprehensive set of performance indicators and measures of stability and security" two years after the fall of Saddam Hussein.

If and when it comes in, it could do much more than the president's Tuesday night speech at Fort Bragg to provide a factual basis for judging how close we may be toward reaching our goals in Iraq.

In that address, Bush once again demolished a straw man, denouncing any talk of a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces and any timetable for phasing them out. While public support for a pullout has grown, almost no one in Congress is advocating such a step.

What serious people are asking of the administration is a set of yardsticks by which the situation is Iraq can be realistically measured -- and accountability established for a strategy to reach those goals. That is something the president has refused to provide.

Because he doesn't have them, of course. There are no yardsticks to measure performance in this war; there never were. George W. Bush is piloting this plane without a flight plan.

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