Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bush Does Not Understand Why Iraqis Don't Love Him

This New York Times piece appeared five days ago, but I just saw it now:

President Bush made clear in a private meeting this week that he was concerned about the lack of progress in Iraq and frustrated that the new Iraqi government -- and the Iraqi people -- had not shown greater public support for the American mission, participants in the meeting said Tuesday.

Those who attended a Monday lunch at the Pentagon that included the president's war cabinet and several outside experts said Mr. Bush carefully avoided expressing a clear personal view of the new prime minister of Iraq, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

But in what participants described as a telling line of questioning, Mr. Bush did ask each of the academic experts for their assessment of the prime minister's effectiveness.

"I sensed a frustration with the lack of progress on the bigger picture of Iraq generally -- that we continue to lose a lot of lives, it continues to sap our budget," said one person who attended the meeting. "The president wants the people in Iraq to get more on board to bring success."
More generally, the participants said, the president expressed frustration that Iraqis had not come to appreciate the sacrifices the United States had made in Iraq, and was puzzled as to how a recent anti-American rally in support of Hezbollah in Baghdad could draw such a large crowd. "I do think he was frustrated about why 10,000 Shiites would go into the streets and demonstrate against the United States," said another person who attended.

That's rich, considering that Pres. Bush did not even know Shiites existed until shortly before he ordered the invasion of Iraq:
In his new book, The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created A War Without End, Galbraith, the son of the late economist John Kenneth Galbraith, claims that American leadership knew very little about the nature of Iraqi society and the problems it would face after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

A year after his "Axis of Evil" speech before the U.S. Congress, President Bush met with three Iraqi Americans, one of whom became postwar Iraq's first representative to the United States. The three described what they thought would be the political situation after the fall of Saddam Hussein. During their conversation with the President, Galbraith claims, it became apparent to them that Bush was unfamiliar with the distinction between Sunnis and Shiites.

Galbraith reports that the three of them spent some time explaining to Bush that there are two different sects in Islam--to which the President allegedly responded, "I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!"

It's a shame that Bush has to feel so let down by Shiites, and by the Iraqi government, and by the Iraqi people in general. If he had bothered to remember that, back when he was planning this war in secret, he rejected every opportunity to educate himself about the history, culture, and politics of the region he was planning to invade, he might not now be so surprised that the Iraqi response to the war has been so different from what he expected:

In an interview with RAW STORY, Ambassador Galbraith recounted this anecdote from his book to exemplify "a culture of arrogance that pervaded the whole administration."

"From the president and the vice president down through the neoconservatives at the Pentagon, there was a belief that Iraq was a blank slate on which the United States could impose its vision of a pluralistic democratic society," said Galbraith. "The arrogance came in the form of a belief that this could be accomplished with minimal effort and planning by the United States and that it was not important to know something about Iraq."

I am almost finished reading Galbraith's book, and the level of ignorance, incompetence, mismanagement, miscommunication, and hubris he describes in the Bush administration's approach to Iraq and the region as a whole cannot be overstated.

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