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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Our View

What plan for Iraq?

Are we in, or are we out?

When it comes to Iraq, this is the $65 billion question to which both Americans and Iraqis want and need an answer.

President George W. Bush repeats his mantra daily, "We will stay the course."

But what is the course?

The Bush Administration says it will turn over control to a new Iraqi government in June. Beyond that, the administration looks like a deer in the headlights, surprised and frozen by the unexpected.

Less than a month before the handoff, itís still unclear just who or what that government will be, if it will be or if it can survive.

America is now embroiled in what may be the most devastating public relations debacle in its history. Photographs of American soldiers humiliating and abusing hooded and naked Iraqi prisoners have shaken the worldís confidence in Americaís ability to rebuild Iraq. The revolting photographs have also rocked confidence in how President Bush has handled Iraq.

A new report released by the International Committee of the Red Cross found that mistreatment of prisoners was not limited to Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, where the photos were taken. The report says that such abuses were widespread and routine.

Ironically, the same day the report was released, President Bush said that the nation owes Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld a "debt of gratitude" instead of a pink slip. We wonder.

Nothing in post-war Iraq has gone as predicted. After Saddam and his Republican Guards fled, President Bush said that peace and democracy would flourish. What has ensued couldnít contrast more with that rosy picture.

Clerics-come-lately have organized insurgents to fight Americans, apparently because they want to institute their own oppressive religious regimes. Insurgents now claim Fallujah, where Americans voluntarily turned over control to Iraqis after American contractors were killed and publicly dismembered, as a great victory.

The Shiites and the Sunnis, who hate only Americans more than they hate one another, continue their centuries-old blood feuds in their spare time when theyíre not taking potshots at Americans.

Moderate Iraqis have not stepped into the middle of the fray to help lead the way to peace. Most are hunkered down with no idea who may emerge to govern Iraq. And, itís hard to blame them.

America is in for a long haul. It must be. Weíve been in for two years, and will probably be there for twelve. There is no graceful, easy or bloodless way out.

Itís tempting to want to leave and let Iraqis deal with the aftermath. But Pol Potís shadow looms large over that idea. When the U.S. fled from Vietnam, Pol Potís brutal dictatorship took hold in bordering Cambodia and the killing fields were piled high with the skulls of ordinary people. If America leaves, Iraq can expect a similar fate.

Americaís departure could also give courage to terrorists who will find welcome and recruits in a divided Iraq.

Military strategists close to the Bush administration are now coming forward to say that the president led the nation into Iraq with no plan for the worst case scenarios.

Itís time someone in leadership came up with one. Delivering it tomorrow would not be too soon.


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The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.