Sunday, March 19, 2006

Kanan Makiya

Sullivan calls attention to this attention-worthy December 2005 interview with Kanan Makiya. Makiya bravely called attention to Saddam's crimes in the 1990s, when doing so could get you killed and most in the West just weren't that concerned about them. He also was part of the "Iraqi Opposition" before the war and witnessed at close range the running of it by the White House.

His observations confirm what a lot of people who watched it from greater distance seemed to be sensing:

"You either do an occupation and you do it well, or you don't do it in the first place. But you don't do it in a half-assed way, with inadequate troop levels to boot!
The United States government never deployed enough troops. It opted for an occupation but didn't provide the wherewithal to do the job properly. Here again is this tension between the Pentagon and the Department of State. State wants an occupation, but Rumsfeld — who has theories about how to conduct warfare in the modern age with less and less troops — never wanted an occupation. In fact, he may never even have been for Iraqi democratisation. He was just an in-and-out kind of a guy. It was the other people within the defence department, in particularly the really extraordinary figure of Paul Wolfowitz, who argued the political case for democracy."

It reminded me of a snippet that's been lodged in my head from a December '03 article in the Observer on Ann Clwyd, the left-wing British MP who backed Blair over Iraq for humanitarian reasons. In it, she told of a meeting with Wolfowitz in the Pentagon in May of that year.

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, and as far as many in the anti-war coalition are concerned the man most to blame for events in Iraq, put his head around the door. 'You're the man with the brains,' he said cheerily, gesturing to his deputy. 'I'm just the office boy.'

It might have seemed like just a jaunty self-effacing remark at the time, or praise for the now-departed-from-the-Pentagon Wolfowitz. But now it seems like deep irony.

Sullivan adds:

But Rumsfeld trumped Wolfowitz. My own view is that Cheney and Rumsfeld had and still have no interest in democratization, and have been "to-hell-with-them hawks" from Day One.

Right. When I see Cheney listed among the "neo-cons." I get cartoon question marks over my head. I mean, the term is amorphous and undefinable, but I feel like I know one when I see one, and Cheney's not one. Never was.

Sullivan continues:

But the real responsibility lies with the president who, as Makiya points out, seemed unable to lead decisively. Makiya is admirably frank about his own mistakes as well - particularly his misreading of the state of the Iraqi army in the last days of Saddam, which, by the time of invasion, had already basically disintegrated. But that new insight leads us to a better understanding of the last three years, and where we are now:

"When the war came the army did not fight. There was no Iraqi defeat in 2003 in the sense there was a defeat of the Nazis or the Japanese armies in World War Two. The army just disintegrated. There was no war of liberation in that sense. Our liberation and our civil war are occurring now, simultaneously, so to speak."

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