The gruesome events in Iraq on the day before April Fool’s Day are a painful confirmation of what the elder President Bush foretold would happen if Uncle Sam decided to go after Saddam Hussein and remove him from office.
On March 31, four American civilians working for a security firm in Falluja, Iraq, were ambushed and killed. The victims’ bodies were burned. The corpses were dragged through the streets while jubilant mobs demonstrated their frenzied delight. At least two of the bodies were then put on public display, hanging from the rafters of a bridge over the Euphrates River.
Meanwhile, just a few miles away, five American soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb ripped through their armored personnel carrier. All this happened almost a year after the war against Iraq started and, significantly, after Saddam had been captured by American forces.
Could or would anyone have prophesied such an outburst of outrage on the part of a people we were “liberating”? The answer: yes. And the name of the prophet is George H.W. Bush.
In 1998, some seven years after the Gulf War, Bush and his national security adviser, Brent Scowcroft, wrote a book, “A World Transformed,” in which they gave several reasons why they did not go after Saddam and get rid of him. One of the reasons was confirmed by the recent events in Falluja. “Had we gone the invasion route,” they wrote, “the U.S. could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.”
Bush and Scowcroft had no illusions that Uncle Sam would be hailed by the Iraqi people as their liberator. Over centuries, Iraq (once called Mesopotamia) was overrun by the Greeks, the Persians, the British, each proclaiming that it was bringing a superior culture to the people of the oldest civilization on earth. When Uncle Sam, with bayonet pointing, proclaimed the same, the Iraqi people reacted with violent opposition.
This must have come as a startling surprise to Donald Rumsfeld, our secretary of defense. Just after the war in Iraq started, Rumsfeld predicted that it would be over in a few weeks, maybe months. And he was right — in a formal sense. After heavy bombing, American troops took over almost without any resistance. And the current President Bush declared “mission accomplished.”
At that time, as some of our readers may recall, I wrote a column im which I wrote: “When Rumsfeld made his original prediction he was thinking of a formal war which ends when American occupation troops take over the government of Iraq. But, by now, Rumsfeld must know that such an end is very likely to turn into the beginning of the real war — the war between the occupying armies and the well-trained, well-armed, well-equipped and highly motivated terrorists who will look upon the occupiers as so many sitting ducks.” Most regrettably, the events of the last few days confirm the warning of Papa Bush.
Meanwhile the down-to-earth pols in both the Republican and Democratic parties are wondering whether the recent anti-American outbursts in Iraq are helping or hurting Bush’s campaign for re-election. Will the recent events justify the war for “regime change” in Iraq, or will we finally end up with a regime change in the United States — or both?