Without an option

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 27, 2005

School started back; my home computer is busted; and, like President Bush, I didn't consider the options before it was too late, which means I've got to give you a re-run column from November 2003.

I took out some dated stuff, but what follows has not been altered to fit the current facts. Who knows, maybe I'm wrong. Who am I kidding? I know I'm right.

As near as I can figure, President Bush and his advisors thought they would defeat the Iraqi army, establish a puppet government, and leave Iraq within a few weeks or months. When our military pulled out, behind them would be a pseudo-democratic government that would take orders from Washington and a happy Iraqi populace that loved that Bush because he freed them from tyranny and gave them freedom.

What a nice dream. What a load of…Shinola.

I’m willing to go out a limb and make a prediction. Democracy in Iraq will fail. It will fail for a variety of reasons – regional history, factional infighting, tribal loyalties, religious heritage, etc. – but one of those reasons is because the United States had no coherent plan for anything after winning the war. Not only do I foresee a failure for making Iraq a democratic nation, I can almost tell you what will happen. There are three options, as I see it:

1. A regime that is every bit as brutal, repressive and dictatorial as Saddam Hussein’s was will come to power the moment the United States military leaves Iraq. The most likely scenario is that Iraq will become an Islamic state; a theocracy that limits freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and, heck, just about all the freedoms and liberties we take for granted here and that our men and women in uniform have fought so hard to preserve.

2. With the instability in Iraq so pronounced, I think a more likely scenario is that Iraq will fall into civil war as soon as the U.S. leaves. I’m no expert on Iraq, but there are three powerful forces vying for autonomy: Sunni Muslims, Shia Muslims, and Kurds. I don’t believe the idea of democracy – which involves compromising what you want for the good of all – is strong enough in either of these groups to allow for peaceful coexistence in a government that recognizes the inherent worth of each individual, regardless of race, creed, religion, etc. In other words, they’ll fall to fighting as soon as they get the chance (translation: civil war will erupt when the U.S. military is no longer standing between them).

3. A much less likely option is that the three factions will voluntarily divide Iraq into three nations – the north ceded to the Kurds, the middle to the Sunnis and the south to the Shias – in a split similar to that which occurred when India won independence from England. (For those keeping score on that, India and Pakistan are now bitter enemies, constantly waging limited war with one another, and both now possessing nuclear weapons and the sophisticated missiles to deliver them.)

It may be several years before I’ll find out if my predictions come true. As things now stand, I can’t predict when the United States will be able to extricate itself for this mess. Frankly, I do believe that as long as President Bush is calling the shots, we are indeed, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said recently, &uot;in for a long, hard slog&uot;.

Meanwhile, because of this ill-conceived and totally unnecessary war (in terms of U.S. security) and because of poor planning and incredible stupidity by the Bush administration regarding its aftermath, the brave men and women of our armed forces will continue to be the targets of foreign terrorists, Saddam loyalists, religious fanatics and, yes (though the terminology may shock you), Iraqi freedom fighters.

War costs lives. I understand that and accept it when the cause is just. We did the right thing when we freed Kuwait with the assistance of the United Nations in the first Gulf War. We did the right thing when we invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Quada and unseat the Taliban. But Bush was wrong to go to war with Iraq and now our sons and daughters are paying a very high price for his stubborn refusal to listen to our allies.