We finally got some good news from George W. Bush. We haven’t had very much since he stood on an aircraft carrier a year ago and declared the war in Iraq was over. Now, we learn, the occupation, which turned out to be bloodier than the war, is also shutting down. So much for the cynics who’ve been predicting a quagmire.
“The occupation will end,” Bush said. And it will end five weeks from now, on June 30, the president assured us Monday night as he addressed the nation. And talk about Resolve! Nothing will deter this president once his mind is made up.
This bloody occupation will end even though a bare month out from the hand-over of what Bush now claims is “full sovereignty,” no one can say exactly who the recipients of all that state power actually will be. A mere detail. The important thing is that someone, anyone, we assume, will be there to accept sovereignty. The occupation will end, but Bush says we will keep at least 135,000 troops in Iraq for the foreseeable future. And if his commanders ask for more, Bush says: “I will send them.” It might stretch our reserves paper thin, and maybe we’ll need a draft to muster enough troops. But at least they won’t be occupation troops. And we already know they won’t be at war.
The occupation will end — even before we know if the Iraqi people will recognize the authority of the 28-person sovereign government to be named this week by the U.N. envoy. It will end, though Bush made no mention of what, if any, status-of-forces agreement will be worked out with the new phantom regime in Baghdad. Maybe the American troops will take orders from the new Iraqi government. Or maybe it will be the other way around. So what? So long as the occupation itself is ending.
The task of defending the new Iraqi government will now be the burden of a newly minted Iraqi national police and security force. Military experts say it would take a minimum of three years to properly train even a modest corps. But the occupation will nevertheless end in five short weeks.
The U.N., once declared “irrelevant” by this administration’s wise men, will now be asked to send in a multinational force. But the U.N. has no troops, and Bush said nothing about convoking an emergency summit of the European Allies. But no need for panic, as the occupation is ending.
Now that the occupation is about over, elections are coming too. That’s great news. Almost as great as learning that the war and
the occupation are over. We’re not quite sure
yet who will guarantee security for such an exercise of civil responsibility. On the other hand, we didn’t need any 20 years ago in El Salvador when that country’s first U.S.-backed vote went ahead under a rain of bullets and mortars. It worked for the Salvadorans, why
not for the Iraqis? In the meantime, three people this past weekend were killed trying to get in and out of Baghdad’s highly secure Green Zone. If only they could have waited a month — because that’s when the occupation will be over.
Now that the war is over, the old-time Baath Saddamistas have been empowered by the U.S. command to keep law and order in Fallujah. American troops and aircraft shot up the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf and finally have al-Sadr’s militia on the run. And military observers say there are only four or five more militias like his that still need to be rolled up. And, yes, the president says, there might even be a brief uptick in violence after the new interim government is seated. But it can’t last very long, because the occupation will soon be over. And when the occupation ends, American troops, however many will still be in the country, will no longer be targets. That’s also great news, as the American casualties — including killed and injured — now top 5,000.
The Iraqi-prison-torture scandal is inevitably rising up the Pentagon command chain and currently laps at the desks of the top brass. Some three dozen deaths while in U.S custody are now under investigation. And U.S. military and political authorities may have willfully deceived the International Red Cross and flagrantly violated the Geneva Conventions. But that’s all overshadowed now by the president’s announcement that — as the occupation ends — we will now demolish the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. Indeed, Bush got so excited in making the announcement he pronounced the name of the facility three different ways in one paragraph. (Just like another Texan president, four decades ago, would get all scrambled up as he discoursed on all the good news pouring out from “Veet-Nam.”)
The cable networks framed the president’s speech — the first of five weekly addresses — as if he were announcing D-day. CNN ran a countdown clock during the entire afternoon leading up to the speech. That dramatizing can be forgiven, or at least understood, as no doubt many millions of Americans were tuning in to find out when this mess was going to be over and when their sons and daughters would be coming home.
Soon enough, it turns out. Because the occupation is just about over.
Inexplicably, the Big Three networks snubbed the president and refused to carry his speech. Demonstrating its well-known contempt for the American people, NBC, for example, went ahead with its regularly scheduled programming, another episode of Fear Factor. Apparently the network suits thought that people sucking on goat balls and eating hippo eyes would be less offensive to their audience than broadcasting Bush’s speech. Cynics!