July 19 2006
Arianna Huffington: The Blog
Deadly Disconnect: Iraq Reality vs Bush Administration Fantasy
After the last three years, I didn't think I could be surprised by the level of cluelessness exhibited by the Bush administration when it comes to Iraq. Then I picked up this morning's New York Times.
But before we get to the jaw-dropping money quote that leaves no doubt the Bushies continue to view Iraq through zealots' eyes, let's start with a bracing shot of reality: the United Nations report on Iraq [pdf] released yesterday.
It paints a devastating -- and wrenchingly specific -- portrait of a country in bloody chaos.
First the numbers: 14,338 civilians killed in the first half of 2006. And, according to the UN report, civilian carnage is on "an upward trend," with more than 5,800 deaths and 5,700 injuries in the last two months. Indeed, on average, more than 100 Iraqi civilians were killed per day in June -- the highest monthly total since U.S. forces took control of Baghdad.
The report also puts a human face on those numbers and on the rampant violence raging in the country. It offers examples of homosexuals who have been targeted by militias and death squads because of their sexual orientation. And it's not just gays facing intolerance. The UN cites the case of an Iraqi tennis coach and two of his players who were gunned down in Baghdad because... they were wearing shorts! Forget the fashion police; we're talking fashion assassins. Others were targeted because their hair styles or facial hair didn't conform to the rules of the extremists now in control on both sides of the sectarian divide.
And according to the report, women have lost many of the freedoms they used to enjoy. In parts of Baghdad, they "are now prevented from going to the markets alone." They've also been warned not to drive cars and have been harassed for wearing pants. What's more, a new regulation dictates that women wishing to apply for a passport or travel abroad must be accompanied by their husbands or another male member of their family. And not wearing a headscarf can now mean being targeted for attack -- all the more troubling for the tens of thousands of non-Muslim Iraqi women.
The report also details kidnappings and acts of violence directed at children, including the chilling tale of a 12 year old boy named Osama who was kidnapped, raped, and grotesquely murdered -- hanged by his own clothing -- even though his family paid a $30,000 ransom.
This report is dripping in blood and suffering -- a stark reminder of the turmoil our failed invasion of Iraq has wrought. A point driven home yet again by Tuesday's suicide bombing in Kufa that saw at least 57 killed and 105 wounded when a man, on the pretext of offering work, drew a crowd of day laborers to his vehicle then blew them all up.
Which brings us back to the Bush administration's refusal to allow facts to interfere with its Iraq delusions. The latest proof of this deadly disconnect from reality comes courtesy of U.S. energy secretary Sam Bodman, and can be found buried near the end of the New York Times' story on the UN report.
According to the Times, Bodman, who is in Baghdad meeting with Iraq's oil and electricity ministers, "had a rosy view of progress here since his last visit in 2003."
Here is what Bodman told the Times "in an interview in the fortified Green Zone": "The situation seems far more stable than when I was here two or three years ago. The security seems better, people are more relaxed. There is optimism, at least among the people I talked to."
Raising the question: Just who the hell was he talking to? "People are more relaxed"? "There is optimism"? "The security seems better"? What country was he describing? Surely not the one he was sitting in.
Security in the meeting rooms of the garrisoned Green Zone may be better than it was in 2003, but the rest of Iraq is descending into what one Sunni leader described as "nothing less than an undeclared civil war."
"God knows what comes next," read a statement released by the Iraqi Islamic Party in reaction to the escalating violence. The group urged the nation's leaders "to lead Iraq out of this dark tunnel."
But while those in the midst of the mayhem see a dark tunnel, those in the Bush administration continue to see nothing but blue skies. Even as suicide bombs explode and the 2006 civilian death toll races toward 15,000, for the Bushies it's all relaxation and optimism.
Unbelievable. And sickening. And clueless, clueless, clueless.