Not On the Breakfast Menu—Humble Pie


President Bush has a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Malaki of Iraq tomorrow morning and it is not a Breakfast of Champions, but a breaking of bread among broken dreams and shattered promises.

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President Bush has a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Malaki of Iraq tomorrow morning and it is not a Breakfast of Champions, but a breaking of bread among broken dreams and shattered promises.
The dream was never Iraqi, nor were the promises. Iraq, like so much
of the world, went along to get along, both with Saddam Hussein and
invading American troops. The civil society Iraqis lived under, that
George Bush found so abhorrent, was much like the Iranian dictatorship
America forged out of its placement of the Shah of Iran at the head of
government. America armed and supported that government until the Shah
took a quick trip for medical treatment and the wheels came off.
Much depends upon whose ox is being gored.
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Suddenly, our steadfast president is deciding that the blame for
what-all has gone wrong-all in Iraq is not the fault of American
planning or execution. He is free to decide that. He is The Decider. Bush remembers (and remembers well) the words of Don Rumsfeld, that Stuff happens. In the disintegration of policy and expectation that George and Don shared, stuff finally happened to Rummy. Stuff hangs over Bush’s head these days as well.
There will be a lot on tomorrow’s breakfast menu besides scrambled
eggs and pancakes. At the top of the choices, Bush’s demand to know “What do we need to do to succeed?”
The Iraqi minister deserves better than to be asked a question George
Bush has ducked for three years. But this breakfast is not about
deserving, it’s about blaming the rape victim for being too
provocatively dressed.

“What is your strategy in
dealing with the sectarian violence? I will ask him: What is required
and what is your strategy to be a country which can govern itself and
sustain itself?”

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Bush the father once threw up in the lap of the Japanese Prime Minister. Won’t happen.
Arab stomachs are tough and it would just be too poetic, too
appropriate, to easy a rebuttal to being made victim and then blamed as
victim. What, Mr. Maliki must wonder, has brought me to this
strange table with this strange man, my country in wreckage, made
scapegoat in English. In Allah’s name, not even Arabic.

“This is a relationship of candor,” said Bush’s national security
advisor, Stephen Hadley, referring to the dialogue between the U.S.
president and the Iraqi prime minister. If candor is ‘the ability to
make judgments free from discrimination or dishonesty,’ then Hadley has
picked the wrong word for what can only be called whipping the
already-whipped.
Anthony Shadid, the Washington Post reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize for his Iraq coverage, was quoted by Maureen Dowd this past Saturday. In a recent return-visit to Iraq, he described

“the
final, frenzied maturity of once-inchoate forces unleashed more than
three years ago by the invasion. There was civil-war-style sectarian
killing, its echoes in Lebanon a generation ago. Alongside it were
gangland turf battles over money, power and survival; a raft of
political parties and their militias fighting a zero-sum game; a raging
insurgency; the collapse of authority; social services a chimera; and
no way forward for an Iraqi government ordered to act by Americans who
themselves are still seen as the final arbiter and, as a result, still
depriving that government of legitimacy. Civil war was perhaps too easy
a term, a little too tidy.”

After three years of
listening to no one, taking no counsel among Iraq’s Arab neighbors,
bull-headedly refusing to change or even modify strategy to meet field
conditions and wrecking every civil and military institution in Iraq,
Mr. Bush has dropped the whole mess into Malaki’s lap. The public
declaration of breakfast agenda, “What is your strategy?” was
followed almost immediately on Bush’s rhetorical schedule.
Metaphorically staying the course, he announced in Tallinn, Estonia

“There is one thing I’m not going to do. I am not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.”

Now we’re in for an unknown period of dying, both Iraqi and American, until a satisfactory definition of complete is rendered. This is so in the pattern of Vietnam that it matters little that George Bush avoided that war. He is living its reincarnation.
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Bush has been beaten-up by the Jordanian King, just as Cheney was
ordered to Saudi Arabia to take it on the chin from the Saudi King. One
wonders if they have yet had time to compare notes. What is it with these kings, Dick?
In any event, the Iraqi President has been meeting with both Syria and
Iran in a desperate attempt to save what little is left to save in
Iraq. American influence at this particular moment is close to nil,
although Bush tried to put a face-saving face on it.

“Iraq
is a sovereign nation which is conducting its own foreign policy.
They’re having talks with their neighbors,” he said. “If that’s what
they think they ought to do, that’s fine. I hope their talks yield
results. One result that Iraq would like to see is for the Iranians to
leave them alone. If Iran is going to be involved in their country,
they ought to be involved in a constructive way, encouraging peace.”

It’s amazing what a reversal at the American ballot-box can achieve.
The Bush presidency and the Maliki quasi-democracy are both
bankrupt. At tomorrow morning’s breakfast, one can only wonder which of
these penniless leaders will be able to pick up the check.
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