A Bully Puppet 

Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is rising a notch in my estimation. He's begun to snap back at his American critics. Bully for him.

Arrogant American politicians, in calling for his ouster, shed all pretense of any interest in democracy. Clearly, they see themselves as imperial overlords dissatisfied with someone they consider an American stooge. American generals even now are starting to talk about the need for a dictator, though they don't use that term. Maybe, they are telling journalists, democracy for Iraq wasn't such a good idea after all.

Nevertheless, al-Maliki is the legitimately chosen head of a legitimately elected government. It's not up to American senators and presidential candidates to decide who should be prime minister of Iraq. These empty-headed windbags wouldn't dream of calling for the ouster of the British prime minister. That they so readily do so in the case of Iraq simply shows you how they disdain the democracy they claim to support.

In fairness to al-Maliki, it should be pointed out that the much-publicized hand-over of "sovereignty" to the Iraqi government was and is a sham. Iraq's army has to answer to the Americans, not to the Iraqi government. Iraq has no intelligence agency. The intelligence agency was set up and is run by the CIA. The U.S. is still the occupier of Iraq, and there is relatively little freedom of the Iraqi government to set its own policies.

Add to that the fact that the Iraqi government, regardless of who leads it, is stuck with a country that we "bombed back into the pre-industrial age," to use the boastful phrase of General Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War. Then, with our singularly inept attempt at occupation, we fired its government and its army.

If every member of the Iraqi parliament had a genius IQ, they'd have a hard time digging themselves out of the hole we dug for the country.

The Iraqi fiasco is a black comedy — black because of the tragic loss of life and suffering it has caused, but a comedy nevertheless because of the Three Stooges-type antics of American officials, beginning with President Bush.

The president has misled and continues to mislead the American people in an attempt to rationalize his failed policy. His pathetically juvenile claim that the terrorists would follow Americans home if the U.S. withdrew from Iraq is laughable. Al-Qaeda declared war on us long before we did it the enormous favor of invading Iraq, thus both reinforcing al-Qaeda's propaganda and providing it with a new recruitment and training ground.

Bush's ill-fated war has not only increased the stock of the world's terrorists, it replaced a Sunni-led government with a Shiite-led government that is close to Iran. You couldn't screw this situation up any worse than if you had let Osama bin Laden plan the invasion. I have never seen such a stupid administration as this one.

And make no mistake — there is no easy solution or way out of this morass. Just as so many knowledgeable people, both here and in the Middle East, warned the president beforehand, Bush has set loose the wild dogs of war — chaos and havoc in a previously stable region — and he doesn't have any idea at all of how to round them up.

I long ago predicted the end result of this blundering around would be a new dictatorship, because a brutally strong central authority is the only way Iraq's feuding factions can be controlled. This time, however, it likely will be someone allied to Iran.

Iraq's misery and difficulties remind me of a quotation from a Turkish officer, who said, "The trouble with being an ally of the United States is that you can never tell when it's going to decide to stab itself in the back."

Amen.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 50 years.

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