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GLOBE EDITORIAL

Ugly truths about Iraq

IT SHOULD not be surprising that a classified National Intelligence Estimate completed late last month projects three scenarios for Iraq over the next year and a half that range from dicey to disastrous -- from fragile stability to civil war among Sunni Arabs, Shi'ites, and Kurds.

What is surprising is that President Bush and Vice President Cheney nevertheless go on campaigning on the false pretense that their Iraq policy has been a great success.

It is no defense for Bush and Cheney to say that Iraqis and the world are better off with Saddam Hussein behind bars and his clique of mass murderers removed from power. Nor is it enough to claim that there are some positive indicators of an incipient Iraqi civil society coalescing in the country.

The suicide bombs, the roadside bombs, the ambushes, kidnappings, and assassinations -- all these assaults on Iraqis and foreigners show a nation in violent disorder. This continuing mayhem, which casts doubt on the possibility of holding elections for an Iraqi National Assembly in January 2005, also casts light on the unmistakable failures of the Bush administration's efforts at peacemaking and nation-building in postwar Iraq.

Even Republican senators at a Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearing Wednesday scored the administration. "Our committee heard blindly optimistic people from the administration prior to the war and people outside the administration -- what I call the `dancing in the street crowd' -- that we just simply will be greeted with open arms," said the committee's chairman, Richard Lugar of Indiana. "The nonsense of all that is apparent. The lack of planning is apparent." Lugar's committee was addressing the administration's inexcusable failure thus far to spend more than 6 percent of the $18.4 billion appropriated for reconstruction in Iraq. Because of the same lack of planning that Lugar lamented, the administration is now asking to shift more than $3 billion from those reconstruction funds to pay for the training of badly needed Iraqi security forces.

This need, Lugar noted, was known to the administration last July. Yet no request to transfer funds has been made until now.

Bush and Cheney are acting as though they believe that statecraft is no different from campaigning -- that in both spheres it is possible to deny reality and pay no penalty. Americans and Iraqis are paying a high price for that illusion. 

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