A tragicomedy of errors

By CRAIG UNGER  |  November 20, 2007

Tanter even suggested that the United States consider using tactical nuclear weapons against Iran. “One military option is the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator, which may have the capability to destroy hardened deeply buried targets. That is, bunker-busting bombs could destroy tunnels and other underground facilities.” He granted that the Non-Proliferation Treaty bans the use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear states, such as Iran, but added that “the United States has sold Israel bunker-busting bombs, which keeps the military option on the table.” In other words, the United States couldn’t nuke Iran, but Israel, which never signed the treaty and maintains an unacknowledged nuclear arsenal, could.

If the MEK was being cast as the Iranian counterpart to the INC [Iraqi National Congress], there were more than enough Iranian and Syrian Ahmed Chalabis to go around. Reza Pahlavi, the son of the late shah, who was installed by the United States but had lost power as a result of the Islamic Revolution, was shopped around Washington as a prospective leader of Iran. And Farid Ghadry, a Syrian exile in Virginia who founded the Reform Party of Syria, was the neocon favorite to rule Syria. Ghadry has an unusual résumé for a Syrian — he’s been a member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the right-wing pro-Israel lobbying group — and has endured so many comparisons to the disgraced leader of the INC that he once sent out a mass e-mail headlined, “I am not Ahmed Chalabi.”

Nevertheless, according to a report in the American Prospect, Meyrav Wurmser introduced Ghadry to key administration figures, including the vice-president’s daughter Elizabeth Cheney, who, as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and coordinator for broader Middle East and North Africa initiatives, played a key role in the Bush administration’s policy in the region.

The biggest blow of all to Bush came on August 29, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast of Louisiana and Mississippi, killing more than 1836 people and causing more than $81 billion in damage. It was not the storm itself, of course, but the monumental incompetence of the Bush administration and its inability to manage the disaster that devastated New Orleans. Under Michael Brown’s aegis, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) failed to heed warnings that the city’s levees might be breached, failed to evacuate the city, and failed to bring housing and relief to the victims after the storm. Disengaged and ineffective, Bush, most memorably, told the director of FEMA, “Heckuva job, Brownie.”

With Katrina, whatever myths were left about Bush’s presidency had been shattered. His approval ratings plummeted to 38 percent. When New Orleans needed the National Guard, the National Guard was in Iraq. Only 34 percent of the public approved of Bush’s handling of Iraq — roughly the same percentage who had approved of LBJ’s handling of Vietnam in March of 1968.

By this time, any chances that American forces could prevail in Iraq were gone. Less than a year after the marines’ horrific siege, Fallujah had morphed into a police state patrolled by thousands of Iraqi and American troops who lived in its bombed-out buildings. But the Sunni insurgency there had somehow survived. In a 12-day stretch in late summer, 48 Americans died. They would not be the last. Bush’s fate was sealed. His presidency was an irrevocable failure.

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