Monday, April 21, 2008

The Potemkin Village of Iraq

Now it's Condoleezza Rice's turn to take a hand in putting up the false front the Bush Administration is trying to construct and pass off as "victory." She follows President Bush last September, Vice President Cheney and the war's heir apparent, John McCain, last month in projecting a perception of peace with smoke and mirrors.

In a surprise trip this weekend, the Secretary of State cheerleads "a coalescing of a center in Iraqi politics in which the Sunni leadership, the Kurdish leadership, and elements of the Shiite leadership that are not associated with these special groups have been working together better than at any time before."

The "special groups" are militias of the Mahdi Army. If the central government continues to attack them, as it did ineptly in Basra this month only to be bailed out by US forces, al-Sadr is threatening "all-out war."

While Rice hailed the coalescing, there were three rocket attacks--the first as she was meeting with Maliki at his office, another while returning to the Green Zone from a meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talibani, a third that delayed a ceremony at which she unveiled a plaque commemorating civilian deaths in the Green Zone.

The Secretary's trip recalls President Bush's visit to Anbar province last September to exult over "success" against al Qaeda, achieved by the influx of Surge troops and buying off Sunni tribal leaders. But the Surge troops can't stay forever and, when they leave, will the Sunnis stay bought?

To all the blood and billions being poured into Iraq, add the time and attention of an Administration that should be attending to threats elsewhere in the world and a collapsing economy back home.

But their priorities are clear: Cobble together a Potemkin village of peace in Iraq to help keep the White House in Republican hands and delay the reckoning they will have to face when the American people get a good look behind the fa├žade of "victory" at the wreckage they have created there.

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