Friday, August 24, 2007

Maliki, Duplicitous, Murderously Sectarian Must Go

The Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, may be even more dangerous to both U.S. interests and a viable Iraq than the somber U.S. intelligence analysis released on Thursday makes him out to be.

That Maliki is duplicitous, an incompetent and an ally of Shiite militias that have been, just as Al-Qaeda and others, instrumental in propagating ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence in Iraq has long been clear. It was probably a mistake for President Bush not to dump him long ago, and seek a better government, more under U.S. guidance.

Now, we shouldn't wait.

In the last two weeks, Maliki has gone to both Iran and Syria and clasped to his bosom the thugs who dominate both countries. He held hands in Tehran with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and then he went to Syria, where he pandered to Bashir Assad, and publicly suggested that if the U.S. was going to be critical of him, he could find friends "elsewhere."

This makes it clear that Maliki is on the brink of publicly joining with forces in the Middle Eastern who are antithetical to American interests in an increasingly foreboding situation. If our long, costly effort in Iraq is not to end in failure, we can go no further with him.

Unfortunately, for the Bush Administration, these inescapable conclusions come at a time when many Americans are fed up with the war and everything that has gone along with it. Many Americans would like to give it up as a bad cause and get out. And yet, at the same time, the "surge" of U.S. forces in recent months, has improved the situation in Iraq from a strictly military point of view. There are reports in the New York Times, of all newspapers, this weekend that even some Democratic members of Congress visiting Iraq recently have been impressed by the military progress.

Leaving now would probably lead us into a worse situation than we are in already. It is intolerable to think of the consequences of a precipitate American withdrawal from Iraq -- a perceived victory for Al Qaeda, a turning of the sectarian conflict between Shiites and Sunnis into outright genocide, and, elsewhere in the Middle East including oil rich Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, a destabilization fatal to U.S. and Western interests.

Considerable attention is being paid today to the call yesterday by Sen. John Warner (R-Va.) to initiate a limited withdrawal of some of the U.S. forces in Iraq at present, to, as he puts it, send the Iraqis a message that the American commitment is not open-ended.

This has to be debated in Washington. But it could well be that even a small U.S. retreat at this stage would precipitate a downward spiral in the Middle East that would soon go beyond our control. (Editorials, such as the one in the L.A. Times Sunday calling for peace talks with United Nations help, are starring-eyed in the extreme. There is no one to talk peace with, and, if there were, the UN would be as utterly useless here as it has been nearly everywhere else).

No one, however, can really quarrel with one conclusion drawn by Warner and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), after a visit to Iraq last week: Our relationship with Maliki has reached a dead end.

We just can't wait at this stage. Maliki must go, and be replaced with someone who will follow our lead in seeking to bring the main factions in Iraq, the Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds, toward reconciliation. Otherwise, tomorrow will be worse than today, and today is bad enough.

Getting rid of him may not be easy, smooth or democratic, but at this point it is our best, and even most honorable, option.


There is no more contemptible crime in our democracy than assassination, and I've always felt assassins, or would-be assassins, should receive the maximum penalty allowed under law, that at the very least they should never be released. So I'm sorry to hear that Arthur Bremer, would-be assassin of Alabama Gov. George C. Wallace when he was running for President in 1972, is due soon to be released from prison in the state of Maryland.

Regardless of how we felt about Wallace, he did not deserve to be paralyzed for life by the act of this psychotic man. And, while there may be only a slight danger, the danger that others, seeing Bremer walk free, even after 35 years, may be tempted to become copycats and try to commit other assassinations is present.

The crime of assassination is a crime against every voter in the United States. According to a Baltimore Sun story today, Bremer in his diaries described the motive of his assassination was to give him fame similar to the assassins of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King. This is an offense that should not be forgiven.



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