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How could the American public not be confused about Iraq when our leaders speak of progress but our secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, suffers a triple humiliation, having to circle Baghdad airport for 40 minutes because of mortar and rocket fire, then being helicoptered into the city because driving the deadly bomb-strewn highway is too dangerous, and, finally, having to meet with the Iraqi president in the dark because the power has cut off yet again?
Nobody was entitled to think the Iraq venture would be roses all the way, given that Saddam Hussein had repressed Iraqis for three decades, depriving the nation of a cadre of local leaders like, say, Hamid Karzai in Kabul. But we had a vision of what might have been achieved. It would not be too much to say it was a noble vision, but it was not one grounded in the hard reality of a fractured, multiethnic society. Saddam held his citizens down by brutality and cunning, not giving religious leaders a key role, as we did, yet subtly balancing religious rivalries one against the other. Shiites account for some 60 percent of Iraq's population, and for them democracy means empowerment. But the Sunnis, who had dominated under Saddam for so long, were never going to accept minority status, and the Kurds were not going to accept anything less than de facto sovereignty, which they obtained after the 1991 Gulf War.
Occupiers. Alas, whatever chances we may have had to overcome these difficulties have been torpedoed by the breathtaking incompetence of the Bush administration in managing postwar Iraq. Senior officials from the president on down ignored warnings that we might win the war and lose the peace. Gen. Tommy Franks won the battle for Baghdad but seemed to feel that planning for the postwar period was someone else's job. But whose? We sent an inept group of operatives to run Iraq, often appointed because of their political leanings. Whatever support we originally enjoyed there we began to lose when we allowed criminals to rampage. Then the Americans, fabled for their can-do efficiency, failed again and again to deliver electricity, water, and, most critically, security. Today, the violence is estimated by one account to have cost more than 600,000 Iraqis their lives.
<US President George Bush has reiterated his position that the US administration does not condone torture, following comments by Vice President Dick Cheney. In a radio interview, Mr Cheney said the simulated drowning of terrorism suspects during questioning in order to save American lives was a "no-brainer".
His comments have provoked outrage from anti-torture and human rights groups.
When asked about the remark, President Bush said that the United States does not use torture and was not going to.
The BBC's Matt Wells in Washington says Mr Cheney's comment was made on Tuesday but only came to light on Friday, exacerbated by a stormy and confrontational White House press briefing.
The conservative radio host, Scott Hennen, asked Mr Cheney if he agreed that "a dunk in water is a no-brainer" if it would unearth information of pending attacks and save lives.
Mr Cheney replied: "Well, it's a no-brainer for me." He went on to say that he was not condoning torture but said you can have a robust interrogation programme without torture.
Mr Cheney is assumed by human rights groups to have been referring to "water boarding" - a technique in which suspects are made to think that they are drowning.
When asked about the vice-president's comments, Mr Bush said the administration had no intention of torturing suspects, but he has repeatedly refused to specify which techniques are being used.
The White House gave the impression that water boarding would be off limits in pushing through a controversial terror bill just a few weeks ago, our correspondent says.
The US executive director of Amnesty International said Mr Cheney's gaffe revealed the US administration's true intentions for prisoner interrogation in the future.
"What's really a no-brainer is that no US official, much less a vice president, should champion torture," said Larry Cox.
US interrogation techniques have been under the spotlight since evidence emerged of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the existence of secret CIA prisons. >
Monday early and Canoodle is whining already. Any time you want to step up with a plan for the Iraq Missadventure, be my guest. Any time you want to stop whining and address my points and those of the esteemed pundits I have shared, be my guest. Of course if your preference is to ignore and whine, expect me to continue to point that out as well. BTW, are you related to Rummy or something.