On Bush, Iraq and Vietnam

It's a strange sort of liberation when the "liberated" keep on trying to kill their liberators.

You know, I really didn't want to talk about Iraq again. But how can we avoid discussing this quagmire that your President and our Prime Minister have backed themselves into? How have our leaders managed to end up in such a mess - with American troops under attack from both Sunnis and Shi'ites? That's a great achievement, Mr. President, uniting the two warring sectors of Islam for the first time in generations ... against us.

A year ago, we were told that it was all over – "Mission Accomplished" screamed the early election banner on the aircraft carrier. Tell that to the families of the growing number of American soldiers killed in the last couple of weeks alone. Tell that to the groups of westerners randomly kidnapped in the lawless jungle that is now Iraq.

I've been trying to work out what went wrong, how we got to where we are now. Who should carry the can for this ill-fated disaster? Should it be the neo-conservative hawks like Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney who urged the overthrow of Middle Eastern regimes that didn't meet their approval? Should it be Donald Rumsfeld who overruled the generals and said Iraq could be controlled with fewer troops than the Army wanted - and look at the terrible consequences of overstretch today?

Perhaps we should blame the West's so-called voices of moderation -- shouldn't people like Colin Powell and Tony Blair have known better and insisted on, at the very least, bringing in the United Nations once Saddam's regime had collapsed? Do you realise that in just 12 weeks time, we are going to hand over power in Iraq to .... well to whom? Who on earth could run that country today as it collapses into anarchy? And why June 30th, for heaven's sake - who set that deadline, with no elections planned for months? Apart, of course, from the one in November... in the United States. Then the President can try to do to Mr Kerry what he's done to the people of Iraq.

Here in Europe, it's impossible to over-emphasise the contempt felt towards George W Bush. It stretches right across the political spectrum, from left to right. Questions about his competence and judgement fill our newspapers and airwaves every day. His political naiveté frankly staggers us. But he is right on one thing, though… when he says that there is a major difference between Iraq and Vietnam. And there is.

The war in Iraq is George W Bush's war, lock stock & barrel. I don't believe he was around for Vietnam.

By Simon Bates