A Hungarian Look at the Mess in Iraq

What’s the hot story these days? Clearly, the coordinated, so-called “Ramadan bombings” which took place in Baghdad yesterday. From my wanderings among the on-line European press today, I know that there’s been plenty of reporting of those (and even actual commentary, here and there) all over the place, in every and any nation’s press you like.

You can get a good selection of reporting and commentary from English-language sources from around the globe here, if you subscribe to Salon. Non-English-language sources, you say? For that, you know you’ve come to the right place. But if I have to review reporting about the Ramadan bombings myself, then I think I’ll take the opportunity to return, after a long absence, to the Hungarian press. The leading Hungarian daily Népszabadság has an interesting article entitled “Why Are We in Vietnam Again?”, and sub-titled “Saddam Has Returned: He Profits from the Occupiers’ Damaging/Harmful Behavior.”

In general, this is a tale of American woe in Iraq, sub-divided with section-headings like “The Body-Bag [Will Be] ‘Problematic’ in the Election Campaign” and “Bush, Like a Cowboy, in the Valley of Death with Blinders On.” And it makes generous and direct use of sources from the American media. That “cowboy with blinders” heading is derived from last week’s New Yorker cover, which apparently depicted Bush on horseback with blinders on his head rather than that of the horse. For that matter, the very title of Népszabadság’s piece is also the title of a recent essay in the New York Times by in-house columnist Frank Rich.

That string of coordinated suicide-bombings yesterday in Baghdad was, after all, the bloodiest day in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein last April. Even before those events American doubts were emerging, as embodied in the famous leaked memorandum from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warning that US forces still had a “long and hard grind” (“hosszú és kemény gürcölés“) ahead of them. Yesterday’s tragedies bore out the fact that Rumsfeld was correct, writes the Népszabadság writer (identified only as “G.M.”), and also that the situation in Iraq has been reported rather too optimistically ever since the end of the actual war.

The parallels with the American experience in Vietnam are inescapable, and are accordingly starting to appear in the press and in American public discourse generally – just when there’s a presidential election coming up! In response, Bush seems to be playing a game of “double or nothing”; the newspaper speculates that the immediate stimulus for Rumsfeld’s written (but ostensibly secret) cri de coeur was the shifting of much responsibility for what goes in Iraq from his Pentagon to the National Security Council under Condolezza Rice. Whether that will help things or not remains to be seen, but it is at least clear (as the newspaper quotes eminent Stanford historian David Kennedy) that Bush will be in much less of a position to escape the blame if it does not.

And so on: 214 American soldiers killed (a rate of about 2 per day) since Bush declared an end to hostilities last May, more than 2,000 injured, and a bill of $87 billion that is surely not going to be the last word. Contrast this with estimates from last March that Iraq would be “child’s play” (Rumsfeld) and would demand only $1.7 billion for military hostilities and the occupation – not to mention the whole issue of the missing weapons of mass destruction – and you have an American electorate which is starting to believe in increasing numbers that it was duped into this whole affair.

But the part I find particularly interesting, and that I haven’t read elsewhere, is at the end, under the heading “While Bush’s Position Wobbles, Saddam Gains Reputation Anew” (the one down at the end that starts with Míg Bush . . .). According to this series of paragraphs, Saddam Hussein himself is the one personally directing the Iraqi resistance, making use of caches of weapons and money that were put in place over decades for just this eventuality. Népszabadság quotes a number of leading Shiite figures to this effect. What is more, he still can count on a wide network of supporters within the country, not only members of his Baath party (formerly numbering 2 million) but also foreign volunteers who have come to Iraq to fight the occupiers. If this is right, then Bush and Rumsfeld will have failed so far to even accomplish what was the ultimate purpose of the war they unleashed on Iraq: to wipe Saddam Hussein from the history books.

Digg This
Reddit This
Stumble Now!
Buzz This
Vote on DZone
Share on Facebook
Bookmark this on Delicious
Kick It on DotNetKicks.com
Shout it
Share on LinkedIn
Bookmark this on Technorati
Post on Twitter
Google Buzz (aka. Google Reader)

Comments are closed.