Bush as Baghdad Bob?

The ol’ reliable Dutch newspaper Trouw has come up with another interesting commentary article – at first glance, at least – entitled Bush als Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf. (Yes, you understand that headline correctly. For the English translation, simply remove one strategic “l”.) Remember him? He was the “Information Minister” in Saddam Hussein’s regime, the one who never let reality get in the way of his own convictions about how the war to defend his country against Coalition forces was going. (And who still has his own fan-site.)

Frankly, Trouw (no specific author indicated) has something there. It reminds us that al-Sahhaf’s favorite phrase was “We have the situation under control.” When we have President Bush now asserting that the increased tempo of attacks and bombings in Iraq is actually a good sign, since it shows the Iraqi resistance’s desperation, the comparison with al-Sahhaf starts to sound more reasonable. It’s actually somewhat of a surprise that someone else (some Democrat, say) didn’t come up with this parallel earlier. No one else did at least as I far as I can tell, in my frequent reviews of the various European national presses. If anyone can set me straight on that, I’d be glad to hear about it, via e-mail and/or under “Comments.”

Unfortunately, after starting on this high note the editorial swiftly degenerates into an exercise in hand-wringing. Humanitarian agencies are now withdrawing from Iraq, and not only the Coalition authorities but also their “collaborators” – even the Red Cross – are being targeted. How long, Trouw asks, before Dutch “collaborators” are targeted in turn? Dutch diplomatic personnel are safe, but only because they, too, have been withdrawn out of the country. But the Dutch troops on occupation duty remain, safe up to know because the Shiites that dominate the area where they are stationed (in Southern Iraq) tolerate their presence. What happens when that toleration ceases?

It’s time to try something new, is the article’s conclusion – like a faster transfer of sovereignty to Iraqi authorities and greater involvement by the United Nations. There’s no guarantee that that approach will necessarily work, but the present course seems bound to fail. And that internationalization will have the further advantage (or so Trouw believes) of drawing involvement from countries that have so far held themselves aloof: France, Germany, Russia.

This is of course merely a newspaper editorial; it does not necessarily reflect official Dutch opinion. But the situation in Iraq will soon become even worse if America’s military allies there find similar excuses to follow the humanitarian agencies out of the country and out of danger.

(Too much gloom-and-doom? Try some comic relief, this not from the depressive Dutch but from the YEW-nited States! – although some references may offend.)

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