Are the media dumb or just out to lunch? Sorry to be intemperate, but how else can one explain the meager attention paid to the truly historic visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Iraq? Not only is he the first Mideast head of state to visit the country since its alleged liberation, but the very warm official welcome offered by the Iraqi government to the most vociferous critic of the United States speaks volumes to the abject failure of the Bush doctrine.
On Tuesday, Condoleezza Rice reiterated the administration's position that Iran is behind the turmoil that has engulfed the Mideast from Beirut to Baghdad and, most recently, Israel, where what she claims are Iranian-supplied rockets have totally destroyed the belated Bush peace plan. There is also the matter of Iran's nuclear program, which President Bush condemned once again over the weekend. But what leverage does the United States have over Iran when, as the image of Ahmadinejad holding hands with the top leaders of Iraq demonstrated to the world, we have put the disciples of the Iranian ayatollahs in power in Baghdad? There is no face-saving exit from Iraq without the cooperation of Tehran, and the folks who call America the "Great Satan" now hold the high cards.
How interesting that Ahmadinejad, unlike a U.S. president who has to be airlifted unannounced into ultra-secure bases, was able to convoy in from the airport in broad daylight on a road that U.S. dignitaries fear to travel. His love fest with Iraq President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd who fought on Iran's side against Iraq and who speaks Farsi, even took place outside of the safety of the Green Zone, adding emphasis to Ahmadinejad's claim that while he is welcome in Iraq, the Americans are not.
Nor did the Iraqi leaders take exception to Ahmadinejad's insistence that the U.S. has only brought terror to the region and that the continued American presence is the main obstacle to peace. On the contrary, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki pronounced his talks with fellow Shiite Ahmadinejad "friendly, positive and full of trust." Video of Talabani, who asked that Ahmadinejad call him "Uncle Jalal" after holding hands and exchanging kisses with the Iranian president, was broadcast throughout the region.
Saddam Hussein went to war with Iran, but George W. Bush has given his Iranian foes a Shiite-run ally. Iran is now a major trading partner of Iraq that has offered a $1 billion loan, the border is increasingly porous as religious pilgrimages have become the norm, and many investment projects supervised by Iranians are in the works. Instead of isolating the "rogue regime" of Iran, the Bush administration has catapulted the theocrats of Tehran into the center of Mideast political power. There can be no peace, whether in Lebanon, Gaza or Iraq, without the cooperation of the ayatollahs of Iran. If that was the intention of the neoconservative cabal that led Bush into this folly, its members should be tried for treason.
That was, however, obviously not what the neocons expected from the invasion of Iraq, which they engineered in the wake of 9/11 with a much rosier scenario in mind. The saying that there is no need to attribute to mendacity what can be explained by ordinary stupidity aptly defines the neoconservative folly. Clearly the neocons were conned by the likes of Ahmed Chalabi, the rogue banker accused by the CIA of slipping U.S. secrets to Tehran, into believing that a "liberated" Iraq would advance democracy in the region, not to mention the security of Israel. That the opposite has occurred is no big problem for them as they emerge with their careers intact.
The leading neocon publicist, William Kristol, has even been rewarded for never getting it right with a premier spot on the New York Times opinion pages, so yes, in the punditry business, one does fail upward.
But for Bush, his signature issue, the battle against terrorism, is a shambles. The terrorists are very much on the rise in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which Bush neglected for an Iraq sideshow that has cost over a trillion dollars and tens of thousands of lives. But the long-run price will be far higher, with the blowback from the massive instability that he has engendered in the region.
When Bush has finally retired to that ranch, cutting sagebrush to his heart's content, his all-consuming smugness might ever so subtly be troubled by the memory of a father who knew best, and who warned against the terminal foolishness of seizing Baghdad.