Spectators

John F Burns and Marc Santora have one of those schizophrenic stories in the New York Times in which the US once again seems to be a spectator at the game it's trying to play. They lead off with a few paragraphs of claptrap attempting, like Pontius Pilate, to wash American hands of the sorry affair. The comedic highlight:

Part of it was that the Americans, who turned him into a pariah and drove him from power, proved to be his unlikely benefactors in the face of Iraq’s new Shiite rulers who seemed bent on turning the execution and its aftermath into a new nightmare for the Sunni minority privileged under Mr. Hussein.

Some benefactors. They gave his body a helicopter ride to its home village for burial.

Some, perhaps Americans actually in Iraq, are concerned that this novel isn't turning out quite the way the dust jacket billed it.

The Shiites who predominated at the hanging began a refrain at one point of “Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!”— the name of a volatile cleric whose private militia has spawned death squads that have made an indiscriminate industry of killing Sunnis — appending it to a Muslim imprecation for blessings on the Prophet Muhammad. “Moktada,” Mr. Hussein replied, smiling contemptuously. “Is this how real men behave?”

Having been terribly coy about whom those Americans who questioned the rush to hang Saddam might be, Burns and Santora finally get around to the point:


American officials in Iraq have been reluctant to say much publicly about the pell-mell nature of the hanging, apparently fearful of provoking recriminations in Washington, where the Bush administration adopted a hands-off posture, saying the timing of the execution was Iraq’s to decide.

While privately incensed at the dead-of-night rush to the gallows, the Americans here have been caught in the double bind that has ensnared them over much else about the Maliki government — frustrated at what they call the government’s failure to recognize its destructive behavior, but reluctant to speak out, or sometimes to act, for fear of undermining Mr. Maliki and worsening the situation.



It seems that it was the Americans in Iraq who weren't so sure this farce was such a great idea. The Bushies, in Washington, Texas, and Undisclosed Locations, were evidently fine with it.



What a perfect sample this is of the moral cowardice that seems to have infected all the American military and civilian leadership in Iraq. They know that Bush is screwing up, they know that his folly is killing their soldiers, but they lack the courage to speak out and face the consequences.

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