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Unnecessary War, 

Dysfunctional Occupation

This first-person narrative by journalist Aaron Glantz shows how the Bush administration's strategies, if they can be called that, resulted in the current tragic mess in Iraq.

Those of us who remember the Vietnam War recall such terms as "light at the end of the tunnel," "stay the course," "quagmire," "credibility gap." Administration officials and senior military officers used the first two terms to indicate that a US victory was in sight. Critics of the war used "quagmire" to describe what the US had gotten itself into, and "credibility gap" to portray our government's refusal to be honest about the Vietnam fiasco. Now, "quagmire" has reappeared in Iraq although we don't hear Bush officials and senior military officers confidently claiming to see the light at the end of the Iraqi tunnel. Even some Republicans, including North Carolina's conservative US Rep. Walter Jones, are urging the Bush administration to start planning for US military withdrawal.

Glantz's book focuses on the dysfunctional US occupation of Iraq. He shows how one of the US's biggest failures was when we allowed mobs to loot Iraq's arms caches; Glantz describes an open-air machine gun market where no one asked where the looted Kalashnikovs had suddenly come from. American authorities also allowed the universities to be looted, and watched from the sideline as crime quickly became a serious problem. As a result of US non-management, "Almost a year after the fall of Saddam Hussein, official statistics put the unemployment rate in Iraq at over 75 percent." Electricity and clean water continue to be problematic even today.

One of the most important sources of Iraqi hostility to the occupation is the continuing practice of US troops breaking into civilians' homes. In the meantime, civilian casualties continue to mount. Glantz maintains that the US military doesn't do anything positive in Iraq, which is an obvious overstatement. But it is doubtless true, as he says, that such American practices as arresting civilians and incarcerating them in places like Abu Ghraib have made armed resistance an increasingly attractive option to regular Iraqis.

Peter Lamal is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at UNC-Charlotte.

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