Jewish World Review Sept. 4, 2003 / 7 Elul, 5763

Joseph L. Galloway

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The very least the Pentagon owes our soldiers is to admit they miscalculated and could use help | WASHINGTON If the American commander of U.S. Central Command had his way, his U.S. soldiers would soon be joined by large contingents of Muslim troops - Turks and Pakistanis - to help restore security in bloody Iraq.

Gen. John P. Abizaid said he doesn't really care whether they wear blue hats and come to Iraq under a new U.N. resolution, or whether they come through bilateral negotiations or through the Organization of Islamic Countries. He just wants them, and he wants them yesterday.

"My military advice has been and will continue to be to add additional coalition forces to the equation," Abizaid told Knight Ridder Newspapers in an interview at his Tampa headquarters. "So whatever construct the administration comes up with that enables that is OK."

Abizaid said getting the Turks on board is a high priority for him "(because) they are a Muslim nation and they set the example for the Muslim world as far as a secular nation is concerned." He added, "Turkey knows that its goals in Iraq are the same as ours: the establishment of a moderate regime that will be a responsible member of the international community."

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The new CentCom commander added: "I think all these things are possible, but I can't speak to the political dimensions of it because it's out of my lane. I can speak to the military dimension: The capacity would be welcomed."

The main roadblock to internationalizing the force occupying Iraq isn't political, but the human. A number of countries that regularly contribute to peacekeeping operations are sitting this one out because the United Nations has no role in Iraq.

One senior administration official says there's a debate over a larger U.N. role at the highest levels, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney are digging in their heels and "only grudgingly giving up ground, inch by inch."

"Rumsfeld and the vice president ... want political, military and economic control to remain entirely and absolutely in the hands of the Americans," said the senior official, who has a different opinion. "They are willing to put a blue hat on General Abizaid and that's about it."

He also said that Rumsfeld and Cheney oppose a new resolution to give the United Nations a more extensive role in postwar Iraq "because nobody wants to eat crow on this one." On the eve of war, he said, the vice president and the defense secretary cavalierly dismissed any need for the United Nations to play a role in Iraq, and they don't want to admit that they were wrong.

The official adds: "The president is willing to do it ... but it doesn't make much difference what the president decides; these folks run right out and undermine him."

The moderates at CentCom, the State Department and elsewhere get little assistance from national security adviser Condoleezza Rice or her deputy Stephen Hadley. "She is an accommodator, and if she goes along with Rumsfeld and Cheney, her life is easier," the official said.

The top American official in Iraq, Paul Bremer, can't even get the people he needs to get a civil administration up and running in anything resembling a timely fashion.

More than 220 employees that Bremer's requested, including 70 desperately needed Arab linguists, are waiting for Rumsfeld's undersecretary for policy, Douglas J. Feith, to approve them.

"It is like pulling teeth with each and every one of them," the senior administration official said. "It is taking forever because Feith only wants true believers to get through the gate."

It's interesting that Feith is blocking the road, because it was his failure to plan for trouble in postwar Iraq that's made Bremer's need for reinforcements so urgent.

Feith's office pooh-poohed the need for any serious contingency planning for postwar Iraq; Feith and his aides believed the fairy tales spun by Iraqi exile leader Ahmad Chalabi that the Iraqi army would surrender en masse, that the Iraqi people would shower the invading Americans with rose petals and that postwar Iraq would be a cakewalk, too.

It hasn't turned out that way, and much of the responsibility belongs to the Pentagon. The least Rumsfeld and his subordinates can do - the least that they owe to the American soldiers and civilians now laboring in the heat and the danger to restore electricity, water and order to Iraq - is to admit that they miscalculated and could use help.

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Joseph L. Galloway is the senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Comment by clicking here.


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