When my five-year old daughter accidentally does something wrong she is in the habit of saying, "Look what you made me do!." In response, I try to explain to her the concept of personal responsibility, of free will, of taking credit or blame for one’s actions. I suspect that it is a lesson that most parents teach their children at an early age.
My daughter’s protestations came to mind when I heard the President’s latest speech seeking to defend his Iraq policy. The President laid blame at the feet of Saddam Hussein for the chaos in Iraq. According to the official White House transcript, the President said:
These are the kinds of tensions Iraqis are dealing with today. They are the divisions that Saddam aggravated through deliberate policies of ethnic cleansing and sectarian violence. As one Middle East scholar has put it, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was "a society slowly and systematically poisoned by political terror. The toxic atmosphere in today’s Iraq bears witness to his terrible handiwork."
For the sake of argument, let me agree with the President that Saddam Hussein’s policies created the conditions for sectarian strife in Iraq. If that is and was indeed the case, why did the Administration not anticipate this sectarian strife? Why trot out this argument now? This argument is wholly inconsistent with what we were told before the war – that it would be a cakewalk, bed of roses, etc. If we grant the President the benefit of this argument, then the Administration appears completely unprepared and incompetent, now by its own admission, in dealing with post "Mission Accomplished" Iraq.
It seems to me that in trying to find someone, anyone, to blame for the debacle in Iraq, the Administration has finally and inadvertently admitted failure and defeat. I think it is long past time that the Administration accepted the reality in Iraq and its role in bringing about that reality. There can now be no doubt that the invasion of Iraq was ill conceived; and the decision to invade Iraq and unleashing the very predictable sectarian strife and responsibility for that decision lies solely at the feet of the President and this Administration.
I have the same hope for this Administration that I have for my five-year-old: that they accept responsibility for their actions.