Most of you are probably familiar with what has been called “the bridge incident”:
Three Army commanders admitted Friday that soldiers were told to cover up an incident in which two Iraqi civilians were forced off a bridge over the Tigris River, where family members say one of them drowned.
Frankly, this never should have happened. This never should have taken place. We never should have been on that bridge in Samarra, in that Najaf cemetery, sleeping fitfully, dashing to cover whenever we hear the ominous thud of the mortarman’s call.
We never should have been sent to Iraq without any clue of how to win the peace, the hearts, and the minds of an Iraqi public who knew full well that we supported Saddam when it suited us, that we backed a rebellion against him when it was convenient, and that we left their brothers to twist slowly in the wind when it wasn’t.
We performed proudly, and even now, as I write this, I’m every bit as proud of the good we did over there as I was the day I stepped off that plane. But we never should have had to make it up as we went along, and that’s exactly what we did.
That battalion commander should never had been placed in that position. It is to his discredit that he chose to do what he did. But what he did, he did because he felt he had no other choice–given the nearly impossible task of winning a counterinsurgency, he performed as best he knew how, and by and large he performed magnificently.
I’ve often told people that there are two ways we can win this insurgency: we can either be bloody about it (and replicate our experience in the Philippines in the process), or we can be gentle about it. We seem to veer from extreme to extreme. In Najaf, we are being comparatively gentle; in Samarra, we are being comparatively bloody.
But either way, we are making it up as we go along. We don’t have enough men for the job; we don’t have enough resources for the job; and we really don’t have any idea of how to do the job in a way that will keep the loss of life on both sides at a minimum, while restoring safety and normality to the lives of Iraqis.
There’s only one man who’s responsible for all of this, for the vast mess that is Iraq tonight, and his name is George W. Bush. But you wouldn’t know it from the news tonight, or from watching him speak.
I’m not surprised. The man has spent his whole life escaping responsibility when it called out his name, so why should this be different?
It should be different because a good man’s career lies ruined. It should be different because tonight, 930 of my brothers and sisters in arms lie dead. They’ll never see their daughters walk down the aisle, they’ll never celebrate their graduation from college, or see a midsummer night again.