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Frank Rich: War architects turn to blaming the victim
Published: Saturday May 26, 2007
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While the people of Iraq brave terror and violence at every turn to survive in a collapsing society, the American foreign policy elites who designed the Iraq war have taken quite well to blaming its civilians for the catastrophe, Frank Rich writes in his Sunday column for the New York Times.

Speaking about the increasing exodus of Iraqis from their home country, and the established US policy of ignoring their plight, Rich writes, "To admit that Iraqis are voting with their feet is to concede that American policy is in ruins. A 'secure' Iraq is a mirage, and, worse, those who can afford to leave are the very professionals who might have helped build one. Thus the president says nothing about Iraq's humanitarian crisis, the worst in the Middle East since 1948, much as he tried to hide the American death toll in Iraq by keeping the troops' coffins off-camera and staying away from military funerals."

Beyond simply ignoring the plight of Iraqis out of sheer incompetence, Rich notes, the Bush administration's policy towards Iraq's refugees fits within a grander political strategy of attempting to control and even eliminate the bad news by neutralizing it.

Increasingly, adds Rich, war supporters believe they can avoid blame for the mess in Iraq by putting blame upon the residents of the country. Writes Rich, "It started to take shape just before the midterm elections last fall, when Rumsfeld wrote a memo (propitiously leaked after his defenestration) suggesting that the Iraqis might 'have to pull up their socks, step up and take responsibility for their country.' By January, Bush was saying that 'the Iraqi people owe the American people a huge debt of gratitude' and wondering aloud 'whether or not there is a gratitude level that's significant enough in Iraq.'"

Comparing the US government's denial of large numbers of Iraqis entrance into the country to the pre-World War II treatment of Jews fleeing Europe, Rich notices quite a few parallels. "Like the Jews, Iraqis are useful scapegoats," he writes, adding, "Though the war's godfathers saw themselves as ridding the world of another Hitler, their legacy includes a humanitarian catastrophe that will need its own Raoul Wallenbergs and Oskar Schindlers if lives are to be saved."