Back in Baghdad

Time to rewind: The war in Iraq isn’t over after all.

Saddam Hussein may still be alive, and American soldiers are being shot at and killed on a daily basis. There are strong pockets of resistance throughout the Sunni Muslim regions north and west of Baghdad, anti-U.S. forces are attracting fighters from throughout the Middle East, and the prospect of a drawn-out guerrilla-style conflict seems increasingly likely.

Meanwhile, many Iraqis, especially Shiites, are expressing hostility toward the military occupiers. They want the Americans out of their country. They’re glad we got rid of Saddam for them, but now they want to run things their way.

In case you haven’t noticed, much the same thing is happening in Afghanistan, site of our first post-9/11 war. Osama bin Laden is probably still alive, terrorist cadres are largely free to roam the country at will, and American soldiers are in almost constant danger from snipers. Outside Kabul, power is in the hands of local warlords, much as it was before the Taliban took over. And opium production is flourishing.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration is struggling to defend itself against charges that it lied, or at least knowingly misled, about the existence of weapons of mass destruction. Hey, we got rid of Saddam, the president says. Isn’t that enough?

Well, no. Committing American soldiers to war is the gravest act a president can perform. To do so on the basis of incomplete, false or misrepresented information is an unforgivable breach of the public trust.

It’s long been said that the Middle East has a nasty way of confounding the expectations of Westerners naïve enough to try to impose their will on it. All of us Americans, from the president on down, are now seeing the truth of that observation.