Monday, August 27, 2007

Opinion (E.J. Dionne): Why Maliki is suddenly the big problem

Above: In the runup to the national elections in 2005, a billboard in Baghdad reads, "How we will provide a better country for our kids? Election of the National Assembly. Elect Iraq."

Maybe Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki should just enter our primaries next year and Americans could vote up or down on whether he should remain in office.

The surest sign of how bad our choices in Iraq have become is the eagerness of both of our political parties to blame the entire mess on the man American officials helped install in his job. After all, it was taken as an American victory back in April 2006 when Maliki replaced former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, who faced many of the same criticisms Maliki does today.

Now, Maliki is the problem. Among Democrats, both Sens. Carl Levin and Hillary Clinton have called for replacing him with "a less divisive and more unifying figure," as Clinton put it.

On consecutive days, President Bush was against Maliki before he was for him. On Tuesday, he suggested that Iraqi disappointment with Maliki might lead to his ouster. "If the government doesn't respond to the demands of the people," Bush said of the Iraqis, "they will replace the government."

On Wednesday, he declared that Maliki was "a good guy, a good man with a difficult job" and added: "I support him." Who knows what the administration's position on Maliki will be next? Maliki has done a less than stellar job, but it's absurd to place all the blame on him for the failure of a political process that American policies set in motion.

Read the rest at the Press Democrat