A recent article in The New Republic was a revelation to me. It was written by Fouad Ajami, a prominent Johns Hopkins University professor and author of several books on American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Ajami reviewed a new book about Iraq by Ali A. Allawi, an Iraqi exile during Saddam Hussein's reign who returned to the country in 2003 and has served in several leadership positions.
In praising "The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace," Ajami, a Lebanese-born scholar who supports the Iraq invasion and occupation, expresses his awe for Allawi's knowledge of Iraq's history and people. "Here, finally, is a man of Iraq who knows its history and its wounds," Ajami writes. "He can write with deep understanding about its poets, its intellectuals, its clerics. He thoroughly grasps its peculiar place in its neighborhood, caught as it has been for several centuries between an Arab sense of belonging and currents from the Persian state to its east."
Ajami outlines the main themes of Allawi's book, including the intricate historical and social differences between the Shia and Sunni factions in Iraq and how the U.S. occupation opened fissures in Iraqi society that spurred radical actions. Based solely on Ajami's review, my head was spinning with new information and perspectives I had not gleaned from my fairly extensive reading on Iraq.
My reaction surely would not surprise Ajami. He notes in his review that most of the Anglo-American journalists who have traveled to Iraq have missed many of the key historical and cultural nuances.
Contrasting with some of the insightful reporting that came out of Vietnam, Ajami writes that the "literary yield" out of Iraq "has so far been a literary desert. No doubt this land in Araby where we have planted our truth, and our armor, is a truly arcane and forbidding place; but still the poverty of the literature of this new American expedition begs for an explanation."
Perhaps to a greater degree than previously believed, Allawi reveals the horrifically naive and tragically flawed understanding that most Americans -- from President Bush on down -- have about Iraq and its people.
More importantly, Allawi makes it clear the Bush administration had no clue what it was doing when it invaded Iraq, and it had no inkling of what to do once it toppled Saddam and tried to bring democracy to the country.
Most, if not all, our intelligence and assumptions were wrong. We knew Saddam was a bad guy, but somehow we assumed that once he was out of the picture, Iraqis would embrace our idealistic vision for their country.
As a result, the American people got bad information on which to base their opinions of Bush's war. As Ajami notes, "Iraq became the subject of some of the darkest hours in the history of expertise."
But it's worse than that. Not only did the American people get bad information, they were lied to. All to justify an unjust war.
Last weekend, I attended the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, and one of the most well-attended and engrossing panel discussions was titled simply: "Iraq: What's Next?"
Panelist Chris Hedges, a former 15-year New York Times reporter in the Middle East, kicked off the discussion by making an impassioned appeal for impeachment on grounds that Bush has "shredded, violated or absented America from its obligations under international law."
"Most egregiously, he launched an illegal war in Iraq based on fabricated evidence we now know had been discredited even before it was made public," Hedges said. "He lied to us and the rest of the world. There are tens of thousands, perhaps a few hundred thousand people, who have been killed and maimed in Iraq because of a war that has no legal justification, a war waged in violation of international law."
Another panelist, veteran columnist Robert Scheer, cited former CIA Director George Tenet's new memoir, "At the Center of the Storm," in which he writes: "The United States did not go to war in Iraq solely because of WMD. I doubt it was even the principal cause. Yet it was the public face that was put on it." This frank admission, coming from one of the president's top advisers, should be a devastating blow to Bush.
Iraq also was bungled in a way that many Americans tend to get more animated about: money. Billions in reconstruction funds were stolen by private contractors and Iraq's corrupt government.
The Bush administration was not watching the till, and U.S. taxpayers got robbed.
Finally, let's not forget Bush's authorization of warrantless wiretapping of American citizens' overseas telephone calls in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
It all adds up to the constitutionally required "high crimes and misdemeanors."
The impeachment bandwagon is picking up passengers. Articles of impeachment have been filed in Congress. Local governments are passing resolutions. Citizens are campaigning on the Internet and demonstrating in the streets.
Unfortunately, it's not enough yet to make impeachment proceedings a real possibility. Neither Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., nor House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., has been willing to support impeachment.
The reason, I believe, goes like this: Polls show a large majority of Americans are generally unhappy about the war. But most still are not really engaged in the details, and therefore their anger is intermittent at best. They mostly try not to think about it.
Niall Ferguson, writing last week in the Los Angeles Times, offered a bleak assessment of the public mood based on his recent travels: "From the casinos of Nevada to the condos of Florida, the good times are rolling, regardless of events in the Middle East. It's hard to believe, as you walk past the thronged roulette tables and inanely burbling slot machines of Vegas, that this is a country at war. ... Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Iraq burns."
It is not enough that we will elect a new president next year. We need to rid ourselves of Bush and Cheney as soon as possible, before they can do any more damage in Iraq and elsewhere.
Trust and competence are, and have always been, the top issues for Americans in evaluating their elected representatives. When we discover a local politician has violated the public trust or screwed up big time, it is common practice to initiate a recall of that individual. It should be no different at the federal level.
Bush and Cheney cannot be trusted and are incapable of competently dealing with Iraq. We must not abide these failures in our president and vice president.
Geoff Schumacher (firstname.lastname@example.org) is Stephens Media's director of community publications. He is the author of "Sun, Sin & Suburbia: An Essential History of Modern Las Vegas" and, coming in October, "Politics, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue: The Las Vegas Years of Howard Hughes." His column appears Sunday.