As desensitizing as the continuing war in Iraq has become, the Bush administration can’t just sweep the whole mess under the carpet and hope it will go away or be dealt with by the next president.

This is President Bush’s mess, and if he wants to salvage any kind of a positive legacy, he has to fix it. So much of the criticism reverts back to the president – as it should – but a real, immediate solution has to begin with a complete overhaul of his senior staff so that different people are working on this problem and bring fresh perspectives that can lead to solutions.

Many of the high-level officials who were directly involved with planning the invasion of Iraq, like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, have resigned or taken other jobs, and yet nothing has changed. That’s because on the other end, the administration of Iraq that the Pentagon put in place had no idea how to run the country (see: L. Paul Bremer).

This is an important concern that goes unanswered because critics of the war have spent too much time demonizing every neocon they can think of instead of recognizing the severe disconnect between the levels of the U. S. government. Bush has allowed the Pentagon to assert too much power, and because of that he has severely compromised the possibility that the mission in Iraq can be completed anytime soon.

At the most basic level, part of the reason for such poor handling of Iraq’s security is that it was never part of the military’s objectives to secure the country after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The military’s objectives were to eliminate Hussein and disband the terrorists. That was it. There was no post-war plan.

I understand the frustrations of the people who were trying to get the Pentagon to listen to other ways of going about the invasion, but if they knew a wrong decision was being made, it was their duty to work to counteract it.

Sometimes, it’s more about just finding some way to do what’s right rather than necessarily going through the proper channels and chains of command. All levels of the government and armed forces share the blame for what is happening in Iraq now, because none of them spoke up when it was necessary. No one knew exactly how the invasion would turn out: There should have been a plan for every conceivable contingency.

The State Department made one outline for how it saw Iraq’s post-war future – “The Future of Postwar Iraq.” It was 13 volumes long, and appears to have been ignored by the people who matter in the Pentagon. Had those people read it and consider the consequences of their actions, maybe Bremer wouldn’t have been allowed to disband the Iraqi Army, which most experts say created the very insurgency that the U.S. military is now battling.

The most important component of creating a secure Iraq are people who belong there. But so many of the qualified Iraqi politicians have either been assassinated or joined the insurgency that it makes putting the appropriate people in power a difficult job. Baghdad should be protected by a defense force that knows the streets and has the people’s trust, not one that is exempt from supervision and suspected of killing civilians (Blackwater).

What should come now is a concession that the Pentagon did not plan this correctly, and a long overdue move to rectify that mistake by letting the appropriate people run their country.

No one associated with the U.S. Department of Defense can remain in charge of Iraq because that will only make things worse. Bush’s legacy will be that he either stopped or started one thing: quagmire.

Kevin Bunkley can be reached at .

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