Penitents and Rogue Bulls

Bush's decision to stay in Iraq despite recognizing the mistakes this war has been making along the way is truly dangerous.

Three years ago this week, the Iraq war broke out. On March 24, 2003, American troops entered the land of the two rivers, and ever since, they have been sinking into the blood-soaked mud, killing and being killed. They went in and cannot get out. Will this become the Thirty Years War of the new age? It will not, because wars in our age have shortened, even if they are prolonged, and because America has already lost: it, and with it the entire free world, including Israel.

Dozens of people are killed in Iraq every day. First they were killed by bombs. Recently they are being kidnapped, tortured, shot in the backs of their heads, butchered and beheaded, and the mutilated bodies are thrown out and pile up, namelessly. Now, the identity of the killers is also unclear: Al-Qaida terrorists, local Sunnis settling accounts with Shiites, or Shiites taking revenge on Sunnis. As of now, reality is defined there as a "sectarian war," just as long as it is not called a "civil war," which is not yet fully upon the Iraqis, but here and there pops up in centers of anarchy. The danger of anarchy is the worst of all, and it now lies in ambush for all the states of the Middle East, and far beyond.

Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and hundreds of thousands have abandoned their homes in panic. Shiite families run for their lives from Sunni neighborhoods and Sunni families flee Shiite neighborhoods, while the Kurds keep to themselves, fortifying their own areas. This is how the great ethnic cleansing develops. Even the trial of Saddam Hussein and his thugs has turned into a circus, and sometimes it is not clear who are the judges and who are the accused.

And this week, America started an offensive - for the umpteenth time - north of the town of Samarra. American and Iraqi soldiers are taking part in the operation. And only George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld still delude themselves into thinking that they can count on the local soldiers and police, whose treachery competes with their weakness and cowardice.

The zealots of the Muslim world see the American failure and derive encouragement from it: The war that was meant to deter murderous fundamentalism is succeeding in encouraging it. From Indonesia and Pakistan to Lebanon and Egypt, the terrorists are finding out that the Americans are not so all-powerful, and that the Great Satan can be expelled along with the rest of its sycophants, the little Satans.

Iran is benefiting most of all from the chaos in Iraq, while in Afghanistan, the Taliban has replaced its forces and is once again taking over large parts of the country. If until recently it seemed that an alternative base for world terror had been established in Iraq instead of Afghanistan, it is now clear that world terror has at least two central bases.

America lost not only because of what is happening overseas, but mainly because of a lax helplessness at home. President Bush's popularity has declined to record lows - only 36 percent of the American public supports him. With such low support, and no resurrection of support in sight, it is impossible to win.

Last month, the president discovered another development, and it is even more worrisome as far as he is concerned: The leaders of his supporters have begun turning against him. It is not only Republican politicians, who are already eyeing the midterm elections in November and are keeping their president at arm's length to save their skins; politicians everywhere know the nature of rats in a storm.

Among those turning their backs on Bush - and it is important to take note of this - are the leading lights of the neoconservative movement, starting with William F. Buckley Jr., and in his wake such prophets of the conservative right as George Will, Francis Fukuyama, Bruce Bartlett, Andrew Sullivan and others. They gave Bush political and ideological cover, and now they are taking both away from him. Buckley and his cohorts are openly repenting and admitting that they both erred and misled when they enthusiastically supported the invasion of Iraq. And, even more lethally, they are also beginning to find fault with the president's personal integrity and public credibility.

Here, meanwhile, nobody is repentant. While the war in Iraq was not our war, nonetheless, all those who sowed an enormous panic here will not be forgotten or forgiven. They sent an entire country into panic and explained with signs and wonders the profit and gains that Israel would reap from a war of the children of light against the children of darkness.

It is not the people who are wrong who are most dangerous. Who does not make mistakes? The really dangerous people are those who are wrong but do not admit their mistakes and refuse to take responsibility for them. Those who insist like donkeys on sticking to their mistakes are like the rogue bull that has already gored three times, even though its owner was warned each time to tie him up.