Key allies turn on wounded Bush over chaos in Iraq

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The Independent US

In the aftermath of the Republicans' disastrous mid-term election results, President George Bush is becoming increasingly isolated from his former political allies, who are turning on him over the failure to stem the chaos and violence in Iraq. Many have said that had they known in March 2003 what they know now they would have advised against the invasion.

In recent days, Kenneth Adelman, a member of the Defence Policy Board and the man who in 2003 predicted that the military operation to oust Saddam Hussein would be a "cakewalk", has joined the chorus of conservative voices criticising Mr Bush. In a series of interviews he has said the "President is ultimately responsible ... for the debacle that was Iraq". Mr Adelman's criticism is significant because he was considered one of the administration's inner circle that was planning and pushing the war in Iraq and was particularly close to Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, and the soon-to-be-replaced Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

He predicted that WMD would be discovered near Saddam's birthplace, Tikrit, and in an opinion piece for a newspaper before the invasion, he wrote: "I believe that demolishing Hussein's military power and liberating Iraq would be a cakewalk." Yet his view now - three-and-a-half years into a conflict that has cost the lives of more than 2,800 US troops, around 120 British soldiers and perhaps 655,000 Iraqis - is that the administration has made a series of unnecessary and avoidable mistakes.

In an interview with The Washington Post, he said: "There are a lot of lives that are lost. A country's at stake, a region's at stake. This is a gigantic situation. This didn't have to be managed this bad. It's just awful."

Mr Adelman said he first became disenchanted with the administration's plan when he saw how it allowed the mass looting that engulfed Baghdad in the days after the taking of the city by US forces. The breaking point for him was to see Mr Bush award the Medal of Freedom to General Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq; the CIA director at the time, George Tenet; and L Paul Bremer III, who presided over the first 14 months of Iraq reconstruction. He added: "The three individuals who got the highest civilian medals the President can give were responsible for a lot of the debacle that was Iraq ... Obviously the President is ultimately responsible."

With a full two years of his presidency remaining and with his political capital perhaps at an all-time low, others are speaking out about Mr Bush.

Figures such as the former House speaker Newt Gingrich have accused the President of a lack of leadership while others have suggested that if Mr Rumsfeld's resignation had been announced before the 7 November vote, the Republicans may have been able to hold on to either the House or the Senate. The turning on the President also raises questions over his role, and that of his senior political adviser, Karl Rove, in the run-up to the 2008 election.

But the violence in Iraq shows no sign of abating. Yesterday the deputy health minister was kidnapped from his home in Baghdad, and at least 52 people were killed across the country, 22 of them in the city of Hillah by a suicide bomber who lured people to his truck with the prospect of a day's work before exploding it.

* Walid Moallem, Syria's Foreign Minister, arrived in Baghdad yesterday in a visit seen as a major step toward restoring diplomatic relations. He is the highest ranking Syrian official to visit Iraq since the invasion in 2003.

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