View Full Version : NYT Bureau Chief Back From Baghdad: U.S. Effort In Iraq Will Likely Fail

03-12-2006, 09:56 AM
John Burns, Back from Baghdad: U.S. Effort In Iraq Will Likely Fail


By E&P Staff
Published: March 10, 2006 12:15 AM ET

NEW YORK A day after returning to the U.S., after another long term as bureau chief in Baghdad, John F. Burns of The New York Times said on Bill Maher's live Friday night HBO program that he now feels, for the first time, that the American effort in Iraq will likely "fail."

Asked if a civil war was developing there, Burns said, "It's always been a civil war," adding that it's just a matter of extent. He said the current U.S. leaders there--military and diplomatic--were doing their best but sectarian differences would "probably" doom the enterprise.

Burns said that he and others underestimated this problem, feeling for a long time that toppling Saddam Hussein would almost inevitably lead to something much better. He called the Abu Ghraib abuse the worst of many mistakes the U.S. made but said that even without so many mistakes the sectarian conflict would have gotten out of hand.

He also pointed to a key period coming up, as the top American generals decide over the next two weeks whether to go ahead with the planned "draw down" of U.S. troops starting this spring which, as it turns out, coincides with deteriorating conditions on the ground. The problem is, he said, U.S. withdrawals could lead to chaos there, with the Iraqi military not ready to take over; but not bringing troops home would prove to be a political disaster for the White House here.

Speaking from Cambridge, Mass., Burns observed that he had been on the ground for 24 hours and, of all the people he had interacted with so far, "no one supports this war."

His most recent article from Baghdad appeared in The Times on March 5. He said he was heading to California next.

Burns, a Pulitzer Prize winner, was one of the few Americans journalists who stayed in Baghdad during the U.S. attack on Iraq in March 2003, and has spent most of his time there since.