Iraq bombingThe Reuters’ headline reads, Iraq now ranked second among world’s failed states. That’s not second best; it’s second worst. The ranking appears in a new report just released by Foreign Policy and the Fund for Peace.

Iraq has emerged as the world’s second most unstable country, behind Sudan, more than four years after President George W. Bush ordered the U.S. invasion to topple Saddam Hussein, according to a survey released on Monday.

The 2007 Failed States Index, produced by Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace, said Iraq suffered a third straight year of deterioration in 2006 with diminished results across a range of social, economic, political and military indicators. Iraq ranked fourth last year.

Afghanistan, another war-torn country where U.S. and NATO forces are battling a Taliban insurgency nearly six years after a U.S.-led invasion, was in eighth place. . . .

The authors of the index said one of the leading benchmarks for failed state status is the loss of physical control of territory or a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

Other attributes include the erosion of legitimate authority, an inability to provide reasonable public services and the inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community.

If Iraq is #2 and Sudan #1, then Palestine must get the zed. It’s the state that failed in the making. So yesterday, Condi Rice was scrambling to make up for years of neglect and mismanagement by promising all the support the US could muster to what’s left of the Palestinian Authority. You’d think she’d show some humility after watching Hamas define what it means for a new order to go through “birth pangs,” but she tried to make the best of it, as though the military defeat and and political separation that have now befallen the Palestinians were the result of a US policy success.

“Failed states” could well become the epitaph for the Bush Administration’s misguided foreign policy interventions in the Middle East, from Iraq to Afghanistan to Palestine and Lebanon. But it’s not just Iraq and Afghanistan and the hopes for a Palestinian state that face the prospects of failing; we’re also seeing the destruction of the most sacred principles and institutions that have held our own nation together.

America is hardly a failed state, but it certainly has a failed regime, and the regime’s policies are undermining the country’s foundations across the board. We could just as easily be talking about what the Bush/Cheney regime has done to undermine separation of powers, governmental accountability, equal access to voting, fair and impartial administration of justice, respect for the rule of law, protections for civil liberties and the Bill of Rights, or just something as basic to our Constitution as respect for the legitimate role of government in promoting public health, safety and welfare. There are common destructive themes running through all of this Administration’s policies, and they seem to be powered by a massive indifference to lawlessness.

Photo: AP/Hamad Rashee: Scene of suicide bombing in Samarra