Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Had James Baker not used his skills to put Bush into office in 2000, we wouldn't be looking at this


“The situation in Baghdad and several provinces is dire..... the government is not adequately advancing national reconciliation, providing basic security, or delivering essential services. The level of violence is high and growing. There is great suffering, and the daily lives of many Iraqis show little or no improvement. Pessimism is pervasive.”

From the report delivered to President Bush on December 6, 2006, by the Iraq Study Group.

Last week I convened Jim’s Iraq Study Group- there’s only one of me, so it was a short meeting- and we (I) decided how to rescue our country from the debacle in Iraq. First and foremost, we must throw the report prepared by former Secretary of State James Baker, former Congressman Lee Hamilton, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, and other “bi-partisan” political luminaries (Vernon Jordan even joined the expedition into the nether regions of the Greatest American Disaster) directly into the trash.

Why? Two reasons. Number 1, Bush won’t read it anyway, and even if he did, he wouldn’t implement any of its recommendations. (It took him only two days to reject the report's recommendations that we engage in diplomatic contacts with Syria and Iran.) And number 2- more importantly- the recommendations, even if followed, won’t make a damn bit of difference. Nothing they have said is either new or helpful- basically, the Iraq Study group confirmed that the sun rises in the east, that water is wet, and that it would be really helpful if Iraq’s government could run the country, provide essential security, and end the anarchic hell which is several stages past a civil war (what do you call it when, as Fiasco author Thomas Ricks observed on Meet the Press, everybody is killing everybody else and the middle class has fled the country because they are being systematically kidnapped and killed?).

The report’s only potential usefulness will be if Bush were to use it as a fig leaf to get our soldiers out of harm’s way. Regrettably, that isn’t going to happen. Friday, December 8th, Bush met with members of the Democratic leadership and compared himself to a lonely Harry Truman, increasingly unpopular as he led the fight against Communism post WWII. As McClatchy’s Washington Bureau reported:

“Bush began his talk by comparing himself to President Harry S Truman, who launched the Truman Doctrine to fight communism, got bogged down in the Korean War and left office unpopular. Bush said that “in years to come they realized he was right and then his doctrine became the standard for America,” recalled Senate Majority Whip-elect Richard Durbin, D-Ill. “He’s trying to position himself in history and to justify those who continue to stand by him, saying sometimes if you’re right you’re unpopular, and be prepared for criticism.”

When Senator Durbin and others responded by pointing out that Truman acted with NATO countries and used the United Nations as a tool for negotiating with the Communists, Bush, Durbin said, “reacted very strongly. He got very animated in his response” and emphasized that he is “the commander in chief.”“

If Senator Durbin had been more honest and less diplomatic, he might also have pointed out that Harry Truman, unlike Bush, had actually fought in a war (Truman was an artillary captain in France in World War I), and that Truman, unlike Bush, was competent and capable of perceiving reality when it rose up and slapped him in the face.

In fact, on NBC’s Meet the Press, neither James Baker nor Lee Hamilton supported a prompt withdrawal of our troops. It is noteworthy that the members of the Iraq Study Group didn’t actually study Iraq- unless you count spending four days in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad as studying the country (only former Marine and Virginia Senator Chuck Robb ventured outside the Green Zone). It is also noteworthy that no member of the group speaks Arabic. The Commission's lack of engagement with Iraqis and American troops made as much sense as having officials who speak no Spanish write up a proposal on dealing with immigration problems while anchored in a cruise ship off Acapulco.

The sad truth is that nothing contained in or recommended by the report can or will change reality on the ground in Iraq. Much of it is simply wishful thinking- including the recommendations that President Bush engage Iran and Syria in cleaning up the mess- and a statement of the blindingly obvious- that the Iraqi government should somehow magically become stable and provide institutions capable of governing.

It is noteworthy that two and a half years after sovereignty was allegedly handed over in June of 2004, the government literally controls nothing- not a single neighborhood in the nation’s capital, not even the road to the Baghdad airport to get out of town, and not even the airport itself. Yes, Iraqis voted in early 2005 and got their thumbs stained in ink, as President Bush proudly noted in his State of the Union speech that year. His consistent incompetence and ignorance are once again illustrated by the failure to recognize that democracy does not equal law, order, or freedom from being murdered, tortured, or kidnapped, especially in a country long riven by religious and ethnic differences.


Conspicuously missing from press reports of the “Baker-Hamilton” commission, is the fact that but for James Baker and his boss, George H. W. Bush, there would be no need for an Iraq Study Group, because we wouldn’t have a single American soldier in Iraq. Not because the first President Bush (and his Secretary of Defense, one Richard “Dick” Cheney) rejected proposals to continue on to Baghdad to topple Hussein in March of 1991 at the end of Gulf War I’s successful venture to eject forces from Kuwait- a decision that has rankled fat, cowardly chickenhawk neocons who ended up in top positions under Bush II. No, we are in Iraq because of a chain of circumstances which began with this speech from America’s ambassador to Iraq, who gave the following message to Saddam Hussein just prior to his invasion of Kuwait. On July 25, 1990, our ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, met with Saddam Hussein and relayed her instructions from her superiors:

"I have direct instructions from President Bush to improve our relations with Iraq. We have considerable sympathy for your quest for higher oil prices, the immediate cause of your confrontation with Kuwait. As you know, I lived here for years and admire your extraordinary efforts to rebuild your country....

We can see that you have deployed massive numbers of troops in the south. Normally that would be none of our business, but when this happens in the context of your threat s against Kuwait, then it would be reasonable for us to be concerned. For this reason, I have received an instruction to ask you, in the spirit of friendship - not confrontation - regarding your intentions: Why are your troops massed so very close to Kuwait's borders?....

We have no opinion on your Arab - Arab conflicts, such as your dispute with Kuwait. Secretary (of State James) Baker has directed me to emphasize the instruction, first given to Iraq in the 1960's, that the Kuwait issue is not associated with America.

(Saddam smiles)”

On August 2, 1990, Saddam, thinking that President Bush had given him a green light, sent his troops to invade and occupy Kuwait. That triggered Gulf War I, which left a residue of thousands of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia, which so incensed radical Wahabbists and Sunni Moslems that they were inspired to instigate the first foreign terrorist attacks in mainland United States in modern history- namely, the 1993 World Trade Center truck bombing. This was followed by the 1996 Khobar barracks attacks in Saudi Arabia, the 1998 bombings of our embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the October 2000 attack on the destroyer Cole in port in Yemen, and, most recently, the 9-11-01 attacks in New York and Washington.


“The fact is this commission was composed apparently entirely of people who did not have the judgment to oppose this Iraq war in the first place, and did not have the judgment to realize it was not a wise move in the fight against terrorism. So that's who is doing this report.”

U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, who was virtually alone in opposing the Iraq War in October of 2002.

Unlike the Iraq Study Group, whose ten members interviewed 171 people in preparing its 23,000 word report, Jim’s Iraq Study Group conceived its brilliant analysis from the daily newspapers, a computer with a link to the Internet, and a few conversations with persons who are serving in Iraq. Also unlike the Iraq Study Group, with its luminaries (including former senators, cabinet secretaries of State and Defense), Jim's Group utilized a healthy dose of common sense and an inherent skepticism of those who have fed at the public trough for most of their adult lives.

None of these luminaries were out in public arguing against the gross deceptions being perpetrated by the Cheney-Rice-Bush triumvirate during the 2002-2003 runup to the war (“the smoking gun will be a mushroom cloud!”). Even if they supported removing Saddam Hussein, none of them forecast what was going to happen if we invaded Iraq, toppled its government, and allowed its infrastructure and bureaucracy to disintegrate. In stark contrast, thousands of ordinary Americans (including this humble author) put their grey matter to good use and accurately predicted the debacle that would follow a successful invasion. On April 19, 2003, a scant month after the invasion- and two weeks before our incoherent Commander in Chief catapulted onto the carrier Lincoln under a “Mission Accomplished” banner, I wrote the following in an e-mail to one of the family members of a Marine in my son’s unit:

“Why the UN should take over is simple- whether or not they do a better job, the perception among the people in the region will be hugely different regarding a UN sponsored trusteeship of the country. It simply is in our national interest to have a respected international organization take over the rebuilding of Iraq. The sooner American and British soldiers are out of there, the less likely that terrorists or suicide bombers will attack our loved ones there or here. And a quick exit will defeat the absurd arguments that we are a colonialist country seeking to exploit Iraq's oil.”

Would that a high ranking member of the Bush Administration with decision making powers had made the same point and followed through on it. Iraq would not now be in the throes of a civil war, over 2,850 Americans would be alive, another 20,000 would not have been grievously wounded, and tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of Iraqis would be alive to enjoy the fruits of democracy and freedom. As political analyst Glenn Greenwald puts it in his renowned “Unclaimed Territory” weblog:

“If you go to a doctor for an operation and he completely botches your surgery and you lose an organ due to his abject ineptitude and recklessness, you don't go back to that doctor for repair surgery; you find another one. If you go to a lawyer who almost destroys your company through complete ignorance of your basic legal obligations, you don't stay with that lawyer in the hope that he will get you out of the disaster he created for you; you retain another one. All of that is just basic common sense.”


As for the vaunted Iraq Study Group, In spite of their lofty status, their prior government experience (James Baker was Secretary of State!) they are masters of the obvious and little else. Consider this gem of wisdom from their report:

“• Iraq is vital to regional and even global stability, and is critical to U.S. interests.…It has the world's second-largest known oil reserves. It is now a base of operations for international terrorism, including Al Qaeda..”

Now I have a few problems with that paragraph. For starters, Iraq is not now and has never been vital to regional stability, let alone global stability. The country was led by a genocidal madman for decades who used its oil revenues to build palaces, armies, and develop weapons of mass destruction. He started two wars with his immediate neighbors, Iran and Kuwait, in 1981 and 1990, respectively. Yet global stability was never compromised, and unless Saddam wanted to pull a Kim Il Jong, there was no way he was going to sit on Iraq’s oil or Kuwait’s oil. That oil was going to be sold, and probably at below market rate, if we hadn’t imposed sanctions on the country.

As for “now” being a “base of operations for international terrorism,” that doesn’t meant that Iraq is special. The key word is “now”- which is an obvious slap in the face of our clueless President, because “before” (the 2003 invasion) it was the country least involved with terrorism when compared to its immediate neighbors, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. And once we pull out, Iraq will no longer be a magnet for Islamic jihadists wanting to wage war on the Christian infidels of the West. After we pull out, Iraq will, however, be a magnet for sectarian groups wanting to put their version of Islam on the top of the heap in Baghdad- Shia versus Sunni. That’s a problem of course, but it’s a humanitarian problem for the millions of innocent Iraqi citizens who just want to be left alone and who want to be able to drive on their streets, go to the market, and live their lives without fear of being kidnapped, raped, or murdered. Not unlike innocent civilians in Darfur or Somalia, and I am not holding my breath waiting for an American based study commission to return from either of those “vital” areas of “critical” American interests.


My solution? I propose an immediate vote of the people of Iraq on one simple question: "do you want a firm timetable for a withdrawal of American troops within six months?" Following the overwhelming Iraqi vote for us to leave-- which will give our noble leaders the political fig leaf they crave to avoid being labeled “cut and run” “terrorist aiding” “Defeatocrats”-- we will commence a phased six month pullout of American combat troops from central Iraq- the Sunni triangle- leaving enough troops in the north to protect the Kurds from invasion and in the south to protect the oil fields. As soon as possible (no more than another 12 months) we should replace the remaining American troops with an international peacekeeping force like the one on the Israel-Lebanon border. In central Iraq and Baghdad, we should immediately begin bringing in Arabic speaking Muslim peacekeepers, preferably from our allies Jordan and Egypt, to replace departing American troops. If Jordan or Egypt need extra motivation, in addition to ensuring that they don’t have another Somalia in their midst, we can pay them a few of the billions of dollars which are presently being sucked down the black hole of Iraq. This area is where our religion and our lack of understanding of language, culture, and ethnicity, has cost us lives and the goodwill necessary to do an effective job of peacekeeping.

We should internationalize Iraq’s oil fields, dedicating half of their revenues to rebuilding Iraq- none of which may be used for procuring arms. The money can go to non-governmental aid organizations with a better track record of disbursing aid than the Halliburton Corporation. The other half should go to repay America’s bill for the war and compensate the victims of Saddam Hussein. Whatever else Iraq’s constitution provides, we should tell whatever government ends up holding power that they won’t see a penny of any oil revenues unless their constitution and laws impose requirements on the country that it never have a standing army or air force, that it have a government free of religious influence, and that every person in the country be guaranteed the same rights to free speech, freedom of religion, due process of law, and democracy that we enjoy here. If they want to be uncivilized barbarians, they are free to do so- but they won’t be able to use oil billions to buy expensive toys from arms salesmen with which to threaten their neighbors or anyone else.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


This was a well written article. Does your law practice ever bring you in contact with the Americans with Disabilites Act. Are you familiar with the basics, such as reasonable accommodation and undue hardship. Would you ever be interested in taking on a case like this against, say, The United States Marine Corps?

12:36 PM  

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