The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [casi] Proof by Absence of Proof #2

[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ]

the creation of isg (below) represents not only a recognition that chaos is
extant in the execution of washington's handling of the iraqi affair, but also
a pointed shift toward the creation of an iraq commissar (rice) within the
white house. bush is, in effect, telling the congress that he will no longer
inject rumsfeld and powell into congressional deliberations re reconstruction
direction and funding arguments ( both actors have become lightning rods in
arousing impatience and distrust within the congress), but will put his personal
prestige and partisan clout behind these. this is a risky move because, cognizant
of diminished popular support, he is in effect rallying his party in congress
to close rank, blunt robust democrat insistence on specific direction of bush
policies in iraq and afghanistan, and prepare for the presidential elections.
rumsfeld correctly argues that this move does not change the manner by which
the iraqi affair is proceeding. bush is thus insisting on partisan politics,
and therefore eschewing consensus. i believe he is bringing unilateralism home.
tony  News  Commentary  Humor  Arts  Discuss  Reader Services
About Us
To print this page, select "Print" from the File menu of your browser
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . / News / Daily MoJo

October 8, 2003

President Bush and his advisors have come up with a novel response to
criticisms that they're screwing up the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq: more
White House control.
Earlier this week, the administration launched the all-new Iraq Stabilization
Group, an interagency coordinating body headed by National Security Advisor
Condoleezza Rice and her National Security Council. The move smacks of panic:
with Bush's approval numbers on the slide, the White House knows it has to get
it together in Iraq well before the 2004 elections. What isn't clear is the
practical effect rejigerring the organizational chart will have on the ground in
Iraq, or even in Washington. The buzz in D.C. is that it sidelines Donald
Rumsfeld. Or Colin Powell. Or both, or neither.
The group will coordinate administration efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan in
four areas: counterterrorism, economic issues, political institutions and
The Washington Post reports:
"The purpose of the new Iraq Stabilization Group is 'to crack the whip,
frankly,' said a senior administration official, who described a sense of urgency
amid persistent trouble in Iraq and polls showing declining confidence in Bush."
The move is seen by some as a last-ditch effort to save a failing plan in
Iraq. After all, this is the same administration that underestimated the cost of
occupation, overestimated Iraqi oil revenue, unsuccessfully begged countries
like India and Pakistan to contribute troops, and recently made a failed, not
to say belated, partnership pitch to the United Nations.
Some analysts are convinced the reorganization was a sign of desperation and
failing policy in Iraq. Ehsan Ahrari, writing in the Asia Times, sees the move
as fundamentally misconceived. The problem, he says, is not that Washington
has too little control; it's that the U.S. is in Iraq at all:
"...the current attempt to reorganize the U.S. mission in Iraq is akin to
saving a sinking ship by appointing a new leader of the crew whose mission is to
bail the rising level of water. Instead, the objective of the U.S. ought to be
to bail out while it still can."
According to Rice, the new plan grew out of discussions she had with the
president in August, along with the support of Secretary of State Colin Powell and
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, two officials that some say have less
power under the new arrangement. An official told the Post, "this is a high
priority. It's not business as usual."
That was news to Rumsfeld who according to the Financial Times says he wasn't
told about the change, but that the structure was no big deal. "That's what
the NSC's charter is," Mr Rumsfeld said. "The only thing unusual about it is
the attention."
The discrepancy between Rumsfeld's and Rice's accounts only fueled
speculation that the new group was formed because the White House thinks the Pentagon
isn't getting the job done. The Financial Times reported:
"Even neo-conservative supporters of the administration have described an air
of desperation in the White House since the sharp deterioration in security
in Iraq since August.
"As a proponent of more limited goals in Iraq, namely the removal of the
threat posed by Saddam Hussein, Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary, is seen to be
at odds with Mr Bush and Ms Rice, who regard Iraq as the key to what they
believe will be a political 'transformation' of the Middle East.
"'Condi is seizing the reins,' one European diplomat said, commenting on the
perception in Washington that she has failed to put a brake on disputes
between the Pentagon, the State Department and the CIA."
White House Spokesman Scott McClellan was acting as if this massive
reorganization is no biggie. It's just that "we're entering a new phase in Iraq, and
Bush wants to cut through the red tape and make sure that we're getting the
assistance there quickly so that they can carry out their priorities," he said.
Paul Bremer -- head of the U.S. coalition authority in Iraq -- will still report
to Secretary Rumsfeld, and the new group will ostensibly focus on
coordinating efforts between departments and agencies. This is, according to the
administration, simply an inter-agency coordination group that is crucial for the
proper management of the $87 billion war supplemental that the Bush asked of
Some critics, like Sen. John Edwards, a Democratic candidate for president,
said the reorganization is a good idea, but it's way overdue, a view shared by
Ivo Daalder of the Brookings Institution, who worked on President Clinton's
National Security Council. He toldUSA Today,"It should have been done on Day 1.
The NSC exists to coordinate the different agencies and make sure their voices
are heard." The Christian Science Monitor reports:
"Still, the management recast reflects a void some experts say has been
evident for months. I've been wondering for a while now who really is in charge of
the Iraq process back here, says Patrick Clawson, deputy director of the
Washington Institute for Near East Policy. In most any administration, you would
have had a Mr. Iraq here in Washington responsible for the inter-agency
Given Bush's poor relations with Congress, it's easy to see this as a power
grab. The administration has been criticized on both the right and left for
ignoring lawmakers, in particular on national security issues. Bush didn't
consult Congress before sending troops to Liberia, didn't give accurate cost
estimates for Iraq, and hasn't shared intelligence with relevant congressional
committees. Result: as the National Journal reports, a testy relationship between
the White House and the Hill:
"'There is a real sense among senior administration officials that they have
a solemn obligation to reclaim lost territory, that Congress has overstepped
its bounds,' said James M. Lindsay, vice president and director of studies at
the Council on Foreign Relations. 'When they talk about reversing the impact of
Vietnam, which Rumsfeld has alluded to on a number of occasions, they are not
simply talking about re-establishing American power abroad. They are talking
about re-establishing presidential power here at home.'"
Some say the decision is all about politics. University of Virginia professor
Larry Sabato, quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, says, "Their real goal
is to stabilize Bush's public approval rating," which means "sending the
message [to people on the ground] to produce - and fast."
The reasons behind the new Iraq policy team seem likely to be the inevitable
result of a variety of factors: the administration's disdain for oversight and
accountability, the deterioration situation in Iraq, and the need for policy
streamlining. Whatever it may be, it is certainly not the action of someone
who is trying to distance himself from Iraq and Afghanistan. And as the senior
administration official who spoke to the New York Times says, the new
consolidation reflects, above all, that, "The president knows his legacy, and maybe his
re-election, depends on getting this right."
E-mail article

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. .
This article has been made possible by the Foundation for National Progress,
the Investigative Fund of Mother Jones, and gifts from generous readers like
 2003 The Foundation for National Progress
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. .
Support Us  Advertise  Ad Policy  Privacy Policy  Contact Us  Subscribe

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]