Sidney Blumenthal has a must-read article in today’s Guardian (emphasis added).
Since the Iraqi elections in January, US foreign service officers at the Baghdad embassy have been writing a steady stream of disturbing cables describing drastically worsening conditions. Violence from incipient communal civil war is rapidly rising. Last month there were eight times as many assassinations committed by Shia militias as terrorist murders by Sunni insurgents. The insurgency, according to the reports, also continues to mutate. Meanwhile, President Bush’s strategy of training Iraqi police and army to take over from coalition forces – “when they stand up, we’ll stand down” – is perversely and portentously accelerating the strife. State department officials in the field are reporting that Shia militias use training as cover to infiltrate key positions. Thus the strategy to create institutions of order and security is fuelling civil war.
Rather than being received as invaluable intelligence, the messages are discarded or, worse, considered signs of disloyalty. Rejecting the facts on the ground apparently requires blaming the messengers. So far, two top attaches at the embassy have been reassigned elsewhere for producing factual reports that are too upsetting.
The Bush administration’s preferred response to increasing disintegration is to act as if it has a strategy that is succeeding.
This is, of course, the way the Bushies have operated since the days Dubya was governor of Texas. But it’s one thing to claim, for example, that Texas tax policies were a success when in fact they were not. Now the Bushies are flushing Iraq, not to mention an incalculable number of lives, down the toilet and calling it victory.
It gets even more amazing …
Under the pretence that Iraq is being pacified, the military is partially withdrawing from hostile towns in the countryside and parts of Baghdad. By reducing the number of soldiers, the administration can claim its policy is working going into the midterm elections. But the jobs the military doesn’t want to perform are being sloughed off on state department “provisional reconstruction teams” (PRTs) led by foreign service officers. The rationale is that they will win Iraqi hearts-and-minds by organising civil functions.
Blood and destruction just to get Republicans elected in a midterm election. Awesome. But, says Blumenthal, the Pentagon has informed the State Department it will not provide security for the foreign service officers. The PRTs are supposed to hire mercenaries if they want protection.
The state department’s Intelligence and Research Bureau was correct in its scepticism before the war about Saddam Hussein’s possession of WMDs, but was ignored. The department was correct in its assessment in its 17-volume Future of Iraq project about the immense effort required for reconstruction after the war, but it was disregarded. Now its reports from Iraq are correct, but their authors are being punished. Foreign service officers are to be sent out like tethered goats to the killing fields. When these misbegotten projects inevitably fail, the department will be blamed. Passive resistance to these assignments reflects anticipation of impending disaster, including the likely murder of diplomats.
But, hey, what’s a few beheaded diplomats if it’ll help win the midterm elections?
Best of all, the Secretary of State has “washed her hands” of her own department. Unfortunately her exceptional skills, most notably her talent for looking straight at a camera and lying her ass off, do not translate into effective management of the State Department. She has handed the task of coaxing diplomats into being tethered goats to an underling while she flits about the world getting her face in the news.
While the state department was racked last week by collapsing morale, Rice travelled to England to visit the constituency of Jack Straw. She declared that though the Bush administration had committed “tactical errors, thousands of them” in Iraq, it is right on the strategy. Then she and Straw took a magic carpet to Baghdad to try to overthrow Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari in favour of a more pliable character.
Juan Cole reports today that the magic carpet ride didn’t help.
Iraqi politicians said on Wednesday that the visit to Iraq of Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and UK Foreign Minister Jack Straw had proved counter-productive. Positions actually hardened with the visit. Haider al-Abadi said, “All it’s doing is hardening the position of people who are supporting Jaafari . . . They shouldn’t have come to Baghdad.”
Meanwhile — today Josh White reports in the Washington Post that Rummy has taken offense at Condi’s charge that the U.S. made thousands of tactical errors in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said he did not know what Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was talking about when she said last week that the United States had made thousands of “tactical errors” in handling the war in Iraq, a statement she later said was meant figuratively.
Speaking during a radio interview on WDAY in Fargo, N.D., on Tuesday, Rumsfeld said calling changes in military tactics during the war “errors” reflects a lack of understanding of warfare. Rumsfeld defended his war plan for Iraq but added that such plans inevitably do not survive first contact with the enemy.
Unfortunately, Rummy’s achievements as Secretary of Defense reveal a lack of understanding of the entire bleeping time-space continuum. See also Sadly, No.