Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Bremer's Turn...and Other Echos...

L Paul (Jerry) Bremer is now on a book tour:,0,947052.story?coll=cl-books-features

He was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart last night, and held his own rather well. However, it was the Fresh Air (NPR) interview that is really worth listening to:

His defense of the botching of Iraq is that the pre-planning was for post-War scenarios that didn't pan out; the worst-case ones like a flood of refugees and things like that.

I am not sure about the book, but at least in the NPR interview, he dances around revealing that some of the major decisions--most notably the one to disband the Iraqi Army--came from one particular office in the Pentagon.

And he's forthrighth about the fact that the looting, etc. created a credibility problem as the US was seen as not being able--or, worse, willing--to provide for the security of citizens. And he hammers the point that what really surprised him was in how bad shape the economy and infrastructure was--and puts the blame for that fully on "misallocation of resources" by Saddam. Never mind that Iraq had the best industrial and social services infrastructure in the Arab world before it was goaded into three (don't forget the Iran-Iraq war) wars and then put under un-targeted sanctions that did nothing to weaken the regime but ground the people and infrastructure of Iraq to a pulp.

I mean, I never tire of pointing out that the sanctions put on Iraq were--to any casual observer of how bureaucracies work--almost tailor-made to strengthen the dictatorship and encourage inefficiency, corruption, patronage and on and on. To say that the "International Community"/"Coalition" after the First Gulf War tried to set up a regime that would get medicines and food to the people of Iraq and it was the monster that was Saddam that perverted that is beyond disingenous. Anyone who's ever dealt with a bureaucracy--any bureaucracy, First World or Third World, corrupt or Heavenly--could take a look at a program like the Oil-for-Food Program and say "Ah, you're making sure oil keeps flowing to the West and you are giving the people in power in Iraq control over who gets fed and who gets lifesaving medicine; you win, the ruler of Iraq wins. Cool; Win-Win and business can go on."

And, since we seem to be forever discussing why the Muslim world is, er, ticked off today, and pretend that all the evils of that situation are the product of the Bush administration, let me use this opportunity to remind those who are heading for putting all their eggs in the Democratic basket without--once again--demanding some well thought-out policies and policy changes, that before the noise of the looting of Baghdad and worse sort of drowned it out, the soundbite that most echoed in the Muslim mind was the Secretary of State to a Democratic President saying that half a million dead children was "worth it" in keeping Saddam in check:

Journalist to US Secretary of State on something American was "doing" in Iraq: We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?

SecState: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price--we think the price is worth it.


Please; let's try to get things right this time around!

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