The World’s Biggest Mess

From a Guardian review of the recently published Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad’s Green Zone by Rajiv Chandrasekaran:

The wretched failure to plan for the after-war period is exposed. The planning office run by Douglas Feith, Donald Rumsfeld’s deputy in the Pentagon, was so secret that none of its plans reached Baghdad. Comprehensive State Department plans were binned on instructions from Rumsfeld and Cheney (no doubt any contribution from Whitehall went the same way).

There was a cult of ignorance. Anyone with experience was suspected of believing that “democracy wouldn’t work in the Arab world”. Being a Democrat in the Green Zone was like “being gay in a small town”. The professor appointed to rebuild Iraqi higher education read no books about Iraq: “I’d much rather learn first-hand than have it filtered to me by an author.” The US performance in one key sector after another – police, industry, economic reform, media, power generation – is shown in a series of farcical scenes to have been amateurish, futile, fraudulent or worse.

See also in the same review a very different account reaching the same conclusion of failure in The Occupation of Iraq: Winning the War, Losing the Peace by Ali A Allawi (cousin to the US appointed Iraqi PM Allawi):

Equally striking is General Petraeus, now promoted to command the US forces in Iraq, “waxing lyrical” about the rapid equipping of the new Iraqi army at a time when something between $1.3bn and $2.3bn was being stolen from the defence budget, possibly the largest robbery in history, according to an Iraqi judge. The equipment the army got included 30-year-old helicopters that would scarcely fly, bullet-proof vests that fell apart and toy-store-quality helmets.

[Allawi was interviewed on 60 Minutes last fall for their story “The Mother of All Heists” on the theft of $800 Million by Iraqi Defense Ministry personnel appointed by the Coalition Provisional Authority.]

And finally, from an article in the same edition of the same paper on the “dysfunctional organisation” of the Coalition Provisional Authority:

Andrew Bearpark, probably the Coalition Provisional Authority’s central British figure, also revealed that when he asked for details of the plan to restore the Iraqi power supplies, he was given a one-page piece of paper with a list of a dozen Iraqi power stations and their potential output, amounting to what he describes as “a wish list”. “That was the CPA plan”, he said in an interview with the Guardian.

For these horror stories to be withheld until now, CPA functionaries must have employed truly heroic mental gymnastics within the confines of an unknowable bureaucratic ennui. Why didn’t they cry into their beers to whoever would listen? Perhaps they did, but you’d never know it from the early reports, which morphed from the level of sports-coverage to that granted a city planning meeting, with a little Encylopedia Brown thrown in. The Judith Millers prefered to view the obvious disaster through the eyewash of press releases and happy talk of the authorities they deferred to.

Lest anyone misrecall these events as mere inside baseball of the power elite, the biggest mistakes were public and only an apparatnick reading Chomsky like Machiavelli would deny it now:

It is sharp to recall the fatuous comment by Paul Wolfowitz, testifying to Congress in 2003, that Iraqi oil revenue “could bring between $50bn and $100bn over the course of the next two or three yearsWe are dealing with a country that can really finance its own reconstruction and relatively soon” (from the Guardian’s review of Allawi’s book).

And their reckoning is what? And the price of their clubby coverage is paid by who?

Wolfowitz and Millers ceremonial rejection by their host bodies shunts two overpowered fools into an academic senility, but it does not do justice.

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Posted on June 16, 2007, in News. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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