Nick Turse at tomdispatch.com skewers Donald Rumsfeld’s various rhetorical strategies of evasion whenever he has been asked hard questions about Abu Ghraib, the situation in Iraq, etc.:
‘ I was truly curious: Was it a budgetary problem — the lack of CD burners, or floppy disks, or available computers at the Pentagon? Or was no one technically capable of making copies for Rumsfeld? Or was there some kind of institutional/personal issue at stake? Were Rumsfeld’s underlings, for unknown reasons, engaging in a game of diskette keep-away “for days and days and days” (and right before his big Senate grilling too)?
Since then, I’ve paid closer attention to Rumsfeld’s problems and continued to speculate. Just take a look at a few of the numerous incidents thus far in 2005…
On January 8, 2005, Newsweek broke a story about a high-level debate within the Pentagon on implementing the “Salvador Option” — that is, the use of “death-squads” like those the U.S. funded in El Salvador during the 1980s — in Iraq . . . Rumsfeld went on to complain that he couldn’t find a copy of the story anywhere and could only read articles about the story. Members of the press corps promised to get him a copy and informed him that it was available in the on-line edition of the magazine. In his defense, Rumsfeld claimed that he only buys the hard-copy of Newsweek.
That Rumsfeld is such a cut-up.
Suburban Guerrilla (journalist Susan Madrak) takes an extended look at the way Pentagon reporting procedures on casualties are skewing the public’s idea of the cost of the war in US lives and injuries. She wonders what the public reaction would be if it could be proved that the true count of dead and wounded, counting all the troops and contractors and all even tangentially combat-related casualties, was 2 or 3 times what we are being told.
The Middle East Information Center discussion board highlights the excellent article by Nir Rosen on Kirkuk that appeared in the NYT magazine Sunday. Rosen’s portrait of a city that is little more than a massive urban roadside bomb ready to go off at any moment is a chilling harbinger for the future.
In the hyperlinked way of the blogging world, Andrew Arato’s guest editorial on Monday about the likely struggle between the elected parliament in Iraq and the dead hand of the American-imposed interim constitution provoked y provoked Josh Buermann of Flagrancy to Reason to some acute observations about the severe constraints on Iraqi democracy imposed by the US. He cites Kevin Carson as saying,
‘ Once again, as has been the case with assorted other velvet and orange revolutions, along with sundry exercises in “people power,” what’s left after the smoke clears is a neoconservative counterfeit democracy. What the neocons call “democracy” is a Hamiltonian system in which the people exercise formal power to elect the government, but the key directions of policy are determined by a small and relatively stable Power Elite that is insulated from any real public pressure. the “Hamiltonian” nature of the Iraqi government and the continued purchase US policy has on its bureaucracy. ‘
Carson in turn quotes Milan Rai from Electronic Iraq pointing out that:
‘ Another device for maintaining control was Paul Bremer’s appointment of key officials for five year terms just before leaving office. In June 2004, the US governor ordered that the national security adviser and the national intelligence chief chosen by the US-imposed interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, be given five-year terms, imposing Allawi’s choices on the elected government. Bremer also installed inspectors-general for five-year terms in every ministry, and formed and filled commissions to regulate communications, public broadcasting and securities markets. ‘
Rai also points out that the big fight now looming between Ibrahim Jaafari of the United Iraqi Alliance and Iyad Allawi of the Iraqiyah List is over the extent of debaathification. Jaafari wants to continue to exclude midlevel and high Baath officials from government posts, whereas Allawi had begun bringing them in, even putting one in charge of the secret police:
‘ Allawi restored former servants of the Saddam regime to important posts, and has filled the security forces with former Ba’athists. Saddam’s Special Forces soldiers and former intelligence officials are even being rehired as a police commando strike force. Last summer Allawi’s government appointed Rasheed Flayeh to the post of director-general of the secret police force, despite objections from the Supreme Commission for De-Ba’athification that as head of security in the city of Nasiriyah, Flayeh had taken part in the brutal suppression of the 1991 Shia uprising.
Last October, Allawi tried and failed to disband the De-Ba’athification Commission (headed by his old rival Ahmed Chalabi). Allawi wanted to be able to openly readmit former senior Ba’athists to power unless they have been found guilty of serious crimes in court, a policy supported by Washington. The Shia coalition that has ‘won’ the elections has vowed to reverse re-Ba’athification, and it is likely that Allawi’s enthusiasm for this policy will bar him from being a compromise prime minister in the new government. ‘
Buermann, Carson and Rai have put their fingers on a key set of issues in understanding the contemporary situation in Iraq. How much control can the US keep, and with what tools? What is the future of the ex-Baathists? Can a stable new regime emerge that can claim popular legitimacy under the shadow of Western military occupation? Thank God someone is at least broaching the questions.