First we had an election landslide against the Republicans, in which the Iraq war was the #1 concern of voters.
Then we had an Iraq Study Group. It was described by the mainstream media as “bipartisan”. Here’s what “bipartisan” actually means:
- Chairman James A. Baker III—Chief of Staff, Reagan; Secretary of State, Bush I.
- Co-chairman Lee H. Hamilton—allegedly a Democrat. As chair of a previous Select Committee, he chose not to investigate Reagan or Bush I for their roles in the Iran-Contra scandal. He now sits on Bush II’s Homeland Security Advisory Council.
- Lawrence S. Eagleburger—Secretary of State, Bush I.
- Edwin S. Meese III—US Attorney General, Reagan.
- Alan K. Simpson—Republican Senate whip, Reagan and Bush I.
- Sandra Day O’Connor—ex Supreme Court justice appointed by Reagan.
- William J. Perry—Secretary of Defense, Clinton; hence in charge of a decade of bombing of Iraq.
- Charles S. Robb—the only Democrat to vote in favor of every item in the Republican “Contract with America”.
- Leon Panetta—Democrat, but ex-Republican. Chief of Staff, Clinton, worked with Perry on killing tens of thousands of Iraqi children.
- Vernon Jordan—an actual no-holds-barred Democrat?
So, not exactly a bunch of pinko French-speaking peaceniks. Everyone seemed to expect that their report would recommend deeper engagement. Bush said that the report would give the country an “opportunity to find common ground”. But when the actual report was read, it said that the Iraq war is an ongoing disaster and that we should try to pull out:
The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success [...]
Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another.
And the result? The neocons turn on Baker and denounce him, and Bush opts for more troops for the long term fight. Allegedly sane Republican John McCain calls for more troops as well, in Afghanistan too.
Senior military staff are skeptical. There’s also the problem of where to get the actual troops, since the army is described as being at breaking point and in need of additional assistance from the National Guard and Reserves (who, remember, were supposed to be a strategic reserve to deal with crises within the USA).
But the big question I’m left wondering is: what would it take to get Bush and crew to listen? I can understand them ignoring intelligence reports, ignoring testimony from Iraqi defectors, ignoring millions of protesters marching in the streets, and so on. It’s harder to imagine how they can widen their ignorance until they’re even prepared to ignore and denounce their own people.