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ISSUE #112
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Features

ArrowMcCain's Mutiny
Why "Mr. Integrity" wants the war to drag on
Allan Uthman

ArrowThe Negligents
How to convert ignorance into “skepticism”
Ben Zaitchik

ArrowCivil War?
An oxymoron in one act
Ian Murphy

ArrowBaker-Hamilton Omission Report
Iraq Study Group aims to change perception, not reality
Matt Taibbi

ArrowThe BEAST Holiday Gift Guide
Because you must consume!

ArrowAre YOU a Racist?
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Local BEAST

ArrowAn Important Message from our Fearless Leader
Paul Fallon

Departments

ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Environmental Apocalypse

ArrowKino Korner: Movies
Turistas, Blood Diamond, Unaccompanied Minors, Apocalypto, The Holiday

ArrowBEAST-O-Scopes
As divined by your ethereal guide

Arrow[sic] - Letters
Fiends Like These, Cutler & Run, That's [sic], Osama for your Mama and more

 

Baker-Hamilton Omission Report

continued - page 2

And so, when faced with an unsolvable or seemingly unsolvable political conundrum, most politicians feel there’s only one thing to do. You appear onstage with your rival party’s leader, embrace him, announce that you’re going to find a “bipartisan” solution together, and then nominate a panel of rotting political corpses who will spend 18 months, a few dozen million dollars, many thousands of taxpayer-funded air miles, and about 130,000 pages of impossibly verbose text finding a way for both parties to successfully take the fork in the road and blow off the entire issue, whatever it was.

It’s important, when you nominate your panel, to dig up the oldest, saggiest, rubberiest, most used-up political whores on the Eastern seaboard to take up your cause. That way, you can be sure that the panel will know its place and not address any extraneous issues in its inquiry — like, for instance, whose fault a certain war is, or whether the whole idea of a “War on Terrorism” needs to be rethought, or whether the idea of preemptive defense as a general strategy is viable at all, or whether previously unthinkable solutions may now have to be countenanced, or whether there is anyone currently in a position of responsibility who perhaps should immediately be removed from office and hung by his balls. Your panel should contain people who are not experts or interested parties in the relevant field (since experts or interested parties might be tempted to come up with real, i.e. politically dangerous solutions), but it should contain people who are recognizable political celebrities whose names will lend weight to your whole enterprise, although not for any logical reason.

Baker-Hamilton was a classic whore-panel in every sense. None were Middle East experts. None had logged serious time in Iraq, before or after the invasion. All of them had influential friends on both sides of the aisle all over Washington, parties in the future they wanted to keep getting invites to, ambitions yet to be realized. You could assign Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Sandra Day O’Connor and Vernon Jordan, Jr. to take on virtually any problem and feel very confident that between the four of them, they would find a way to avoid the ugly heart of any serious political dilemma. If the missiles were on the way, and nuclear Armageddon was just seconds off, those four fossils would find a way to issue a recommendation whose headline talking points would be something like “heightened caution,” dialogue with Sweden, and a 14 percent increase in future funding for the Air Force.

Hence the conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton report were predetermined virtually from the start. We could all have expected that the group’s only unequivocal conclusions would restate the obvious — that we need an eventual withdrawal of troops, that there needs to be more “robust regional diplomacy,” that Iraqi forces need to assume more of the security burden, and that there will be no hope of a political solution without some cooperation from Syria and Iran. Duh! Because the really thorny questions are the specifics: when do we leave, and, more importantly, what do we offer Iran and Syria in return for their cooperation, what horrifying inevitable humiliation will we be prepared to suffer at their hands, and what form will talks with those gloating countries take?

Baker-Hamilton blew off those questions, and it’s no wonder, because no one in Washington wants to deal with them. The Republicans don’t want to agree to a withdrawal timetable because it’s an admission of defeat and policy failure, while the Democrats don’t want to be the first to call for a withdrawal because they’re afraid of being pilloried in the next election season for a lack of toughness. Both sides are afraid of being responsible for a civil war bloodbath if the U.S. troops pull out, and neither side wants to be the first to suggest taking the humiliating step of inviting Syria or Iran to the negotiating table with anything like equal status.

page 3

 

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