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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
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ArrowAn Important Message from our Fearless Leader
Paul Fallon

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ArrowThe Beast Page 3
Environmental Apocalypse

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

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

 

Baker-Hamilton Omission Report

continued - page 3

Baker-Hamilton takes all of this into account, offering no concrete or controversial suggestions that would bind either party to unpopular action in the near future. In essence, all Baker-Hamilton accomplished was a very vague admission that Bush’s Iraq adventure is somehow irrevocably fucked and that we have to get our troops out of that country as soon as possible, a conclusion that was obvious to the entire world two long years ago. But even this pathetically timid intellectual assertion was deemed too controversial to risk unveiling before the 2006 midterm elections, and it’s obvious now that both parties have decided to wait until 2008 to deal with the more important questions of “when” and “how.”

In the midst of all of the recent fanfare about Baker-Hamilton, some of the actual actors in the Iraq disaster have been using the media to similarly absolve themselves of any responsibility to act. We started to see this happening on November 15, when Michael Gordon of The New York Times (who seems to be spending a lot of time fellating intelligence officials lately) ran a ponderous “news analysis” suggesting that a rapid withdrawal might not be the best idea (“Get Out Now? Not So Fast, Some Experts Say,” Nov. 15). In this piece, a host of military and intelligence officials argued vociferously that America’s problems in Iraq stemmed from not having enough troops, and that an early withdrawal would accelerate the country’s decline into civil war. Among the voices quoted in Gordon’s piece is former CIA analyst Ken Pollack, who as Jeff Cohen noted was one of the chief pom-pom wavers for the war before the invasion and one of the many experts who insisted that Iraq possessed WMDs. Gordon conveniently left Pollack’s record on that score out of the article.

Pollack and other officials like former Central Command head Anthony Zinni furthermore argue in the Gordon piece that what is needed now is an increase in troops in the next six months to “regain momentum” as part of a broader effort to stabilize Iraq.

A few weeks later, Gordon ran another piece (“Bush Adviser’s Memo Cites Doubts About Iraqi Leader,” Nov. 29) which contained a leak of a memo by National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley which basically expressed doubts that Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki is capable of doing much of anything to control sectarian violence in Iraq.

The gist of both of these Gordon pieces is obvious: the military wants it known that it isn’t responsible for any of America’s problems in Iraq, and that the real problem is that Bush failed to set up an effective political context for the military to work within.

With the military inundating the newspapers with leaks that basically pass the buck for the Iraq disaster to the diplomats and the politicians, the Bush administration still refusing to publicly face reality, and the politicians outside the administration hiding behind a Baker-Hamilton report that shelves any meaningful decisions until some undetermined date far into the future (while being careful to avoid “not-so-open” confrontations with the president), the Iraq catastrophe can now be safely perpetuated ad nauseum — and the only people who will suffer for it will be people who don’t matter in Washington, i.e. the soldiers and the Iraqi people.

We may soon have to face this fact: With the midterm elections over, and George Bush already a lame duck, the Iraq war is no longer an urgent problem to anyone on the Hill who matters. The Democrats are in no hurry to end things because it will benefit them if Iraq is still a mess in ‘08; just as they did this fall, they’ll bitch about the war without explicitly promising to end it at any particular time. George Bush has already run his last campaign and he’s not about to voluntarily fuck up his legacy with a premature surrender or a humiliating concession to Syria or Iran. At least publicly, John McCain is going to head into ‘08 siding with those in the military who believe the problem is a lack of troops.

For the Iraq disaster to end, someone among these actors is going to have to make a difficult decision — admit defeat, invite a bloody civil war, lose face before a pair of rogue terror-supporting states — and it’s obvious that none of them is ever going to do that, not until there’s absolutely no choice.

The Baker-Hamilton report is being praised for its cautious, sensible, bipartisan approach to the Iraq problem (Time magazine even called it “genius”) but actually all it is a tacit recognition of this pass-the-buck dynamic in Washington. Because there is currently no way to even think about ending the actual problem without someone in Washington having to eat a very big bucket of shit, both sides have agreed, in the spirit of so-called bipartisan cooperation, to avoid thinking about ending the problem in the immediate future. Instead, the official policy in the meantime, bet on it, will end up being some version of a three-pronged strategy that involves 1) staying the course or even increasing the amount of troops temporarily 2) seeing what happens in ‘08, and 3) revisiting the issue after we see who wins the White House two years from now.

Baker-Hamilton wasn’t about finding solutions to the Iraq problem. It was about finding viable political solutions to the Iraq problem. Since there are none, it punted the problem to the next administration. Maybe the war will be real to those folks and they’ll actually do something. Don’t hold your breath.

 

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