Mixed messages

mixed messages

What are those Bushies smoking?

The Iraq war was the ultimate faith-based initiative. Bush and the neocons launched a preemptive war against Iraq with a meticulous and detailed plan for the attack and nothing for the aftermath but faith that democracy, peace, and light would emerge, all at minimal cost to the US. Iraq's oil riches, it was said, would enable Iraq to pay for its own reconstruction.

It didn't happen that way, of course. The US is burning money in Iraq at the rate of $1 billion a week, and Bush asked for another $87 billion for the next year. Instead of finding their paths strewn with flowers, US soldiers find their convoys ambushed and attacked with rocket propelled grenades and remote-controlled bombs.

For a while, the Bush administration seemed to recognize it was in over its head and respond to calls to internationalize Iraq reconstruction. The US went to the UN for another resolution, which passed the Security Council unanimously. While in the UK, Bush gave an excellent speech declaring his belief in multinationalism. Secretary of State Colin Powell has been talking up NATO participation. Bush appointed former Secretary of State James Baker a special envoy to work on restructuring Iraq's existing debt, most of which is held by France, Germany, Russia. ("Restructuring" means "forgiving," of course.)

Eligible countries

Afghanistan
Albania
Angola
Australia
Azerbaijan
Bahrain
Bulgaria
Colombia
Costa Rica
Czech Republic
Denmark
Dominican Republic
Egypt
El Salvador
Eritrea
Estonia
Ethiopia
Georgia
Honduras
Hungary
Iceland
Iraq
Italy
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kuwait
Latvia
Lithuania
Macedonia
Marshall Islands
Micronesia
Moldova
Mongolia
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Norway
Oman
Palau
Panama
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Qatar
Romania
Rwanda
Saudi Arabia
Singapore
Slovakia
Solomon Islands
South Korea
Spain
Thailand
Tonga
Turkey
UAE
Uganda
Ukraine
United Kingdom
United States
Uzbekistan

Then bam! kerpow! Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, published a "finding" that concluded that contracts worth $18.6B would be limited to the "United States, Iraq, Coalition partners and force contributing nations," all for the "protection of the essential security interests of the United States." (Determination and Findings by Paul Wolfowitz, PDF)

Notably, the list of eligible countries (right, mouse over box to pause) does not include major US allies France, Germany, Russia, and Canada (and others as well). Naturally, the Canadians, French, Germans, and Russians are outraged.

Bush is unrepentant in his defense of the policy, saying at the last Cabinet meeting of the year, "The taxpayers understand why it makes sense for countries that risked lives to participate in the contracts in Iraq."

Huh? At the same time the administration is asking countries to forgive massive debts incurred by the regime of Sadam Hussein and to help rebuild Iraq because it is in their interest, it is also saying to those same countries, "You can't compete for contracts to rebuild Iraq."

Senator Joe Biden (D., Del), top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, described the Bush administration's actions as a "totally gratuitous slap.... At the very time the Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense were at NATO requesting greater allied participation in Iraq and Afghanistan, we stick a finger in the eye of those whose help we are seeking." (press release) Amen to that!

Editorializing in the New York Times, Paul Krugman suggests that these contradictory actions are not just incompetence but that "the administration's hard-liners are deliberately sabotaging reconciliation" [with US allies]. (NYTimes, 12-Dec-03)

The list. Since the list consists of "coalition partners and force contributing nations" it is worth taking a look at. It consists of 63 countries, including the US. The list is something of a revelation because the membership of the coalition was a big secret at the time of the attacks.

• Not to disparage any other country, but what could some of the countries on that list have possibly contributed to the coalition? Rwanda? Eritrea? Moldova? Solomon Islands? If this were a financial report, we would say that the books had been cooked.

• How many of those countries can actually be competitive bidders? Angola? Albania? Palau? Nicaragua? Again, not to disparage any country on the list, but these contracts will require some significant resources and competencies.

The term "spoils of war" is entirely appropriate here to describe how the Bushies view these contracts. Not that all the other countries not on the list would or could compete for contracts. It is that the Bushies are treating Iraq as booty.

The Bush administration could have said, in awarding contracts, priority will be given to coalition members and force contributing countries. The end result would probably have been nearly the same, and it could have been achieved without antagonizing, in-your-face, arrogance. But this administration seems determined to do everything it can to act the bully, whether on the international or domestic scene.

As my momma used to say, You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

If The Shrub were a reader I would recommend The Ugly American, originally published in 1958. It focused on American arrogance, incompetence, and corruption in Southeast Asia. One might also recommend he read his father's book A World Transformed, written with Brent Scowcroft (see excerpt). But since we know The Shrub doesn't read or listen to anybody, recommendations would be futile.

What goes around, comes around. Whoever is president after Bush will have a massive challenge to repair the damage to international relations that this Bush has caused.