Friday, December 08, 2006

Jimmy and the Recommendations

It really would make one heck of a show, dontcha think?

But in all seriousness (OK, slightly more seriousness), for all the talk of how this Baker Commission report (PDF) is not about assigning blame or looking backward, but, instead, is about moving forward, what this report does best is sum up the three and two-thirds years of total incompetence, abject failure, intentional obfuscation, and rampant corruption that has been spearheaded by an arrogant and incurious President Bush.

(To underline the “incurious” part, let me just point out that after the ISG made its Wednesday morning presentation to Bush, he, the Commander in Chief of this fiasco, had no questions. None.)

Now, if you have been reading the papers and blogs during the course of this war, you, too, could have written this part—the recap—the first 44 pages. Really. I’m completely serious. I did not read a single thing I didn’t already know.

That said, it is nice to have it all there in one handy dandy Vintage Paperback, complete with the official old white dudes’ stamp of approval. In fact, what the enlarged prostate set (plus Sandra Day O’Connor—no idea about the size of her prostate) has done is provide a great degree of political cover for anyone who wants to say, “This Iraq adventure? Complete fucking disaster!”

I don’t want to debate about it—it’s in the report, dear!

But as for the looking forward part, those 79 recommendations, well, that’s like a whole other show. (I’m guessing it will be similar to the new musical stage version of High Fidelity: Top five Iraqi strongmen—Moqtada al-Sadr, Ali al-Sistani, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, Tariq al-Hashimi, Jalal Talabani, etc.)

First, this is no way really 79 recommendations! These guys totally padded! It often will go like this:

Recommendation X: Establish the Blah Blah Commission
Recommendation X+1: The Blah Blah Commission should do blah blah
Recommendation X+2: The Blah Blah Commission should also do blah blah blah.

See? That’s really ONE recommendation, but the fabulous Baker boys
s t r e t c h
it out to three. . . and this sort of thing happens again and again.

Second, what do you think you will get for recommendations when not one single member of this Iraq Study Group openly opposed the war prior to invasion, and many, if not most, openly advocated and lobbied for it? Well, I’ll you what you don’t get—you don’t get anything that’s going to end this thing quickly.

Oddly, many on the right are upset that these recommendations seem to call for some sort of accelerated cut-and-run that is, to their minds, completely impossible. But, if you listen to commission members, like Leon Panetta, who appeared on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show Thursday morning, you will hear comparisons made to Korea.


Over fifty years after the “end” of that war police action, how many tens of thousands of US troops are still in Korea? (I believe the answer is something close to 2.5 tens of thousands, or 25,000 troops.)

I’m not saying I’ve got a better scenario off the top of my head, but just think about this: what do you all say we go to war where the best outcome we could hope for is something akin to Korea—but with more terrorists and ethnic tension—sound good?

Third, there’s the oil. . . there’s always the oil. I was reading for quite some time (obviously) before I got to recommendations 62 and 63, but when I did, I said, there he is, there’s my Jimmy!

If you want to see why this is indeed the James Baker commission after all, then look no further than the recommendations having to do with Iraqi oil. It’s several pages, so I just can’t block quote the whole thing, but let me snip some highlights:

[From Recommendation 62]

• The U.S. government should encourage the Iraqi government to accelerate contracting for the comprehensive well work-overs in the southern fields needed to increase production, but the United States should no longer fund such infrastructure projects.

• The U.S. military should work with the Iraqi military and with private security forces to protect oil infrastructure and contractors. Protective measures could include a program to improve pipeline security by paying local tribes solely on the basis of throughput (rather than fixed amounts).

. . . .

• In conjunction with the International Monetary Fund, the U.S. government should press Iraq to continue reducing subsidies in the energy sector, instead of providing grant assistance. Until Iraqis pay market prices for oil products, drastic fuel shortages will remain.

[From Recommendation 63]

• The United States should encourage investment in Iraq’s oil sector by the international community and by international energy companies.

• The United States should assist Iraqi leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial enterprise, in order to enhance efficiency, transparency, and accountability.

So, according to Jim, let’s see, what we need for Iraqi peace, in part, is for the Iraqi government to open up their oil production to the private sector, for the US military to provide security for these private oil enterprises, for the government to pay protection money to “tribes,” but on an incentive basis, and for the Iraqi people to earn their freedom by feeling pain at the pump.

Making the world safe for another market economy—one queered by multinational energy conglomerates—that’s what we’ve killed and died for!

Of course, I really wouldn’t expect any less from Bush family fixer James A. Baker III. Remember, for all the talk in the early pages of this report about diplomatic offensives, Baker himself, Bush 41 resume aside, is not a diplomat—he’s an operative. Baker’s efforts, be they in the middle east fifteen years ago, or on the Dubai Ports World deal earlier this year, or here with the ISG, are really not about the rights and well-being of masses of people yearning to breathe free. Baker cares about stability because stability is good for his big money friends and clients.

Where does this leave the rest of us? Where does this leave the people of the region or the men and women in our armed forces who continue to die there? Given the writers, the producers, and the guy who now owns the rights to this book, probably nowhere. But, chin up, there’s always the sequel.

(I'm doing a similar song and dance over at dKos.)


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