It's Iraq, Stupid

There for the taking: Plenty of real documents about a real screw-up taking place right now

Why bother with phony documents? There's plenty of real stuff for John Kerry's advisers to pick through in their scramble to nail the Bush regime. All they have to do is think about the Americans dying in the current idiotic war. They're finally doing so, but they're not taking full advantage of what's out there to point to the Bush-Cheney team's disastrous handling of a bad situation.

For example, Reconstructing Iraq, a report released earlier this month by the sober, serious International Crisis Group, politely but firmly rips the hell out of U.S. occupation officials not only for screwups and not only for wrongheaded policies but for letting ideology get in the way. More frightening for the health of our troops over there, the Bush administration's monumental mishandling of Iraq's economic "recovery" after its deceitful invasion is feeding the violence and insurgency and practically assuring that the country will devolve into full-fledged civil war.

Understand that these aren't "anarchists" criticizing the Bush regime. The non-profit Brussels-based ICG is anything but wild-eyed. Its board chair is Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland. The vice chair is former New York City congressman Stephen Solarz, hardly a radical, and for every Democrat like Wesley Clark and Zbigniew "Zbig" Brzezinski on its board, there's a Carla Hills or some big muckamuck from another country, like Ruth Dreifuss, the former president of Switzerland.

So listen when the ICG says that the Coalition Provisional Authority "made a hard job harder." Here's more:

For the most part, the occupation forces came without a plan. What strategy they had benefited from little if any Iraqi input, was heavily shaped by ideology and repeatedly subject to Washington's political deadlines. CPA plans for complete economic overhaul quickly encountered stiff opposition by Iraqis intent on their own long-term strategy; shifting course, the CPA took ad hoc decisions, leaving unresolved crucial policy questions for fear of triggering even greater discontent. Thus, it was originally fixated on large-scale privatization but, facing Iraqi hostility, neither privatized nor relinquished the objective. As a result, it failed to devise an alternative approach that might have revived ailing state companies so they could be used to find temporary jobs for the unemployed.

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Looks like the only things we brought with us that have made a smooth transition were our Halliburtonian economic principles. "Inadequate transparency and accountability in the contracting process," the report says, "combined with real or alleged corruption, have fed distrust of both occupation authorities and Iraqi institutions."

And of course, the report makes clear that the current Iraq "regime" is not only plagued with problems but is also nothing more than a puppet of the U.S., a fact that the American press continues to play down:

Many issues that vexed the CPA remain. The Interim Government, for example, will be reluctant to make broad economic changes lest it be accused of usurping an elected government's prerogatives. As Lebanon's precedent shows, allocating power and positions along ethnic/sectarian lines risks encouraging a parallel apportionment of public jobs and resources, with corruption and malfeasance as by-products. Nor have the occupation authorities truly disappeared: The U.S. remains powerful and, importantly, controls most reconstruction funds.

Last fall, of course, things really started breaking down. The U.S. media were full of words and pictures about all the economic "progress" that was being made, but hardly anyone was paying attention to the hard facts and figures. The Pentagon's weekly PowerPoint reports, more depressing than any slide show you've ever had to sit through, were freely available on the U.S. Department of Commerce's Export.gov site.They told a different story. Under the Pentagon's pasha, L. Paul "Jerry" Bremer, we were spending basically zero on health care. And the reports showed that oil-rich Iraq was steadily increasing its imports of basic fuels like gasoline. Our exports of oil were sluggish even before widespread sabotage of the oilfields and refineries started.

These days, those weekly reports are being issued by the State Department. The latest report shows that we're still spending basically nothing out of what we've committed to health care, but we're increasing our spending on "private-sector" development. The State Department, not in thrall to the neocon nabobs who still infest the Pentagon, has at least added a small dose of rationality to the weekly reports. On the slide listing "Stability Contributors," the latest report says there are 33 countries (including the U.S.) plus NATO "potentially supporting Iraqi stability and humanitarian relief." Note the word "potentially."

As to the specifics of security, the families and friends of U.S. troops fighting to stay alive over there will be pleased to know the latest figures on a "Civilian Intervention Force" set up to take over some security duties for your loved ones. There are zero "on hand," zero "already trained," and zero "in training." But there are 4,800 "planned."

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