Warm and fuzzy news about Iraq
The news from Iraq is grimmer than you know. Finally starting to crank up real-life coverage of the Bush Error, the New York Times revealed this morning the existence of a secret (to the public) “bleak assessment” sent to Washington last week by the CIA’s station chief in Baghdad, followed by briefings in D.C. that reinforced the bad news.
But other reinforcements are on the way to chaotic Iraq. The Pentagon, hoping to promote warm and fuzzy feelings here and abroad, is shipping more than 28,000 stuffed animals to soldiers there and elsewhere overseas as part of Operation Grateful. Arizona schoolgirl Alison Goulder already has the approval of General Richard “Quag” Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for her roundup of thousands of dolls from the play areas of American homes. (See yesterday’s Morning Report in the Bush Beat.) She also has the full support of Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. (See photo below).
Operation Grateful was set up by Greenberg Traurig, the powerful D.C. firm of lawyers and lobbyists that was the HQ of Bush fundraiser/pal Jack Abramoff until earlier this year, when scandal hit.
Not a word of protest has been heard from the stuffed animals heading to Iraq—unlike human soldiers such as Donald Qualls who are being kept on active duty despite their protests and lawsuits.
Awaiting the unprecedented number of soldiers and stuffed animals in Iraq is a country that is increasingly out of control. This morning Times story by Douglas Jehl, pinned to unnamed “officials,” says of the classified CIA cable and the briefings that followed:
Together, the appraisals, which follow several other such warnings from officials in Washington and in the field, were much more pessimistic than the public picture being offered by the Bush administration before the elections scheduled for Iraq next month, the officials said.
Unfortunately, Jehl only paraphrases the cable, leading one (me, that is) to speculate that the Bush regime is purposely leaking the bad news this way to let the public down gradually, before more actual documents of the Iraq misadventure find their way—oh God, no!—into the public’s hands.
In any case, Jehl writes:
The officials described the station chief’s cable in particular as an unvarnished assessment of the difficulties ahead in Iraq. They said it warned that the security situation was likely to get worse, including more violence and sectarian clashes, unless there were marked improvements soon on the part of the Iraqi government, in terms of its ability to assert authority and to build the economy.
Time to set Mr. Peabody‘s Wayback Machine to February 27, 2003, days before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, for Mr. Wolfowitz’s testimony before the House Budget Committee. The Deputy Secretary of Defense said:
If I might digress for a moment, Mr. Chairman, from my prepared testimony, because there has been a good deal of comment—some of it quite outlandish—about what our postwar requirements might be in Iraq. That great Yankee catcher and occasional philosopher, Yogi Berra, once observed that it is dangerous to make predictions,especially about the future.
That piece of wise advice certainly applies to predictions about wars and their aftermath, and I am reluctant to try to predict anything about what the cost of a possible conflict in Iraq would be—what the possible cost of reconstructing and stabilizing that country afterwards might be.
But some of the higher-end predictions that we have been hearing recently, such as the notion that it will take several hundred thousand U.S. troops to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq, are wildly off the mark.
Uh-huh. Keep talking.
First, it is hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in a post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and to secure the surrender of Saddam’s security forces and his army—hard to imagine.
Geez, you don’t even have to drag Wolfowitz by his hair from a Humvee to a prison cell or strip him and wedge him into a pyramid of naked people or punish him while he prays or have him simulate masturbation or threaten him with rape or throw him into a wall or smear shit on his back or scare him with a growling dog or put a dog collar on him or ride him around like a donkey or hook up wires to his nuts while making him stand on a box or make fun of his schmeckel while you grin for the camera. The guy just keeps talking:
Moreover, the Iraqis themselves can provide a good deal of whatever manpower is necessary. We are training free Iraqi forces to perform functions of that kind, including command of Iraqi units, once those units have been purged of their Baathist leadership.
Wolfowitz should have paid less attention to Yogi Berra and more attention to Monty Python—or Bernie Kerik, for that matter. But for Wolfowitz, it’s again with the Yogi Berra:
The fourth and most fundamental point is that we go back to Yogi Berra. We simply cannot predict. We have no idea whether weapons of mass terror will be used. We have no idea what kind of ethnic strife might appear in the future, although as I have noted, it has not been the history of Iraq’s past. We do not know what kind of damage Saddam Hussein will wreak on Iraq’s oil fields or its other infrastructure.
On the other side, we can’t be sure that the Iraqi people will welcome us as liberators, although based on what Iraqi-Americans told me in Detroit a week ago, many of them, most of them with families in Iraq, I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down.
In short, we don’t know what the requirements will be. But we can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 7, 2004