Well, after a substantial hiatus caused by the addition of major new responsibilities at work, it’s time to get back in the saddle, to use a Bushism. I have been reading as much as possible regarding the debacle in Iraq, and there are several really interesting and enlightening books that have been published in the last few months. I’m well into several.
The best from the perspective of what went wrong in Baghdad as far as the civil authorities is George Packer’s Assassin’s Gate. Packer, a staff writer at the New Yorker — along with the Atlantic must reading, writes well. Clearly the Bush administration was less interested in making sure things went well than in regarding loyalists. Bush et al just assumed everything would turn out well and if left alone, much like the Katrina disaster, would sort of fix itself. I mean, how hard can government be? There are numerous examples of bureaucrats with expert knowledge in civil affairs being replaced by someone with no experience, but who thought “right” on abortion or stem cell research, or who was a contributor. Even the Iraqis placed in power, were those who had been in exile for many years and had little first-hand knowledge of conditions in the country. They also lacked the respect of their compatriots. In the meantime they hunkered down in the Green Zone, slurping down martinis, eating pork (the Americans at least) and isolating themselves from the horror just outside the concrete barriers. It’s not a pretty picture.
Cobra II:The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq by Michael R. Gordon and Bernard E. Trainor tells the story from the military perspective. Again, a case of wishful thinking from the Bush Cabinet. [ Speaking of his Cabinet, I happened to hear Elaine Chao, current Secretary of Labor, speak at a recent EEO conference, and she is living on another planet — something probably true of all of them. ]
I must say that while reading Robert McNamara’s In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, I continue to be struck by the terminology and similarities in the way our government massages the language. In 1967 and 1968 Johson and McNamara (he even looks like Rumsfeld) were discussing the problems caused by the “insurgency” and the “political instability” of the country. Not to mention that we now measure success by the number of bodies we count.