Sunday, December 14, 2008

C Students don't Learn Hard Lessons

With less than six weeks before the Inauguration, it is beginning to feel as if every day brings us a new irony to ponder, most of those ironies being centered on President George W. Bush. Today's irony stems from his decision to make his final visit to Iraq while, thanks to The New York Times, the rest of the world is focusing on a draft copy of "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience." For those not yet aware of this document, Al Jazeera English has reported on it in the direct language it deserves:

The US-led force's $100bn effort to rebuild Iraq has failed amid bureaucratic quarrels, ignorance of Iraqi society and violence in the country, the New York Times has quoted a federal report as saying.

The newspaper said on its website on Saturday that it had obtained a draft copy of Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience, which is circulating among senior officials.

The report was compiled by the Office of the Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction, which is led by Stuart Bowen Jr, a Republican lawyer.

Where Al Jazeera could pursue this story beyond the Times was with their own resources for gathering reactions to the report within Iraq itself. Thus, given the bottom line that $117 billion had been spent on this reconstruction effort by the middle of this year, Al Jazeera was able to field the following reaction from Iraqi journalist Ahmed Rushdi:

When you are talking about 117 billion dollars, you are talking about stolen money, misused money, and poor planning. But the Americans and the Iraqis said that these monies were being spent on security.

I think Americans and some Iraqis have got very rich [off the funds] and they decided to get rid of all ther documents which would show that something was wrong, particularly in Paul Bremer's administration.

We must make a rule on how to charge these people with crimes.

It is that last sentence that gets to me the most, since it reflects on a sentence that had earned Bush his thirteenth Chutzpah of the Week award:

I'd like to be a president [known] as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace.

What kind of peace is it that can sustain without due process of law? The answer is simple enough: It is a peace that depends on totalitarian authority. The "enforced peace" of Saddam Hussein has been replaced by a kleptocratic anarchy, under which peace is not even a distant dream. Was Bush's declaration one of self-deception, as I suggested in presenting his Chutzpah award; or was it calculated ideological posturing to provide cover for those "Americans and some Iraqis [who] have got very rich?" In the absence of due process of law, as much in this country as in Iraq, we may never know the answer to this question; and that is the real irony behind a war that began on false pretenses and now continues as outright thievery under equally false pretenses.

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