The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by J.C. Nossiter
The Morning Mendacity
Tuesday, September 14th,  2004
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
Says Robert McNamara in his book In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam (Random House, 1995),  “I had never visited Indochina, nor did I understand or appreciate its history, language, culture, or values. The same must be said… about President Kennedy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, military adviser Maxwell Taylor, and many others. When it came to Vietnam, we found ourselves setting policy for a region that was terra incognita.”*  And there were no wise men to turn to.  The State Department’s South Asia experts had been purged in the McCarthy era;  the few remaining South Asia hands had been dismissed or marginalized by Presidents Johnson and Nixon. U.S. policy in Vietnam was based on profound ignorance and utter blindness at the highest levels of government, with consequences we rue to this day.

Sound familiar?  But in Iraq, the Bush administration has gone Mr. McNamara and his colleagues one better.  The administration’s colonialists have displayed not only complete incomprehension of  Iraqi culture, history, and politics, but also perfect ignorance of our own international law. Furthermore, ideology and cronyism have filled critical administrative jobs in Iraq, with consequences evident in each morning’s newspaper.

In the 9/23/04
New York Review of Books (nybooks.com), former Ambassador Peter Galbraith writes that the signal (perhaps the single) achievement of the Coalition Provisional Authority under Paul Bremer was the imposition of the Transitional Administrative Law, a preview constitution for the Iraqis that included basic human rights.  Trouble is, the law expired when Mr. Bremer slipped out of the country and surrendered the governance of Iraq to Prime Minister Allawi.  An occupying power’s decrees have no force when an occupation ceases, unless ratified by the UN Security Council.  Given the Bush administration’s posture towards the UN, it’s not surprising that ratification was neither sought nor granted.  Mr. Galbraith calls this “a rookie mistake” by the young neocon Pentagon bureaucrat and junior Foreign Service officer in charge.

And it gets worse.  In a tale straight from Evelyn Waugh, Ambassador Galbraith recounts the adventures of three youthful CPA recruits, hired by email, and placed in charge of spending Iraq’s budget, with predictably disastrous results.  Their only qualification:  all three had also applied for jobs at the Heritage Foundation, the neocon bastion.  Given the task of privatizing Iraq’s state-owned industry was Michael Fleisher, brother of Mr. Bush’s former press secretary, Ari Fleisher.  Writes Mr. Galbraith “After explaining that he had got the job in Iraq through his brother Ari, he told the Chicago Tribune—without any apparent sense of irony—that the Americans were going to teach the Iraqis a new way of doing business. ‘The only paradigm they know is cronyism.’”

The British empire builders used to send younger sons to colonial outposts.  Perhaps younger brothers are the modern equivalent.  But if Vietnam was the product of mere ignoramuses, how much worse will be an Iraq forged by fools and knaves and their job-seeking cronies?

*http://www.writing.upenn.edu/~afilreis/50s/mcnamara-on-china.htmlh.

©J.C. Nossiter 2004
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