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Operation Iraqi Freedom, c. 2006

Ngo Dinh Diem in Baghdad
Prelude to Assassination

The big story this morning is the intelligence memo prepared for the Bush administration, and leaked to the New York Times, casting doubt on Iraqi prime minister Maliki’s ability to carry out the U.S. agenda in Iraq. Two quick points: The memo is not nearly the big news it is being played as. If every member of the Bush administration, beginning with Bush, wasn’t writing doodles and limericks about the incompetence of the Iraqi prime minister during their morning prayers and afternoon football pool parties, you’d have to doubt the capacity of the administration to spot the elephant in its Rose Garden. But that’s just it: this administration couldn’t spot an elephant in the Rose Garden if it was a whole “Jungle Book” production. Not if the administration was intent on seeing a sand pile there. Maliki’s incompetence is only partly inherent to his lack of leadership skills (he’s no Mandela). Even if a Mandela was put in his place, the political infrastructure and military reality the United States set up and enabled make it impossible for an Iraqi leader to rule, period. That memo about Maliki says nothing about Maliki. It says everything about the Bush administration’s continuing arrogance. Take a look at the very first paragraph. Rudyard Kipling could have written it:

We returned from Iraq convinced we need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able to rise above the sectarian agendas being promoted by others. Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq? If so, is he able to curb those who seek Shia hegemony or the reassertion of Sunni power? The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq.

“We need to determine if Prime Minister Maliki is both willing and able…” Unless Maliki is a suicidal fool, why question his willingness, and why do so in such militaristic phraseology (a hint about who authored that memo, by the way: it’s got the Pentagon’s fingerprints all over it). “The sectarian agendas being promoted by others”? The Bush administration provoked the sectarianism from day one when it disbanded the military, allowed the looting of the nation and enabled a quick entrenching of disenchantment to replace the old autocracy of Saddam. Don Rumsfeld’s minimalist military ensured that the disastrous set-up would endure. And now the memo’s authors are bleating about sectarian agendas being promoted by others? Then that beautifully naked imperialist line, which again reveals that military-style naiveté (a general and a rube must’ve written this): “Do we and Prime Minister Maliki share the same vision for Iraq?” Let me interject, with apologies and readers’ indulgence, a little Arabic here, if only to reflect a tiny bit of Iraqi sentiment in the face of such a line: Who the fuck is the United States to assume it has an iota of a voice in deciding what kind of vision Iraq ought to have for itself? Who the fuck is the United States to turn the Maliki government into a corporate board room with a “vision statement” pleasing to shareholders back in Washington and at the Council on Foreign Relations? “If so,” comes the next phrase. If so. If so facto, in other words: muscle a conclusion on top of an assumption, leading up to that final line, the kicker, or more accurately the kick in Iraq’s ass: “The answers to these questions are key in determining whether we have the right strategy in Iraq.” Whether we have the right strategy in Iraq. The we in this case is left vague. Is “we” to represent a partnership between the United States and the Maliki government? Of course not. It’s the royal we, representing American designs alone. Maliki is the revealed puppet, the pipeline fopr America’s intention. He happens to be clogged and craggy at the moment. And what the memo sets out is not the steps to unclog him, but, as in an employee’s file back at human resources, the documentation necessary to back-up his eventual firing. Or, as American methods traditionally have it, the eventual blind eye to his assassination. All this as Bush, the lamest-duck president since Buchanan, prepares to meet the legless Maliki in that gentle dictatorship known as Jordan. As John Burns put it in a perfect sum-up to this anti-summit, “Dismal trends in the war — measured in a rising number of civilian deaths, insurgent attacks, sectarian onslaughts and American troop casualties — have merged with growing American opposition at home to lend a sense of crisis to the talks in Amman. But American fortunes here are ever more dependent on feuding Iraqis who seem, at times, almost heedless to American appeals.”

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