COLIN, DON, AND WOLFIE PLAY MUSICAL CHAIRS: Last week, Tom Friedman pointed out helpfully that when his boss (oops, I mean leaker-in-chief) Jim Baker was running State back in 1990-91, Baker used to actually visit other countries, a lot, as he worked to build and strengthen the anti-Saddam alliance of that era. (Tom didn’t point out how glad he must have been about that fact. More face time for him, on all those airplanes, with the guy whose virtual mouthpiece he thereby became.)
Anyway, Tom pointed out the evident contrast between Baker’s s.o.p.’s and the present administration’s practise of having the Prez and all top cabinet members here sit back like Queen Elizabeth I and have all the minions and satraps, a.k.a. the leaders of furrin nations, come groveling to them– well, that wasn’t exactly how Tom put it, but you get the drift.
I guess Tom’s piece got Powell’s people fairly much steamed. Within hours, they were giving all kinds of reasons why the Secretary had not been traveling much recently. (Although of course this week, he’s doing a fly-through to Asia.) Only one of the many “reasons” given was that the Secretary also has many important things to do back in Washington, too.
Of course he does, poor guy. Mainly, watch his own back, as the vultures from the Pentagon continue to circle around the city in the hope of picking up some tasty meat from the plate of political/diplomatic chores that in any reasonably run administration would be the responsibility of the State Department.
Oh, like commenting on the novelty or decrepitude of various different forms of government in Europe… Since when did making pronouncements on such matters as that fall into the Secretary of Defense’s job description???
And of course, Bombs-away Don’s comments on that score, a couple of weeks back, complicated Colin’s coalition-maintenance task considerably, as we know. Not that Don seems to give a fig for “the coalition”, anyway…
And now, for some more insidious mission creep from the Pentagon suits, we need only read about hyperactive Deputy SecDef Paul Wolfowitz, off there in Dearborn, MI yesterday, trying to build bridges with 300 fervently anti-Saddam Iraqi Americans there.
Interestingly, the W. Post‘s account of this (Tom Ricks, p.A16) reads as a little more skeptical of the encounter than the NYT account (Eric Schmitt, p.A10).
Ricks reported that the meeting was “strongly pro-war”. But he also wrote that Wolfie “found himself peppered with with skeptical questions about the reliability of U.S. promises, given what the questioners portrayed as a poor U.S. record in the Middle East.” Ricks also reported– as Schmitt didn’t– that at one point, “the session’s moderator, Maha Hussain… who is president of the Iraqi Forum for democracy, pointedly asked why U.S. assurances of support for Iraqi democrats should be trusted, ‘considering the history of the U.S. government’ in not supporting the 1991 uprisings [in Iraq], among other things.”
Wolfowitz, Ricks reported, “seemed momentarily nonplused by the question, but then responded by noting that the U.S. government repeatedly came to the aid of embattled Muslims in recent years [in a list of places that notably did not include Iraq, or indeed Palestine.]”
Maybe, instead of rushing around the U.S. and the world trying to force this war to happen right now, and regardless of the consequences, Wolfie would do better to take a deep breath, step back, and study history a little. Why on earth should he be “nonplused” when a survivor of Saddam’s brutal, U.S.-enabled counter-attack against the 1991 uprisings still wants to talk about that ugly episode in world history? Does he want everyone simply to forget about what happened then?
Anyway, I’ve found a(nother) great blog, written by a doughty footslogging (as opposed to hotel-dwelling) reporter called Christopher Allbriton, who has a lot of great firsthand and collated background material on the degree to which many different segments of the Iraqi democratic opposition are now feeling extremely betrayed by Washington.
You might want to check out his blog some more. Also, Allbriton and some other experienced bloggers have put together a really interesting site called Warblogs:cc that is a sort of meta-blog giving headlines and links for a number of war-skeptical bloggespondents. (This latter term is my own coining. But a blogging foreign correspondent is one thing I’d like to be at some point soon, so I thought the job description deserved a job title, too.)
Allbriton describes Warblogs as being a “sort of coalition of the unwilling”. You reckon he’d let me join?