Thursday, October 05, 2006

Maybe they got a discount

Three different Washington Post writers recently released three very interesting books that all deal to some degree with the war in Iraq. The first book by reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Imperial Life in the Emerald City, exposes the ineptitude of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) during the two year period in which it governed Iraq. Chandrasekaran writes that when it came to staffing the CPA, experience was regarded as lesser qualification to loyalty.

"Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting."

Bob Woodward’ book, State of Denial, his third on the Bush administration, claims that there was considerable disagreement within the higher ranks of the White House over how to conduct the war. So much so that at one point a it seemed no one’s job was safe.

"A second term traditionally leads to personnel changes. The question was whether one of them would involve Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. Card had to approach the issue with delicacy. Iraq was the centerpiece of everything now, and the president was clearly predisposed not to do anything that would disrupt the war effort. If Rumsfeld left, what would the impact be on overall momentum and on the morale of those who were doing the fighting? Rumsfeld had a virtual monopoly on defense contacts with the president, so there was no way the president could get independent information to answer those kinds of questions."

Woodward also reveals that while in May of 2006 Bush was speaking optimistically about the progress Iraq was making, secret reports that were being circulated at the time which Bush surely saw, contradicted what he said. Woodward presented this as a major bombshell on his recent appearance on 60 Minutes; however, as I recall there were a couple of official reports that were made public at the time, that showed increasing casualties, etc. It wasn’t really a secret that the situation in Iraq was getting worse.

Karen DeYoung’s Soldier: The Life of Colin Powell covers Powell’s entire career. DeYoung recently posted an excerpt of the book detailing the immediate events leading up to Powell’s infamous U.N. presentation. The excerpt describes Powell as being at odds with the administration in many instances, but in the end his soldier’s sense of loyalty won out.

"Powell had constantly found himself on the losing side of regular ideological combat inside the Bush administration, particularly against Rumsfeld and the powerful vice president, Dick Cheney, over Iraq and a host of other foreign policy issues. Though Powell had scored some victories, the rumored humiliations had been real. He had been purposely cut out of major foreign policy decisions more than once, and his advice often had gone unheeded or been only grudgingly accepted by the president. Why hadn't he resigned? The easy answer had the virtue of truth: Soldiers didn't quit when they disagreed with the decisions of their commanders. The fact that he had been out of uniform for nearly a decade was irrelevant to Powell; he would be a soldier until he drew his last breath."

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