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December 08, 2006

Taibbi: Baker-Hamilton A "Classic Bullshit-Cloud" Iraq

Matt Taibbi unloads on the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group in his usual gonzo style. RollingStone:

What a fiasco this whole Baker-Hamilton episode is, with all its attendant leaks and media manipulations — a veritable symphony of Typical Washington Bullshit. It has all the hallmarks of the pusillanimous, cover-your-ass mentality that rules our nation's capital, where all problems are political problems and actual real emergencies never make it to the desk of anyone who matters. [...]

Baker-Hamilton from the very start was a classic bullshit-cloud in the proud tradition of those damnable congressional "studies" we hear about from time to time, in which "bipartisan panels" are convened to much fanfare and packed off to the wilds of suburban Virginia for years of intellectually masturbatory activity — the usual solution, whenever House or Senate leaders are faced with a genuinely thorny political issue that offers no easy or obvious solutions, i.e. a problem that can't be simply blamed on one or the other political party, but which needs actual fixing.

Whenever one of those issues pops up, Washington politicians generally find themselves at a loss. They don't know what to do. For the vast majority of these buffoons, their expertise lies elsewhere. These guys know how to spread their legs for campaign contributors, raid the budget for redundant public works projects and worm their way onto the six o'clock news wearing a hardhat or a Cubs cap — but the average elected official knows very little about actually solving real political problems, because in most cases that's not what got him elected. [...]

And so, when faced with an unsolvable or seemingly unsolvable political conundrum, most politicians feel there's only one thing to do. You appear onstage with your rival party's leader, embrace him, announce that you're going to find a "bipartisan" solution together, and then nominate a panel of rotting political corpses who will spend 18 months, a few dozen million dollars, many thousands of taxpayer-funded air miles, and about 130,000 pages of impossibly verbose text finding a way for both parties to successfully take the fork in the road and blow off the entire issue, whatever it was.

It's important, when you nominate your panel, to dig up the oldest, saggiest, rubberiest, most used-up political whores on the Eastern seaboard to take up your cause. That way, you can be sure that the panel will know its place and not address any extraneous issues in its inquiry — like, for instance, whose fault a certain war is, or whether the whole idea of a "War on Terrorism" needs to be rethought, or whether the idea of preemptive defense as a general strategy is viable at all...Your panel should contain people who are not experts or interested parties in the relevant field (since experts or interested parties might be tempted to come up with real, i.e. politically dangerous solutions), but it should contain people who are recognizable political celebrities whose names will lend weight to your whole enterprise, although not for any logical reason.

Baker-Hamilton was a classic whore-panel in every sense. None were Middle East experts. None had logged serious time in Iraq, before or after the invasion. All of them had influential friends on both sides of the aisle all over Washington, parties in the future they wanted to keep getting invites to, ambitions yet to be realized. You could assign Jim Baker, Lee Hamilton, Sandra Day O'Connor and Vernon Jordan, Jr. to take on virtually any problem and feel very confident that between the four of them, they would find a way to avoid the ugly heart of any serious political dilemma. If the missiles were on the way, and nuclear Armageddon was just seconds off, those four fossils would find a way to issue a recommendation whose headline talking points would be something like "heightened caution," dialogue with Sweden, and a 14 percent increase in future funding for the Air Force.

Hence the conclusions of the Baker-Hamilton report were predetermined virtually from the start. We could all have expected that the group's only unequivocal conclusions would restate the obvious — that we need an eventual withdrawal of troops, that there needs to be more "robust regional diplomacy," that Iraqi forces need to assume more of the security burden, and that there will be no hope of a political solution without some cooperation from Syria and Iran. Duh! Because the really thorny questions are the specifics: when do we leave, and, more importantly, what do we offer Iran and Syria in return for their cooperation, what horrifying inevitable humiliation will we be prepared to suffer at their hands, and what form will talks with those gloating countries take? [...]

In essence, all Baker-Hamilton accomplished was a very vague admission that Bush's Iraq adventure is somehow irrevocably fucked and that we have to get our troops out of that country as soon as possible, a conclusion that was obvious to the entire world two long years ago. But even this pathetically timid intellectual assertion was deemed too controversial to risk unveiling before the 2006 midterm elections, and it's obvious now that both parties have decided to wait until 2008 to deal with the more important questions of "when" and "how." [...]

We may soon have to face this fact: With the midterm elections over, and George Bush already a lame duck, the Iraq war is no longer an urgent problem to anyone on the Hill who matters. The Democrats are in no hurry to end things because it will benefit them if Iraq is still a mess in '08; just as they did this fall, they'll bitch about the war without explicitly promising to end it at any particular time. George Bush has already run his last campaign and he's not about to voluntarily fuck up his legacy with a premature surrender or a humiliating concession to Syria or Iran. At least publicly, John McCain is going to head into '08 siding with those in the military who believe the problem is a lack of troops.

For the Iraq disaster to end, someone among these actors is going to have to make a difficult decision — admit defeat, invite a bloody civil war, lose face before a pair of rogue terror-supporting states — and it's obvious that none of them is ever going to do that, not until there's absolutely no choice. [Emphasis added]

Republicans don't want to admit they screwed up. Democrats don't want to let Republicans off the hook. Nobody wants responsibility for the war's aftermath. So the war drags on and on. But of course it's not just a political game. Real people are stuck in a real-world living hell. Thousands die each month. All so American politicians and generals can protect their egos and careers. Could anything be more obscene?

Posted by Jonathan at December 8, 2006 04:38 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb

Comments

Nope. I heard a guy on WPR this morning say about the report: "We can't stay, we can't leave. But we sure as hell are Bi-partisan." Assholes.

Posted by: at December 8, 2006 06:20 PM

Not the guy who said that. He expressed exactly what I thought.

Posted by: at December 8, 2006 06:21 PM

PS I miss you Jonathan.

Posted by: at December 8, 2006 06:25 PM