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Wednesday, 23 January 2008

'That's the best America can do?'

I've just been watching a documentary on More4 - called 'No End in Sight' - about post-invasion Iraq involving interviews with Bush administration officials - General Jay Garner, who was replaced by Paul Bremer; Ambassador Barbara Bodine, in charge of Baghdad's US embassy removed for posing troublesome questions; Richard Armitage, deputy secretary of the State Department; Robert Hutchings, chairman of the National Intelligence Council; Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's chief of staff and Col. Paul Hughes, who worked in the Coalition Provisional Authority.

In Centenary Square, Birmingham, Amy and Liz and me, with logo flag, and the dog Oscar - 'mutt of peace' - with many others protesting the impending war. Invasion began on 18 March 2008. Watching No End in Sight I see those who opposed invasion joined by many who now oppose the occupation.

From that perspective - the policy's implementation - I can see that had the best of American and allied talent, including Iraqis', been involved in this venture over an extended period of pre-planning - probably years - better things could have been achieved. It would never have been a rose garden. The political judgement, the global understanding, the cultural sensitivity, the skills of governance, the linguistic abilities exist among Americans and her allies in abundance, but the managerial and technocratic experience that is one of America's strengths was kept away from Iraq or, when allowed limited access, hobbled by leaden political leadership relying on inexperienced, myopic placemen. A miasma of stupidity emanates from the White House that bears no relationship to the America I know and love.

I'm not criticising the innocence and naivety for which some American's are teased. Such qualities can be siblings to enthusiasm, open-heartedness, creativity, and willingness to learn fast. This presidency muzzled those qualities - abilities needed in circumstances of such complexity and novelty. I agree with Rumsfeld that the problems of post-occupation Iraq were the 'unknown unknowns', but his period in power was brain-surgery with a coal chisel. Imagine if such a man, and others like him, had overseen the drive for the reconstruction of Europe or Japan after WW2. Bush privileged an American version of Colonel Blimp - David Low's lethal caricature, not Michael Powell's and Emerich Pressburger's tribute to an altogether more attractive character.

I can't imagine that any other power been able to deploy the political-technical skills needed to reconstruct Iraq, yet Bush and his henchman stifled the genius of their own countrymen, barrin from his Iraq adventure those ready to learn amid great uncertainty. He avoided dialogue that blemished his over-simplified world-view, excluding from his endeavours a rich array of experienced talent - in the US, among her allies and in Iraq. Bush has betrayed Iraqis and blighted the reputation of America. A brave young US marine officer quoted at the end of No End in Sight is quoted saying "That's the best America can do? Don't tell me that's the best America can do. That makes me angry." He is so entitled to his anger and disappointment.

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