The Editorial Board of the N.Y. Times has reviewed the ISG report and found it also “offers some strong advice on how to fix George W. Bush’s dysfunctional Washington — and the president’s dysfunctional relations with the rest of the world.” It’s all no-brainer stuff, suggestions that they say should not require “a blue ribbon commission,” for a president to know.
But, the N.Y. Times says, “the fact that it had to be said, and so often, in the report goes a long way toward explaining how Mr. Bush got the country into the Iraq mess and why it is proving so hard to dig out of it.” Bush is still in fact, in a ‘state of denial,’ and one right wing columnist makes certain today in his column and blog that we all know, that Bush is still president. Sadly, we can’t escape that for 2 more years. We can hope however, that he heed the advice of his ‘uncle’ Jim, and pay attention to the fact that “Americans say they back the Baker-Hamilton report and want President Bush to alter his course in Iraq.”
The key point of the N.Y. Times editorial is “Government officials should not lie to the public or each other, especially in matters of war.” They point to Recommendations 46, 72 and 78 of the ISG report that offer sage advice to Bush:
Consider Recommendation 46, which calls on the new secretary of defense to create “an environment in which the senior military feel free to offer independent advice” to civilian leaders, including the president. That is their sworn duty. But the back story is the Pentagon’s prewar refusal to listen to the former Army chief of staff (and who knows how many other generals) who warned that it would take several hundred thousand troops to stabilize a post-invasion Iraq. The good news is that the new secretary of defense, Robert Gates, acknowledged as much in his confirmation hearings. The bad news is that Mr. Bush has not.
Recommendation 72 says that “costs for the war in Iraq should be included in the president’s annual budget request.” The report warns that the White House’s habit of using emergency funding for the war has eroded both “budget discipline” and Congressional oversight. And just in case you were worrying that you hadn’t been paying sufficient attention to the war’s price tag, the report says the White House presents its requests in such a “confusing manner” that only detailed analyses by budget experts can answer “what should be a simple question: How much money is the president requesting for the war in Iraq?”
And finally, Recommendation 78 calls on the Pentagon and the intelligence community to “institute immediate changes” in how they collect data on violence in Iraq “to provide a more accurate picture of events on the ground.” The report says that officials have used a standard for recording attacks (it notes that “a murder of an Iraqi is not necessarily counted”) that systematically underreports Iraq’s mayhem. It cites one day this past July when the government recorded 93 “attacks or significant acts of violence,” while the Iraq Study Group’s own analysis “brought to light 1,100 acts of violence.”
“It is mind-boggling,” says the N.Y. Times, “that this commission felt compelled to deliver Governing 101 lessons to the president of the United States.” Perhaps he simply failed to show up to class years ago, like a few other things he skipped out on… However, “that fits with the implicit message of the entire exercise — a rebuke of the ideologically blinkered way Mr. Bush operates.”
The report shows that there have always been plenty of alternatives to Mr. Bush’s stubborn insistence on staying the course, and that if he were just willing to make an effort, it would be possible to forge a bipartisan consensus on the toughest issues.
It’s tragic that Mr. Bush could not figure that out for himself. It is far past time for him to heed this new advice.
Frank Rich bemoans in his column in today’s N.Y. Times, The Sunshine Boys Can’t Save Iraq.
Rich says “As bad as things may seem now, they can yet become worse, and not just in Iraq.” He points to a war we may still salvage, one that John Kerry has said for some time now has been overlooked:
The longer we pretend that we have not lost there, the more we risk losing other wars we still may salvage, starting with Afghanistan.
Despite the ISG report, it appears the mess that is Iraq will not get sorted out any time in the near future…
Iraqi president President Jalal Talabani is reported to be incensed by the ISG report, saying the report “is not fair, is not just, and it contains some very dangerous articles which undermine the sovereignty of Iraq and the constitution.”
And the WaPo reports, “Steady condemnation from conservatives for the Iraq Study Group report may be providing some cover to the Bush administration as it completes its own review of strategy in Iraq, apparently with little enthusiasm for the panel’s prescription of U.S. troop withdrawal and dialogue with Syria and Iran.”
There we have it… we’ll just continue in the ‘state of the denial,’ and ‘stay the course.’