The Iraq Study Group – Yet Another Farce


(For those who did not get it,  these are creatures summoned from "the vasty deep" to work on the Iraq Study Group)  pl


Cast your eye across the lists of members of the specialist panels of the Iraq Study Group.  What you will see (in the main) is an assemblage of the "usual suspects" from among the Washington Middle East scholarly community thoroughly leavened with high neocons summoned from their lairs at AEI, Hudson, etc. to defend the king’s vision.  There are also refugees (with book) from the failed CPA Crusade, and a couple of ancient but hopefully still compliant generals among the props.

This Study Group is headed by ten chairs and members who by and large are thoroughly partisan and predictable in their final positions.  Justice O’Connor is a clear exception.  A couple of them are thoroughly compromised by their prior participation in bodies like the Robb-Silberman panel which laughably found that intelligence analysts had not been "pressured" in cooking the books before the invasion of Iraq.  This notion has now been exploded on a number of fronts but not before it had entered the "blood stream" of popular thought.

What is emerging from this "drill" is yet another attempt by the people of "the father" to find some vehicle that would give them at least a little bit of an audience in the White House.  To that end they are arguing with the Democrats and neocons over proposed papers which actually codify the differences among the various factions involved in the study.  The neocon "experts" insure that nothing too disturbing to the king’s equanimity will emerge from this process. 


MadkingIn the end there will be pious mention of the need for a "Congress of the Nations" involved in the present drama in the region. 

This will be "admired" as a thought.

There will be an option paper recommending withdrawal in some form.

This will be rejected with much chest thumping among the unscarred.

There will be an option paper recommending "staying the course."

This will be accepted as "the right thing to do."


The Democrats involved among the members and experts will have positioned their party for a share of the "credit" for what happens in the next years.

The war in Iraq will continue indefinitely no matter who wins in ’06 and ’08.  There are no leaders available with enough courage to stop this.  Only a collapse in the military and political situation will change that.

Pat Lang

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30 Responses to The Iraq Study Group – Yet Another Farce

  1. zanzibar says:

    “The war in Iraq will continue indefinitely no matter who wins in ’06 and ’08. There are no leaders available with enough courage to stop this. Only a collapse in the military and political situation will change that.” – PL
    Its not going to matter who wins the election this Nov. The Decider is still in charge and correcting errors is not in his DNA.
    The concern is that we cannot elect leaders with courage of conviction. And its because of us and the current media environment not the lack of such leaders. Of course the corporate media say they are a business and give us what we want so they can make money. At the end of the day in a democracy it comes down to the people. We get the government we want.
    As I wrote in my comment on the Jabberwocky thread, when the therapy arrives it will not be pleasant for the American middle class and poor.

  2. chimneyswift says:

    Couldn’t agree more.
    It is very sad, but chances for recovery of sanity among the body politic are severely limited by current news presentation practices, which are in turn unlikely to change without changes in ownership structure, which are for all intents and purposes set in stone.
    On the other hand, it seems likely that there will continue to develop a widespread counterculure. One much less confrontaional than that in the 60’s/70’s, though not entirely so. Instead, the focus of people of my generation is on developing something of our own economy, one based on sustainable industries. Whehter it can withstand the macro and international shocks that are the almost certain repercussions of this brain-dead march to hell that our aristocracy is intent on leading remains to be seen.
    But the important thing is that while things get progressively worse out in the world and the mainstream mirrors of society become increasingly warped to maintain a “positive” vision, there will be a corresponding increase in the number of citizens who opt for another way of life.
    Though, of course, it is small comfort for soldiers, their families, or citizens in far away places unlucky enough to be in our way. And I use the word “our” advisedly, because it remains all of our society, and we all bear some responsibility for it.

  3. Yellow Dog says:

    “Only a collapse in the military and political situation will change that.” – PL
    This may happen sooner, rather than later. Have you seen this?,,1921450,00.html

  4. OldCoastie says:

    Barring the limitations of our electoral process, who do you think CAN fix this? Really… no one??

  5. The Agonist says:

    Do I hear an Echo?

    Seems like Laura is to an extent echoing my earlier critcism about James Baker and the Baker Commission. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t expect to have this debate this year and I am pretty sure Laura is right, this is just cover for Bush to get him through t

  6. cindy b says:

    You may be right, but the way out of Iraq is clear.
    First: Have a referendum. We have had a number of elections so far, whats one more. In this one we ask.
    “Should US forces remain in Iraq after May 1 2007?”
    If they vote no, we declare our job done. We have created a democracy and abided by its will.
    In the unlikely event that they vote yes, we will have won a major battle for the peoples hearts and minds and might be able to get a little more help from the rest of the world.
    Its really simple. What are the chances that anyone who matters will suggest it?

  7. Byron Raum says:

    Difficult as it is to remember, we do live in a representative government. What is done IS done in our name, by our elected leader. (He might not have been elected in 2000, but he was certainly elected in 2004.) It’s not a limit placed by the electoral process. This IS what America wants. He got the majority vote.
    Ultimately, there’s no excuse for ignorance, no matter who owns what media. It is incumbent on each one of us to seek out the truth. The media lords rule the country because the public doesn’t care.
    Until the public starts worrying about what is going on, this situation will persist. The greatest enemy of a democracy is an uninformed public.

  8. jonst says:

    Nothing to add to what you wrote. I agree with it 100%. It is a sign of the times that there:
    “are no leaders available with enough courage to stop this”.
    Oh, and didn’t you LOVE when the Great Decider called him “Jimmy” and “Baker”

  9. I keep hearing that the barrier to division of Iraq is that the Sunni portion will have no oil. It is as if the underlying thought is “what deal can we broker that will give the Sunni population a juicer share?”
    Your may sadly be right about the American body politic, but unless another Saddam comes along it seems to me the division is inevitable? Why does the creeping figure of the Saudi influence hang like a dark cloud over all of this or is that just my paranoia?

  10. Richard Whitman says:

    The US/Iraq problem may solve itself. The US Army has effectively lost control of the situation if, indeed, they ever had control. The same is true for the current Iraqi government. Both may be irrelevant and after much anarchy, a new entity will probably arise, similar to Saddam Hussein to carry on. I doubt that there will be a place at the table for the US given the strong influence of the Iranians in the area. We may not have a choice in packing up and going home.

  11. Frank Durkee says:

    Col. Would you comment on the ‘today’ situation with our Army and Marine Corps? One hears a great deal about being worn out, lacking equipment, and lacking sufficient manpower to continue to be effective. What’s your take?
    Frank Durkee

  12. Chris Bray says:

    “There are no leaders available with enough courage to stop this.”
    What about Iraqi leaders? Will there come a point in the nearish future in which the Iraqi government can credibly call for the U.S. to leave, or is the Iraqi government too hopelessly a subsidiary of the United States?
    I saw the stories this week that described Iraqi leaders begging for the U.S. to stay, but surely at some point their survival will require them to acknowledge the plainly stated desires of their various constituencies that we go.
    And then there’s the question of other forms of international pressure: The potential departure of British troops; perhaps one day an open condemnation of the continuing occupation from other allies, in Europe or in Iraq’s neighborhood; or even something like a UN vote calling for the end of the American involvement in Iraq. In my limited understanding, the Saudis and Kuwaitis are deeply unhappy with us — surely that has to eventually count for something, since both are crucial to our logistics and C3 in Iraq.
    In other words: Is it really just up to political leaders in the U.S., or will other nations have a meaningful vote in the question, sometime in the foreseeable future? Can we be ~made~ to leave?

  13. ikonoklast says:

    Yes, yet another whitewash, and not even an original one. Check out ISG co-chair James Baker on today’s Diane Rehm Show on NPR.
    No one in the world ever doubted that Saddam had WMD, everybody knew the UN inspectors were dupes, it was Clinton’s fault. The same old dead horses, beaten to a pulp and trotted out for the public one more time.
    Baker’s a court sycophant in the Bush parody of the house of Atreus – the tragedy where everyone but the principals pays the price for hubris.

  14. Walrus says:

    “Only a collapse in the military and political situation will change that.”
    Col. Lang, I think we are all in furious agreement.
    As I’ve said before, a good model for human behaviour is the “Freeze”, “Unfreeze” “Refreeze” model. People hate change. Most people and institutions operate on a “Frozen” set of assumptions about reality most of the time.
    Over time, the distance between the assumptions and the reality gradually increases, until at some point there is an explosive event and reality reasserts itself.
    At this stage people “unfreeze” and changes that were previously unthinkable become immediately possible with little or no opposition.
    After about nine months to a year peoples assumptions “Freeze” again and no change is possible until the next explosive event.
    We saw the “unfreeze” after 911. Congress passed bills and the Administration did things that were unthinkable pre 911. We are still stuck with the Administrations beliefs and assumptions (ie Torture is a good thing, we are fighting a war on terror, the Constitution is irrelevent, Israel is good, Hezbollah is bad, etc.etc. etc.).
    The entire mainstream media, the political establishment on both sides of both houses, the corporate world, the military and the community in general is stuck with this set of assumptions and beliefs until an explosive event demonstrates that these beliefs are totaly at variance with reality, at which point another “unfreeze” will occur.
    Now if one is dealing with rational actors whose assumptions and beliefs are reasonably congruent with reality this is no bad thing. We need stability and certainty in our lives.
    The trouble comes when those in power during the “unfreeze” have a warped view of reality and impose it on the rest of us.
    Unfortunately it takes about ten years after the events for the community to get enough perspective to ask themselves “What were these guys smoking”?
    Classic “unfreeze” events that have gone badly wrong for the community include:
    1. Germany and Austria’s response to the assassination of the archduke at Sarajevo, starting WW1.
    2. Hitlers use of the Riechstag fire in 1933 to pass draconian laws.
    3. Stalin’s use of the “assassination” of Kirov in 1934 to start his murderous purges.
    There are many others in the history books. There is no doubt that 911 was an “unfreeze” event.
    There are therefore two obvious questions that need to be asked.
    “What is the next unfreeze event likely to be?”
    “What will be the response to the event when it happens?”
    As for the event, we don’t know. It could be a major terrorist attack on the U.S. or elsewhere. It could be the destruction of our armies in Iraq. The bombing of Iran. It could be a bird flu epidemic. It could be economic collapse. Or “the big one” in Los Angeles of San Francisco.
    And what will be the response to such an event?
    If the Bush Administration is in power and in control of Congress and/or the Senate, a major terrorist attack could trigger a descent into a dictatorship – for our protection of course.
    In other circumstances, like economic collapse or another Katrina, all we could be sure of is that the Bush assumptions that will be imposed will be so far from reality that they will maximise the misery, pain, death and suffering of everyone on this poor planet. Katrina was just a taste.

  15. John Howley says:

    Col. Lang is correct…the politicians will avoid making tough decisions until forced to do so by events.
    Speaking of events and apropos of General Sir Richard Dannatt, perhaps Col. Lang could comment on the role of British troops in relation to the Baghdad supply line.
    Political pressures across the pond are building, as Dannatt knows. Devolved elections will be held in Scotland and Wales in May 2007; the Iraq war is deeply unpopular in both regions and fires nationalist sentiments as well. Plus, there is the PM succession in the offing.
    The Brits want out of Iraq. What would that do to the U.S. strategic position?

  16. zanzibar says:

    Blair “agrees” with UK Army Chief
    Tony Blair has said he agrees with “every word” the new head of the British Army said on the Iraq war.
    The Daily Mail quoted General Sir Richard Dannatt as saying he thought UK troops “exacerbated” security problems and should withdraw “sometime soon”.
    Mr Blair said transcripts of later radio interviews showed Sir Richard was saying “the same as we all are”.
    He said they wanted to exit Iraq “when the job is done”, and to remove troops when no longer needed in certain areas.

    These guys are kabuki masters!

  17. James Pratt says:

    I share the Colonel’s pessimism about the next two elections curbing the imperial ambition to control most of the world oil reserves but a slow war of attrition among other corporate interests’ benefactors in Congress might take effect if the war remains an issue into the 2010 and 2012 cycles. Big Pharma, Agribusiness, High Tech, Hospitality, Manufacturing and Finance may see the war by then as a cause of political uncertainty and send a private message to their brothers in the media and political parties: you tried, you failed, it’s costing us, it’s over.
    The most valuable intelligence about Iraq is available without torture
    in the form of Iraqi opinion surveys by Gallup, the University of Michigan and the University of Maryland. They show that in spite of three years of US military control of what opinions may be allowed in Iraqi newspapers, broadcast or billboards the increasing hostility to America of a large majority of both Sunni and Shi`a, and recently the Kurds.

  18. I cannot believe I am writing this but the urge to be the contrarian is overwhelming. It is true that President Bush has done nothing to demonstrate that he has the capacity to back off of a position in which his ego is so invested. He has been resolutely immune to facts. I think the war in Iraq will indeed continue, however I think it will do so without the United States. I think we will redeploy within a year and essentially remove ourselves from the civil war. The only arguments I can make in support of my position (i.e. guess) is first that George W. Bush has a history of getting himself into messes that other people have to get him out of and Jim Baker is the ultimate fixer when it comes to rescuing a Bush. Second, I don’t think the country will put up with our troops being put at risk to oversee an internal Iraqi conflict. This lack of support in the country will in turn give the politicians courage to face President Bush down.
    On the other hand, maybe Col. Lang said it better.

    Only a collapse in the military and political situation will change that.

    I think we are already there. The only thing that is missing is for official Washington to admit it.

  19. Chris Bray says:

    Juan Cole:
    “Al-Sharq al-Awsat [Ar.] reports that the Iraqi cabinet has demanded that Iraqi security forces be given a bigger role in security operations, and that that of the multinational forces be reduced.”
    So, yeah: What if staying or leaving stops being our choice? Or at least becomes rhetorically untenable as something that’s ~entirely~ our choice.
    I might be trying to convince myself, here.

  20. ali says:

    Ken Pollack: “I’m afraid that the result that we’re headed towards in Iraq is that it’s going to be even worse off than it was under Saddam Hussein and we are now starting to see polls where increasing numbers of Iraqis are saying, “The war wasn’t worth it, because the situation today is worse than it was under Saddam.””
    Pollack points to a fundamental problem: in the chaos over there, only the sectarian militias offer Iraqis any security and so that is where political power rests.
    As the terror and ethnic division deepens the stronger they grow. We’ve created a situation were the fear that some former neighbors son will take a Black&Decker to your families kneecaps is not paranoid.

  21. confusedponderer says:

    Remarkable comment:
    “We are in a tribal society in Basra and we [the British army] are in effect one of these tribes,” said Lt Col Simon Brown, commander of the 2nd Battalion. “As long as we are here the others will attack us because we are the most influential tribe. We cramp their style.”,,1922331,00.html
    I doubt the decider has the capacity to understand what he means. He believes in the US being in control and capable to win. If he has learned one thing from Rove, then not to admit defeat. Withdrawal would make him look weak in the history books, which is quite important to him. I don’t think he made that ‘comma’ comment by accident.
    If there is a way to get him to agree to withdrawal, then it’ll be like the family confronting an alcoholoic: Laura, Barney, Mom and Dad, Jeb, Jim Baker and Andy Card come together with the decider and tell him that, aside from being a merely dry yet untherapied alcoholic, he has another problem he got to get fixed, and quick – Iraq.
    But for that to work, things are simply going too well right now. Decider, that is America too, has to hit the bottom first. Maybe lose midterm? Hopefully.
    Not that it would significantly change US policies in the Middle East. Wiliam S. Lind made a good point when he said that Dems and Reps are in fact one party, the party of successful politicians.,,1922331,00.html
    “At least 32 American troops have been killed in Iraq this month. Approximately 300 have been wounded. The “battle for Baghdad” is going nowhere. A Marine friend just back from Ramadi said to me, “It didn’t get any better while I was there, and it’s not going to get better.” Virtually everyone in Washington, except the people in the White House, knows that is true for all of Iraq.
    Actually, I think the White House knows it too. Why then does it insist on “staying the course” at a casualty rate of more than one thousand Americans per month? The answer is breathtaking in its cynicism: so the retreat from Iraq happens on the next President’s watch. That is why we still fight.
    Yep, it’s now all about George. Anyone who thinks that is too low, too mean, too despicable even for this bunch does not understand the meaning of the adjective “Rovian.” Would they let thousands more young Americans get killed or wounded just so George W. does not have to face the consequences of his own folly? In a heartbeat.
    Not that it’s going to help. When history finally lifts it leg on the Bush administration, it will wash all such tricks away, leaving only the hubris and the incompetence.
    A post-election Democratic House, Senate or both might in theory say no to another war. But if the Bush administration’s cynicism is boundless, the Democrats’ intellectual vacuity and moral cowardice are equally so. You can’t beat something with nothing, but Democrats have put forward nothing in the way of an alternative to Bush’s defense and foreign policies. On Iran, the question is whether they will be more scared of the Republicans or of the Israeli lobby. Either way, they will hide under the bed, just as they have hidden under the bed on the war in Iraq. It appears at the moment that a Congressional demand for withdrawal from Iraq is more likely if the Republicans keep the Senate and Senator John Warner of Virginia remains Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee than if the Democrats take over.
    But donkeys will think when pigs fly. A Democratic Congress will be as stupid, cowardly and corrupt as its Republican predecessor; in reality, both parties are one party, the party of successful career politicians. The White House will continue a lost war in Iraq, solely to dump the mess in the next President’s lap. America or Israel will attack Iran, pulling what’s left of the temple down on our heads. Congress will do nothing to stop either war.”

  22. Byron Raum says:

    The problem with Iraqi leaders capable of fixing this mess is that these days they more likely to look like Salahuddin Ayubi than like Kemal Attaturk.

  23. lina says:

    Patrick Kennedy is correct. The war will continue without the U.S.
    When Congress changes hands, especially if BOTH bodies go Dem., George W. Bush will become a pariah in his own party. The popular mantra will be “Bush lost Congress.” The immediate focus will be 2008, and potential Republican candidates will run from Bush policies – in particular his failed adventure in Iraq. Of course the headlines of the bloody civil war will continue, but U.S. troop involvement will end – even if the only way to make that happen is to cut off the money.

  24. FB says:

    Chris Bray raises the question whether Iraqi leaders may ask the US to leave. He probably hasn’t heard Brzezinski’s wise comment : The Iraqis who are asking us to stay are the ones who will leave with us. Or, I may add, who want the US to continue fighting their enemies (Sunnis and Mahdis) and weaken them. These are the guys who are now in power; they aren’t going to ask for a pullout any time soon (Talabani has just issued another strong appeal for US troops to stay).
    The Brits have obviously had it; I foresee a pullout next year soon after Blair departs. The remaining “coalition partners” won’t be far behind.

  25. Matthew says:

    After Alaric, the Goths never feared the Romans again. The countries with real militaries are watching our performance in Iraq and Afghanistan. Heaven help us.

  26. jan gleeson says:

    Ahh, the Dorian Grey portrait revealed. One wonders whether the inner demons of the man will be harder to mask in the next few years.

  27. Per Kurowski says:

    Iraq needs mercenaries for peace
    As Venezuelans know so well, it is impossible to build a real democracy upon abundant oil. Democracy is about creating a level playing field, and, therefore, if you want a real chance at democracy in an oil-rich land like Iraq, you need first to distribute their oil revenues equally among all their citizens. For Iraq, distributing their oil revenues upfront, in cash, would carry a special significance since not only would it help to solve the problem of their oil being located only in some parts of the country, but it would also foster an additional bond of national identity among all the Iraqis, be they Sunnis, Shiites, or Kurds. The possibility for each citizen to receive perhaps a couple of thousand dollars a year would promote interest in reaching normality. The World Bank could be the perfect candidate to help implement a very transparent sharing of the oil revenues for Iraq.
    In a world where so frequently mercenaries are used for wars, why don’t we help Iraq contract their own citizens, using their own money, to be mercenaries for peace?
    Per Kurowski
    A former Executive Director of the World Bank (2002-2004)

  28. zanzibar says:

    “The World Bank could be the perfect candidate to help implement a very transparent sharing of the oil revenues for Iraq.” – Per Kurowski
    The World Bank? Another shot for Wolfowitz to get his hands on Iraqi oil money and work his Iraq invasion magic?
    If I were an Iraqi I’d keep the World Bank as far away as possible.

  29. Benj- says:

    I don’t have an opinion. I just write what I know. And this is what I know about the Iraq Study Group. Information alone isn’t the answer, but it’s good to be in the know.

  30. Per Kurowski says:

    The only thing left to do in Iraq
    The just published Iraq Study Group Report says “There are proposals to redistribute a portion of oil revenues directly to the population on a per capita basis. These proposals have the potential to give all Iraqi citizens a stake in the nation’s chief natural resource”.
    Since we all know that when oil revenues go directly to government coffers this makes it more difficult for society to reach a fair balance of powers among all its participants, these proposals also carried within them the best chances for construing an effective and lasting democracy.
    Unfortunately some will seems to be lacking since the report also includes some really poor objections as “Oil revenues have been incorporated into state budget projections for the next several years. There is no institution in Iraq at present that could properly implement such a distribution system. It would take substantial time to establish, and would have to be based on a well-developed state census and income tax system, which Iraq currently lacks.”
    In fact, compared with most of all the other challenges that faces Iraq today, to develop a fair and transparent per capita oil revenue sharing system, should be relatively easy and I believe that the World Bank has the required capabilities to successfully complete such mission.
    And besides, after helping to free the Iraqi people from those who oppressed it, is not helping them to gain access to their own resources the only thing left to do?
    Per Kurowski
    A former Executive Director of the World Bank (2002-2004)

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