The Baker Report

Iraq Study Group ReportThe Iraq Study Group, chaired by James Baker and Lee Hamilton, presented GWB with it’s report yesterday. As an assessment it is not an anti-Bush document, but it cannot not be anything other than a damning prognostication of the catastrophe has resulted from the invasion of Iraq.

There does not seem to be a single positive outcome of the Iraqi invasion the Study Group could acknowledge. Iraq is now a danger to the world but more critically, for the ISG, a threat to “America’s credibility, interests, and values”.

View complete report (PDF)

The situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. There is no path that can guarantee success, but the prospects can be improved. In this report, we make a number of recommendations for actions to be taken in Iraq, the United States, and the region. Our most important recommendations call for new and enhanced diplomatic and political efforts in Iraq and the region, and a change in the primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq that will enable the United States to begin to move its combat forces out of Iraq responsibly. We believe that these two recommendations are equally important and reinforce one another. If they are effectively implemented, and if the Iraqi government moves forward with national reconciliation, Iraqis will have an opportunity for a better future, terrorism will be dealt a blow, stability will be enhanced in an important part of the world, and America’s credibility, interests, and values will be protected. The challenges in Iraq are complex. Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency, Shiite militias and death squads, al Qaeda, and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability.

There have been the inevitable unfavourable responses to the report. The Bush administration isn’t likely to embrace the Baker/Hamilton recommendations without giving the political impression that they have better ideas. In fact, those who suggest that Baker’s plans are nothing that Bush is not already doing. Trying to reduce US deaths by moving troops out of the frontline while avoiding any committement to a full US withdrawal.

[Baker] admits a timetable is necessary as part of national reconciliation among Iraqis, but says the conciliation has to be agreed before a timetable can be discussed rather than vice versa. Benchmarks will be outlined for when to let the Iraqi army take the lead role in Baghdad and other provinces, but this is all fiction. The Iraqis will still be able to call on US artillery, air strikes and, as a last resort, ground troops. It smells exactly like the Vietnamisation strategy of the 1970s, which was similarly designed to lessen US opposition to an unpopular war.

And how did Mr Bush and Mr Poodle take the ISG report?

Our prime minister looked pretty rough. But he was James Bond at the poker tables compared with the president. At the best of times - and these are not the best of times - Bush finds it hard to find the right words, so he thrashes about in the hope that some will pop into his head, like wasps into a jam jar. (At one point he called the sectarian attacks in Iraq “unsettling”. It’s a word, I suppose.)

After one long question the president said: “I’m getting older, so you’re going to have to repeat the second part of your question.”

We can all sympathise. You invade a country, and you’re blowed if you can remember why you went in the first place!

His replies grew longer. We were not listening to a coherent argument - instead we were floating down Dubya’s stream of consciousness, hitting a rock, bashing into overhanging branches.

Asked if he could admit he was wrong, he began a meandering reply. “I do know we have not succeeded as fast as we hoped. I know that progress has not been so rapid … I am disappointed by the pace of success.”

Alongside Hirohito’s concession after Hiroshima - “the war has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage” - we can now add another majestic euphemism, “disappointe