The Sound of Misplaced Cawing

September 24th, 2003  |  Published in Uncategorized

I read MoveOn’s side project, The Daily Mislead, like a good little

liberal. It’s a newsletter focused on “mis-representations,

distortions and downright misleading statements by President Bush and

the Bush Administration,” which we can safely file under “gotchas for

your daily clash with the neocon down at the water cooler.”

title=” Daily Mislead”


edition crows about Bush at the UN:

“The deaths of numerous American troops over the summer and escalating violence and chaos led Bush to reverse course earlier this month. Bush now insists the U.N. nations he once belittled ‘have an opportunity — and the responsibility — to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation.'”

Except Bush hasn’t “reversed course,” and there’s nothing to gloat


In their zeal to score a point for the team, the Daily Mislead is

misrepresenting the nature of Bush’s speech by contrasting it with

earlier statements by Condoleeza Rice who asserted “It would only be

natural to expect that after having participated and having liberated

Iraq … that the coalition would have the leading role.”

Can we see the difference between “broader” and “leading” when

we’re discussing roles?

“Broader” means exactly what Bush offered the UN: help running

elections, writing a constitution (because, as he told Brit Hume, the

UN is “good at that sort of thing”), and training bureaucrats. He’ll

take some money and a few divisions of groundpounders, too, but who

are we kidding? A platoon of Bulgarian generator mechanics or a

battalion of Belgian clerk-typists aren’t going to lessen the burden

on an essentially American occupying force, and that’s about all we’re going to get in return for showing the UN the back of our hand.

“Leading” means exactly what Bush & Co. are doing: controlling the

country, setting the timetable for when and how it’s finally certified

as liberated enough to handle its own affairs, and maintaining it as a

giant firebase from which further incursions into Turr-rism Land can

be staged.

Muddying the distinction between the two will serve only to sap any

will the loyal opposition has to make noise about its issues with Bush

giving the UN the finger and telling the world he’s gonna do what he’s

gonna do.

Bush did not go to the UN in a spirit of internationalism,

and he certainly didn’t go out of contrition: He went because the

American public is largely convinced that the $87 billion it’s going

to take to start reconstruction is wasteful, and he knows that it will

take still more if we’re to have any hope of building the shopping

mall wonderland neocons promise will rise from the desert. He made it

clear, however, that even if he’s uncertain about what he’s gotten the

country into, he’s not interested in ceding any control or hearing any

arguments about accelerating his timetable. This is not some kind of

net win for people who want the occupation of Iraq to end well.

Less US control and an accelerated timetable are what’s important

here. Neocons are trying to paint demands for more Iraqi independence

sooner as some sort of French trick. Their carefully mouthed noises

of “doing it right” are belied by


fundamental war-craziness, which is what’s really being fed by the

US staying in there (and staying in there virtually alone in terms of

military presence) until we’ve satisfied ourselves that the broader

Middle East is somehow friendlier to us. A putatively “progressive”

newsletter ought to remember that before it tells its readers Bush has

gone to the UN in disgrace begging it to take Iraq off his hands: He

has not. He has kept things on course and he’s kept the UN at arm’s

length, which is where he wants the international community until his


Middle East roadmap is fulfilled.

That isn’t to say that his attempt at an imperious dismissal of the

UN’s usefulness by offering it work in the scullery won’t have

unintended consequences.

This morning I heard that Bush and Gerhard Schroeder met, and I was

briefly encouraged: Even if the US isn’t going to pay any regard to

the UN, there’s always hope that, on the level of individual

relationships with allies, we’ll approach things with something akin

to humility and a desire to do what’s best to put Iraq together

again. The political axis Bush centers on might hate the UN and

desperately want to undermine its legitimacy and effectiveness, but it

realizes it still requires good individual relations.

The Germans, evidently, are interested in helping establish a police

force. That’s good news: It isn’t exactly boots on the ground, but

it’s another country with irons in the fire and a likelihood to squawk

loud and long if the US continues to inadvertently stoke the flames of

violent nationalism by holding out on Iraqi demands for sovereignty.

(Did I say ‘inadvertently?’ Sorry. I forgot that

getting US troops killed in ones and twos was part of the

grand flypaper strategy.)

It’s important to remember, though, that Germany’s assistance could

be considered something offered despite Bush’s alienating

speech at the UN, which did little to encourage other countries to

become stake-holders in Iraq’s reconstruction, and represents nothing

to gloat about for an opposition interested in bringing about a just

resolution to the occupation.

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