When Colin Powell endorsed the Iraq Study Group
report during his Dec. 17 appearance on Face the Nation, it was another
curtain call for a tragic farce.
Four years ago, "moderates" like Powell were making the invasion
Iraq possible. Now, in the guise of speaking truth to power, Powell
and ISG co-chairs James Baker and Lee Hamilton are refueling the U.S.
war effort by depicting it as a problem of strategy and management.
But the U.S. war effort is a problem of lies and slaughter.
The Baker-Hamilton report stakes out a position for managerial
changes that dodge the fundamental immorality of the war effort. And
President Bush shows every sign of rejecting the report's call for
scaling down that effort.
Meanwhile, most people in the United States favor military disengagement.
According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, "Seven in
10 say they want the new Congress to pressure the White House to begin bringing
troops home within six months."
The nationwide survey came after the Baker-Hamilton report arrived with great
and delusional expectations. In big bold red letters, the cover
of Time predicted that the report would take the White House by storm:
"The Iraq Study Group says it's time for an exit strategy. Why Bush will
While often depicted as a rebuff to the president's Iraq policies,
the report was hardly a prescription for abandoning the U.S. military
project in Iraq as Baker was at pains to repeatedly point out
during a whirlwind round of network interviews.
Hours after the report's release on Dec. 6, Baker told PBS NewsHour
host Jim Lehrer that the blue-ribbon commission was calling for a long-term
U.S. military presence: "So our commitment when we say not open-ended,
that doesn't mean it's not going to be substantial. And our report makes clear
that we're going to have substantial, very robust, residual troop levels in
Iraq for a long, long time."
Baker used very similar phrasing the next morning in an interview on ABC's
Good Morning America saying that the report "makes clear
we're going to have a really robust American troop presence in Iraq and in the
region for a long, long time."
That was 24 hours into the report's release, when media spin by Baker
and Hamilton and their allies was boosting a document that asserted a
continual American prerogative to devote massive resources to war in
Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. And, in a little-noted precept
of the report, it said: "The United States should assist Iraqi
leaders to reorganize the national oil industry as a commercial
In short, the Baker-Hamilton report was a fallback position for U.S.
military intervention and for using Pentagon firepower on behalf
of U.S.-based oil companies. But the report's call for tactical
adjustments provoked fury among the most militaristic politicians and
pundits. Their sustained media counterattack took hold in short
President Bush wriggled away from the panel's key recommendations gradual
withdrawal of many U.S. troops from Iraq and willingness to hold diplomatic
talks with Syria and Iran. War enthusiasts like Sen. John McCain denounced the
report as a recipe for retreat and defeat. The New York Post dubbed Baker
and Hamilton "surrender monkeys." Rush Limbaugh called their report
By the time its one-week anniversary came around, the Baker-Hamilton
report looked about ready for an ashcan of history. Bush had already
postponed his announcement of a "new strategy for Iraq" until after
the start of the new year a delay aimed at cushioning the
president from pressure to adopt the report's central
recommendations. Even the limited punch of the report has been
largely stymied by the most rabidly pro-war forces of American media
But those forces don't really need to worry about the likes of Colin Powell,
James Baker, and Lee Hamilton as long as the argument is over how the
U.S. government should try to get its way in Iraq.
"We are losing we haven't lost and this is the time, now, to
start to put in place the kinds of strategies that will turn this
situation around," Powell told CBS viewers on Sunday. That sort of
talk stimulates endless rationales for continuing U.S. warfare and
facilitates the ongoing escalation of the murderous U.S. air war in
Powell's mendacious performance at the UN Security Council, several weeks
before the invasion of Iraq, is notorious. But an obscure media appearance by
Powell, when he was interviewed by the French network TV2 in mid-September 2003,
sheds more light on underlying attitudes that unite the venture-capitalist worldviews
of "moderates" like Colin Powell and "hardliners" like Dick
Trying to justify Washington's refusal to end the occupation, Powell
explained: "Since the United States and its coalition partners have
invested a great deal of political capital, as well as financial
resources, as well as the lives of our young men and women and we
have a large force there now we can't be expected to suddenly just