Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Well, just call him Baghdad Bremer:

Asked about Baghdad's lack of electricity at an air-conditioned press conference, Paul Bremer, the American head of the occupation authority, looking cool in a dark suit and quiet purple tie, simply asserted that, with a few exceptions, Baghdad was now receiving 20 hours of electricity a day. "It simply isn't true," said one Iraqi, shaking his head in disbelief after listening to Mr. Bremer. "Everybody in Baghdad knows it."

Why doesn't this sort of thing get more attention? Tom Friedman thinks he has the answer:

President Bush is sure lucky no weapons of mass destruction have been found yet in Iraq.

Because had we found these weapons our entire focus today would be on the real issue: why the Bush team -- which wanted this war so badly and had telegraphed it for so long -- was so poorly prepared for postwar Iraq.

Which is, of course, nonsense -- if anything that could credibly be called a Weapon of Mass Destruction had been found, Dubya's crew would be using that to drown out the critics. (Besides, you've got to wonder whose focus Friedman is talking about, given how many Americans believe the weapons have been found, or just don't care).

But it's followed up with a stunner:

I still believe that with the right effort Iraq can be made a decent place. But that task has been made much harder because of the Pentagon's poor planning for postwar Iraq. If the Pentagon's lapses can be overcome -- and I hope they will be -- then we should learn from them for future wars. If they can't be overcome, then they will be grist for next year's who-lost-Iraq debate.

Recall that Friedman was saying even before the war that the right reason to attack was to light a beacon of democracy, and that the whole WMD thing was nothing more than an excuse to try to rope in some allies -- who were, of course, slow-witted enough to fall for that sort of deception even if he was writing about it in the New York Times. Now he's astounded to discover -- as anti-war folks were saying before the war -- that Dubya's crew isn't actually prepared to follow through on what was, after all, his project, not theirs. For which he really has no excuse -- the short shrift that Dubya's crew was giving their much smaller project in Afghanistan was already obvious.

Friedman's clearly right about one thing -- what shapes up in Iraq will shape Arab views of the United States, and the West as a whole, for decades. Arabs' hostile view of the West, and the terrorist attacks which it engenders, were the problem that (he argued) a successful occupation would fix. From that perspective, a failed occupation would be a disaster. And he knew what kind of commitment would be required after the war to succeed, and not fail -- witness this account of his appearance on Oprah, where he shocked the audience by talking about a full-scale occupation lasting twenty years. How irresponsible was he to advocate going in, without any real knowledge that Dubya's crowd would make that commitment?


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