Finally, a Frank Assessment From the State Department

The president is afraid he will be made to pay at the polls. The Democrats are determined to make
him pay. And yet (even in Henry Kissinger’s time) the actual price in
death and broken society, tears, grief and lives gone to hell is paid
by those who always pay it—soldiers and the innocent among civilians.

Fernandez
Jonathan Steele writes in The Guardian (a U.K. newspaper) that

Washington’s top foreign affairs spin doctor has described US policy in Iraq as “a failure”, and accused his government of “arrogance” and “stupidity”. Speaking
in Arabic on al-Jazeera television Alberto Fernandez, director of
public diplomacy at the state department’s bureau of near eastern
affairs, gave viewers an unusually sharp assessment of the
administration’s efforts in Iraq. He spoke in the past tense, as though
it was all over.

In this amazingly frank zephyr of
fresh air from Condi Rice’s State Department, the benefits of Arab
language skills are apparent—no one knows what the hell you said until after you said it. One can imagine that Fernandez, who should be immediately be given the Medal of Credibility with Clarity Clusters, may have placed himself in the hot-seat instead.

“We
tried to do our best [in Iraq], but I think there is much room for
criticism because, undoubtedly, there was arrogance and there was
stupidity from the United States in Iraq,”
he said. “If we are
witnessing failure in Iraq, it’s not the failure of the United States
alone. Failure would be a disaster for the region.”

Moqtadaalsadr
That nails it. The sticking point shared by cut and run as well as stay the course
is to find a way not to have done what we did that doesn’t turn an
unmitigated disaster into even more of a national bloodbath. Forgetting
for the moment any concerns about terrorists from the outside, Iraq is in the process of being crucified by terrorists from the inside.
What else to call Moqtada al-Sadr’s Militia and the nearly countless
warlord militias who roam Iraq, enforcing their brand of law at will.
Republican or Democrat, hawk or dove, optimist or pessimist, we must try to leave the country no worse than we found it.

Among
several controversial statements, Mr Fernandez ruled out a military
solution in Iraq. He said the US was ready to talk with any Iraqi group
– with the exception of al-Qaida in Iraq – to reach national
reconciliation and try to end sectarian strife and the nationalist
insurgency. “We are open to dialogue because we all know that at
the end of the day the solution to the hell and the killings in Iraq is
linked to an effective Iraqi national reconciliation,”
he said.
“Sooner or later we and all those who are concerned with Iraq must sit
together and establish some dialogue. This is the only way forward.”

Neat segue to Marie Colvin’s piece in the Sunday (UK) TimesUS in Secret Truce Talks With Insurgency Chiefs

American
officials held secret talks with leaders of the Iraqi insurgency last
week after admitting that their two-month clampdown on violence in
Baghdad had failed. Few details of the discussions in the Jordanian
capital Amman have emerged but an Iraqi source close to the
negotiations said the participants had met for at least two days.

Nourialmaliki1
From the security of the Green Zone, the Iraqi government (?) has been meeting as well.

Nouri
Al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister and a former Shi’ite political
activist, held talks with Moqtadr al-Sadr, the radical Shi’ite cleric
who leads the Mahdi Army and controls 30 of the 275 seats in the Iraqi
parliament. Maliki is believed to have urged him to control his men.

Urging al-Sadr to control his men
is pretty stern stuff. For his part, Maliki can’t even control his own
Ministery of the Interior and their death-squad police forces, perhaps
because such control would actually require stepping outside those cushy Green Zobe offices. Dangerous out there, Nouri.
Mr. Bush can be said to stand on the lid of a boiling controversy
over his Rumsfeld policies, as James Baker’s report is all but leaked,
the Fernandez speech is denied and ‘American government
representatives’ sit down in Amman with insurgent leaders.
Seanmccormack
From The Guardian:

A
state department spokesman, Sean McCormack, yesterday claimed Mr
Fernandez had been mistranslated, and said he had disputed the
description of his comments. Asked whether he thought Washington could
be judged as arrogant, Mr McCormack – who was in Moscow with
Condoleezza Rice – snapped “No”. However, a transcript by the Associated Press confirmed the accuracy of Mr Fernandez’s reported quotes.

Bushkissinger_1Ex-Secretary
of State James Baker’s candid report, Fernandez’s refreshing candor and
initial feelers between U.S. and insurgent forces would all be positive
steps in what one hopes is the right direction—were it not for
President Bush’s immovable ‘stay the course’ exhortations just two weeks before a national election.
The president is afraid he will be made to pay at the polls. The Democrats are determined to make
him pay. And yet (even in Henry Kissinger’s time) the actual price in
death and broken society, tears, grief and lives gone to hell is paid
by those who always pay it—soldiers and the innocent among civilians.
_____________________________________________________
Other media links to Bush’s team falling apart;

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