Thursday, January 17, 2008

Teflon diplomacy

On Tuesday, Condi made an "unscheduled visit" to Iraq -- a "detour" that tore her away from the Riyadh horse-trading session -- to praise a new Iraqi law, which she described as forward progress toward national reconciliation. We can believe her because why?

First, Condi is speaking. Her "mushroom cloud" tendency toward hyperbole begs scrutiny of her every word. Second, the lack of political progress in Iraq undermines the Surge™ and Bubble Boy can't tolerate bad news. When an Iraqi opportunity arose -- the parliament passed a new law, yippee! -- Condi flew to the rescue to offer a glowing review. Typical lecondel, her trip was an exercise in teflon diplomacy, espousing unrealistic optimism that won't stick, denying dire consequences of the conflicts on the verge of igniting into renewed sectarian strife.

Since my B.S. meter cracked long ago from one too many WH lies, everything this administration says and does falls by default into one of two categories: Con Jobs or ITMFA. Reading Wednesday's Washington Post and the NYTimes accounts confirmed my cynicism. Each reported on Rice's remarks, the new law, and added interesting tidbits unique to their respective articles.

Beginning with the Washington Post (with emphasis):

In a 20-minute news conference in the heavily fortified Green Zone, Rice said the recent passage of a law intended to make it easier for former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to return to civil service jobs would encourage Iraqi unity despite its potential shortcomings.

"This law, the 'accountability and justice law,' is clearly a step forward for national reconciliation," she said. "It is clearly a step forward for healing the wounds of the past."
Clearly, it is not.

[Keep reading... more after the jump.]
The law seeks to address the Bush administration's controversial decision in 2003 to force most Baath Party members, who were largely Sunni Muslims, out of government jobs. The decree helped give rise to the Sunni insurgency that continues to this day.

Some Shiite and Sunni lawmakers said the law would allow thousands of former low-level Baath officials to return to their government jobs. But critics, mostly hard-line Sunni lawmakers, say the measure could actually force out some former Baathists still working in the government.
The NYTimes offered more details and reactions to the new law. And they ain't so good (with emphasis).
...the new law has loopholes that some critics have said may ultimately make it more restrictive than the old one. Although Ms. Rice acknowledged that the new measure remained controversial, she praised it as an example of Iraq’s emerging democracy.

“I don’t know of any law that has ever been passed that is everything that everybody wants,” she said. “That’s the nature of democracy. The law will be more than some people wanted. It will be less than some people wanted. That’s the nature of democratic compromise.”

Some leaders said the law would give more jobs to ex-party members, while providing purged Baathists with pensions, which the old process did not do. But some hard-line Shiite politicians who supported the law, and minority Sunni political party members who did not, agreed that the legislation was even more restrictive than the original process, and that it would be used to justify further purges.

One clause prohibits former Baathists from working in several of Iraq’s most important ministries, including Foreign, Interior and Defense, despite American plans to integrate more Sunni Arabs into Iraq’s security forces. Critics of the law said it could have the opposite of its intended effect, and eventually rekindle sectarian bloodshed after the current lull in violence.
Unbelievable. Both Shiites and Sunnis concur that the new law is worse than the old version that sparked the insurgency. But Condi? Her teflon diplomatic reflex shrugged off the negatives in favor of platitudes, smiles, photo ops, and enthusiastic attaboys. Shouldering the tough work needed to achieve sustained d├ętente -- not her mission.

Promoting the success of Bush's Surge™ and manufacturing good news out of Iraq is Condi's Job One, an endeavor the mainstream press readily undertakes. The Iraqi government accomplished something political. Oh, call a press conference, start spreading the news, ignore the dark clouds breaking the horizon, and keep the message upbeat. If bad stuff happens -- and it probably will -- the Administration will move the goal posts and stall for time. Meanwhile, Bush can count on Rice to spread happy talk, words rolling off the lecondeling tongue like water ricocheting off a duck's ass.

Google News headlines about Condi in Iraq

Observe the following lecondeling spin for the sheer audacity of its robotic Bushie loyalist script. From the WaPo article:
"When I hear that the surge was to give the Iraqi people a chance for political reconciliation, I say that's absolutely right," Rice said, referring to last year's U.S. troop buildup. "And while it hasn't always moved as fast as some of us sitting in Washington would like, it has certainly moved."
Like Cheney's bowels after a bagel binge. Now read Bush's remarks from the NYTimes:
“A political system evolves and grows,” he said. “It grows when people have confidence. It grows when the grass roots begins to agitate for change. It grows when there’s alternatives. There’s competition emerging.”
Is "competition" George's quaint term for "purge"?

The NYTimes article also delved into "a national oil revenue sharing law and an agreement on the contested northern city of Kirkuk," added cause for worry. Snip:
On Sunday, a broad swath of sectarian, ethnic and secular parties formed a coalition to push for greater central controls on regional hydrocarbon resources and to set aside a planned popular referendum on the status of Kirkuk, an oil-rich city that Iraq’s powerful Kurdish alliance regards as part of the semiautonomous region of Kurdistan.

The coalition pits nationalist interests against the Kurdish and Shiite parties, including the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, which have pushed for more regional power. Competing Kurdish and Arab claims for Kirkuk, which remains among Iraq’s most troubled areas, remain a particularly delicate problem, which American officials have compared to a ticking time bomb.
I don't know who the "American officials" are but Condi "clearly" avoided the controversy. A happy face applied to her diplomatic excursion, she willfully deceives us (and herself as role of Bush enabler) by negating the downside of the volatile situation in Iraq.

The WaPo report ends with a curious episode -- a raging fire required an Iraqi oil refinery "shutdown." A military spokesman disavowed that the fire ignited due to "coalition overflight" contrary to what "Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani suggested... ...An engineer at the refinery said employees suspected that followers of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr were behind" the inferno burning at the facility "near the southern oil-rich city of Basra."

An investigation has commenced but I doubt we will hear much about it. The investment in "the success" of the Surge™ and our Big Media shills won't bother most of us with full details. The incident could simply drown in the hum of progress in Iraq and Condi's refrain, "clearly a step forward."