Throwing shoes

This morning’s news is full of consternation that a reporter threw two shoes at lame-duck President Bush at a news conference in Baghdad.  Apparently Bush flew  into Iraq still expecting to be greeted as a liberator — candy, flowers and dancing in the streets and all that — but that is not the attitude of the average Middle Easterner today, as evidenced by today’s incident.   The ‘Arab street’ understood instantly the significance of what was done — and quietly rejoiced and savored it. One fellow journalist on the scene described the shoe-throwing as “courageous.”

Throwing shoes is a way of showing contempt in the Arab world.  So an Iraqi reporter expressed his opinion of George Bush in a way that meant something within the cultural context of the Middle East.  Folks from other cultures might wave signs, boo-and-hiss, or hurl rotten tomatoes but throwing shoes is the way it is done in that part of the world.   Not a big deal IMO.  Just free speech in action.

However, what is a big deal is the latest report about the Pentagon’s bungled reconstruction effort in Iraq.  Now that offers real cause for the shoe-throwing — and much much more.  The unpublished report shows an epic failure in just about every aspect of the reconstruction effort — failure to plan,  failure to budget and failure to execute even basic services on a breathtaking scale.  A mixture of incompetence, hubris and CYA  on the part of the Pentagon and other parts of the U.S. government led to billions of dollars being thrown into the black hole of Iraqi reconstruction with little or nothing to show for it.

Among the draft report’s conclusions is that some five years after its largest foreign reconstruction project since the Marshall Plan following World War II, the U.S. government still does not have the policies, technical capacity or organizational structure needed for a project even approaching this one’s scale.

That finding merits the highest contempt rating for Bush, Cheney, Rumsfield, Wolfowitz and all the other neo-cons who rushed into war without a plan for sucess and therefore succeeded in failing in just about every aspect of the war effort.  This damning report provides ample justification for than shoe-throwing.

The blatant dishonesty on the part of the Pentagon is appalling — they just made things up when it suited them to do so.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell is cited as saying, for example, that in the months after the 2003 invasion the Defense Department “kept inventing numbers of Iraqi security forces — the number would jump 20,000 a week! ‘We now have 80,000, we now have 100,000, we now have 120,000.'”

Powell’s contention was supported by both the former ground troops commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and L. Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator before the Iraqi government takeover in June 2004. Powell declined to comment on his quoted remarks, the New York Times said.

Another galling aspect of this fiasco is the political gamesmanship involved, as the 2004 election drew near.  In addition to just making numbers up, they pushed through budget requests based on those bogus numbers and cynically factored in election-year poltitics.

Partisan politics also figured in, as when a Republican lobbyist working for the U.S. occupation authority implored the Office of Management and Budget to fund $20 billion in new reconstruction money in August 2003.

“To delay getting our funds would be a political disaster for the President,” wrote the lobbyist, Tom Korologos. “His election will hang for a large part on show of progress in Iraq and without the funding this year, progress will grind to a halt,” the draft quoted Korologos as saying.

The Bush administration supported the request and Congress allocated the money later that year.

One of the points that is lost in the shock of the disclosures of this report is the fact that we would not have gotten this report of all but for the initiative of  Democratic Senator Jim Webb (VA) who was Navy Secretary under President Reagan.  In other words, we still would not have known anything about this mess if Webb had not pushed for legislation creating the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.   It would be appropriate to let Senator Webb know that you appreciate the accountability even if you do not like the findings of the report.

This epic tale of  malfeasance, recklessness, incompetence and cronyism on the part of the Bush crime syndicate leads a conclusion that the perpetrators must be held accountable.  Shoe-throwing is not enough.

I suggest a trip to the Hague for war crimes trials for the whole sorry bunch.  Anything less is too good for them.

Explore posts in the same categories: Bush administration, corruption, Iraq war, Pentagon contracts

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One Comment on “Throwing shoes”

  1. Betsy Says:

    I believe the man who hurled the shoes also called Bush a “dog,” an epithet that’s an insult to dogs everywhere.

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