'Rough' Is Only Half of It
April 22, 2004
President Bush said to an annual meeting of newspaper editors Wednesday that the last few weeks in Iraq had been "really rough." That is a start on a realistic assessment, but the administration has to offer Congress and the public far more detail about U.S. difficulties and costs in Iraq than that vague statement.
As bombings grow more lethal and additional troops are ordered to Iraq, Congress is beginning to rouse itself to examine a war it never properly debated. The White House should pay sharper attention. It sent no one to testify before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday.
Angry committee Chairman Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) read out loud a series of questions that he said the administration must answer in order to persuade Congress and the people that a transfer of power in Iraq could and would actually take place June 30. Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) rebuked the failure of any official to appear as an "arrogant mistake."
The House Armed Services Committee, generally a bastion of hawks, proved little more friendly Wednesday. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) denounced the White House's refusal to acknowledge the growing fiscal costs of Iraq as "immoral" after Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified that the Iraq war probably would cost hundreds of millions more than already budgeted. Weldon estimates that at least $10 billion more will be needed for military costs in the next five months alone. The White House insists that it is not required to make a funding request that would put a dollar cost on the occupation until next year — after the election.
Scarcely more encouraging was Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul D. Wolfowitz's appearance before the committee. Pressed for how the administration envisioned a transition, he declared: "Some say we have no plan. We have a plan." But he could not explain what it was.
The most hopeful sign for a transition is Bush's appointment of United Nations Ambassador John D. Negroponte to become ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte enjoys close relations with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. If given a clean slate, he could begin to reverse occupation head L. Paul Bremer III's foolish decision to dissolve the entire Iraqi army. He could follow the recommendation of U.S. generals to allow some former members of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party to occupy government jobs. As in postwar Germany and Japan, such ex-party members are usually the ones who have experience in running a government.
But no matter how skillfully Negroponte performs, he can hardly turn Iraq around on his own. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) had it right Wednesday while speaking on NBC about how much the occupation was really going to cost: "Be honest with the Congress, be honest with the American people."
The anger evident across Iraq is more than a "really rough" moment. It is tipping toward full-scale insurrection, with no publicly delineated plan for stopping it — and no accounting of the cost of the attempt.
Thursday, April 22
L.A. Times: It's A "Full-Scale Insurrection"
This editorial underscores how Bush is even pissing off his fellow Republicans:
Posted by Howard Hoffman at 7:48 AM