Thursday, June 12, 2003

David Brinkley is dead at 82. Since he and Walter Cronkite left their chairs, has there been a news anchor that's mattered? In fact, has there been a network news anchor that hasn't been faintly ridiculous?

In response to criticism, toward the end of his career, that he had become just a curmudgeon, Brinkley said, "As long as I've known anything about politics, I've been skeptical. And it has evolved. The more I saw, the more skeptical I became." He said that politicians in the 1990's were largely concerned with the "naked pursuit of power and of privilege and of perks."


From Albert Hunt's column in today's WSJ:

"As the debate escalates about how much the Bush administration hyped the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, Peter Galbraith today will talk about what may be a graver miscarriage: the arrogantly ill-conceived postconflict plans.

"'The administration did almost no planning,' he will tell the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this morning...

"Dozens of Americans have been killed in the past two months; at this rate postconflict casualties will soon exceed those during the war. A top Pentagon official this week admitted they failed to anticipate the mayhem and chaos in postwar Iraq.

"Mr. Galbraith, a former ambassador to Croatia and student of the Iraqis and Kurds, is a passionate critic of Saddam Hussein. He spent three weeks in Baghdad after the war and found the American 'miscalculations' and 'rookie mistakes...stunning [sic].'

"...If Mr. Glabraith is right, this may be more consequential than the administration's prewar exaggerations.

"Currently American and Allied troops in Iraq and support personnel are approaching 200,000. Rather than acknowledging their mistakes [Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz had said former Army chief Shinseki's estimates of 'several hundreds of thousands' were 'wildly off the mark'], Pentagon planners...concoct rationales.

"The postwar effort began with the ill-conceived Rumsfeld decision to appoint retired Gen. Jay Garner to head reconstruction, although wiser heads -- including top military figures like Anthony Zinni -- warned it was a bad idea to tap a general for this task. In a gesture of contempt, the Pentagon refused to permit Gen. Garner to testify before the Senate before heading to Iraq.

"Now Mr. Wolfowitz, who -- agree with him or not, has a reputation as a straight shooter -- recently offered this whopper of an explanation: 'We did not want to do anything that would undercut the efforts to reach a diplomatic resolution.' In March, Mr. Wolfowitz? Why did Gen. Garner have time then to brief the media?"

"...Mr. Galbraith and others want an inquiry into why we were so ill-prepared after the war; not for recriminations, he says, but to understand what went wrong and to replace those responsible from any future planning."

So far the Bush administration, supported by a lock-step GOP House and an almost-evenly divided Senate, have proven to be teflon. They've managed to avoid hearings on their manipulation of pre-war intelligence on Iraq, and the report on what the administration knew about impending terrorist attacks prior to Sept. 11 2001 has been squelched, hidden from public view. I doubt the miseries in Iraq are going to warrent much public attention in the months to come. So the wild-eyed -- but impressively incompetent -- "visionaries" in the Pentagon will continue to move the pieces around on the chess board.

There is a light at the end of the reconstruction disaster, though. If the "affirmative action president" gets his way, Iraq will be a much more democratic place...than is the U.S., according to the wry Brian Lehrer.


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