Republic of Forgetfulness

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In the Washington Post today, Lawrence Kaplan has a useful piece on the fate of Iraqi academic Kanan Makiya, whose book Republic of Fear almost single-handedly defined the evils of Saddam Hussein?s regime when it was published in the early 1990s. Makiya returned to Baghdad after the war and set up the Memory Foundation to catalogue the former regime?s crimes. As he put it: ?Acknowledgment is something we owe the victims, otherwise we will see an attempt to erase the past.?

The only problem is that a man who had been an insider, has suddenly found himself on the margins of the U.S. effort in Iraq:

Last year the administration requested $1 million from Congress to fund the Memory Foundation. Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer, however, never passed the funds on to the foundation. Instead he signed an order establishing his own National Commission for Remembrance, whose mission duplicates that of the Memory Foundation ? and which he funded to the tune of $10 million …

On the eve of his departure from Baghdad last month, Bremer phoned Makiya to tell him the $1 million would be released. A Memory Foundation staffer filled out the necessary wire transfer forms, only to be told later by the CPA that it had no record of his doing so. Finally, on the day of the handover, the foundation received an e-mail message from the CPA. Now that sovereignty had been transferred, it said, the United States no longer had the authority to release the $1 million. It suggested Makiya take up the issue with the Iraqi government.

Makiya?s friends ?argue that [he] has become caught in the all-consuming turf wars between the Pentagon and the State Department, where the long memory of America?s diplomatic corps has yet to absolve Makiya of his complaints about its commitment to Iraqi democracy.? As for Makiya himself, ?He sees the experience as simply another metaphor for America?s retreat from its avowed aim of a liberal Iraq.?

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  1. ?He sees the experience as simply another metaphor for America?s retreat from its avowed aim of a liberal Iraq.?

    I’ve been watching for signs that the Bush Administration is looking to cut and run, and this seems to be good evidence of exactly that. The following line in Kaplan’s article, however, gave me pause:

    “Then, on the same day that U.S. forces raided Ahmed Chalabi’s house in Baghdad, the CIA descended on Makiya’s home — this despite the fact that the human rights activist has no use for Chalabi’s shenanigans or, indeed, for any cause other than the commemoration of Iraq’s past.”

    Tenet’s CIA doesn’t enjoy a whole lot of credibility with yours truly, but if the CPA had legitimate reservations about Makiya (Kaplan vouching for his credibility notwithstanding), I can see why it might be convenient for the CPA to make a mistake.

    In regards to metaphors, I can live with metaphors, but, please God, don’t let the most incompetent Administration in recent memory cap off its stupefying achievements with an actual bug out.

  2. Does anyone think that maybe the “retreat” (if there is one) could have something to do with the relentless sniping from the anti-Bush forces in the US, and the constant calls for, well, a pull-out or draw-down in Iraq? Perhaps, if the project of liberalizing Iraq had broader support, there wouldn’t be so much talk of retreating.

    Who, exactly, is calling for a “pull-out or draw-down” in Iraq, and who, exactly, isn’t supporting the project of liberalizing Iraq?

  3. I find the continuing criticism by neocons and their supporters of the State Department hilariously funny. Bush can fire any politically appointed State Department employee at will and can easily engineer the removal of foreign service employees through the manipulation of the State Department’s budget. Anybody who is currently working for the State Department is there because Bush either wants them there or doesn’t think it’s worth removing them.

  4. I’m not sure if the problem is Administration incompetence, per se. What strikes me most about the CPA / CentCom relationship is it appears to be evidence of an all-out war that the State Department and their bedfellows, the CIA, have declared on those less-well-bred chaps in the DOD. I get the impression that State would be deemed a rogue agent, if any of us believed the polite fiction that State is actually an agent of the U.S. …

  5. I’m unfamiliar with this gentleman, but thanks for the information.

    I actually came by here to see people’s reactions to ideas for a postponement of the presidential election that’s bbeing touted on Drudge.

    Could Bush really be Neminiah Scudder?

  6. I’ve been reading columns adulating DoD and their buddy Chalabi, and running down State for rejecting him, in National Review and other neocon house organs for three years, Stephen. Maybe, just maybe, people who’s expertise is in international relations are better at international relations than people who’s expertise is in military operations?

  7. Does anyone think that maybe the “retreat” (if there is one) could have something to do with the relentless sniping from the anti-Bush forces in the US, and the constant calls for, well, a pull-out or draw-down in Iraq? Perhaps, if the project of liberalizing Iraq had broader support, there wouldn’t be so much talk of retreating.

    I’m just sayin’, is all, that a lot of people seem to want to have their cake and eat it, too.

  8. This is bogus-the author was scammed by a PR machine. No $1M was ever provided to Bremer for this. The Foundation still has not signed their grant application, and we can’t pay a contract that hasn’t been signed. With no US funding in sight, Bremer went to the joint Iraqi-Coalition Board and got the $1M. What more could he do? But we still cannot pay an unsigned contract. As of today, 7/12, it’s still unsigned. Whose fault is that? Not Bremer’s. Then, on 28 June, all authority moved to the Interim Iraqi Government (IIG). After that date, we have no authority to enter into a grant relationship, nor can we pay the grant. The IIG must do all that, unless you want us to force them to. Would that be sovereignty? We have asked them to approve this, but the decision is theirs. Would you have it any other way?

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