Saturday, February 17, 2007

While Republicans Applaud, an Administration Remains in Disarray

No one should be fooled by the Republicans in the Senate. By voting down cloture, they have voted for continued war by an incompetent president and they have nothing to offer by way of getting Bush to stop digging a hole. Congress is a co-equal branch of the government and the Republicans want to do nothing more than rubber stamp the president.

Bush is doing harm to our nation. No one should doubt that. If we had not gone to Iraq and had properly finished the war in Afghanistan, our foreign policy in the hands of a competent president would have considerably more leverage than it does today. If Colin Powell—not Cheney and Rumsfeld—had dominated our foreign policy, it's possible even Bush might have come off as having a competent administration even if he still didn't have a clue what he was doing.

Remember the axis of evil image that Bush used to describe Iran, Iraq and North Korea? In recent days, there was an article suggesting that North Korea and Iran were included as afterthoughts in Bush's 2002 State of the Union Address so that the mention of Iraq alone would not make it so obvious that Iraq was going to be the focus of Bush's foreign policy. I'm not going to pretend to sort that one out but it would be consistent with what we now know is an administration so obsessed with domestic public relations that it can't even clearly state its foreign policy messages to the world (think of Karen Hughes, a political mouthpiece for the administration, going to Islamic countries and explaining that Americans have mommys and daddys too).

Truthout has an article by Jay Bookman from the Atlanta Journal Constitution that summarizes what passes for Bush's Iran policy:
Trying to make sense of the Bush administration's strategy toward Iran may be a fool's game, because it assumes a strategy exists in the first place.

That doesn't seem the case. Statements and policies issued one day are contradicted the next, perhaps the result of internal White House struggles between hardline and more moderate factions who can't agree on a single approach.

(snip)

For now, the administration seems paralyzed. It has heeded the warnings of our military professionals that with our forces already overstretched it would be foolish to seek another war. But its hardliners retain the power to block any effort to negotiate a peaceful settlement.

The result is an administration perfectly willing to accept war, but unwilling to prevent it.

I have no idea if we're going to war with Iran or not. But there's evidence that the Bush Administration might have been able to negotiate with Iran back in late 2001 when indeed Bush had enormous leverage. And again, in 2003, there may have been another diplomatic effort that the Bush Administration botched. Steve Clemons of The Washington Note has some details:
Gareth Porter has an important article out today, "Rove Said to Have Received 2003 Iranian Proposal."

Porter writes:
Karl Rove, then White House deputy chief of staff for President George W. Bush, received a copy of the secret Iranian proposal for negotiations with the United States from former Republican Congressman Bob Ney in early May 2003, according to an Iranian-American scholar who was then on his Congressional staff.
The revelation that Rove is involved is huge -- because it further raises the stakes for exactly why then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said that she never "saw the fax" of the Guldimann-couriered Iran offer.

Foreign policy officials confirm to this writer that the fax did make it to National Security Council official Elliot Abrams, who has not admitted seeing the memos sent by Guldimann.

But if Rove also received the proposal through the separate channel of Congressman Bob Ney, it is hard to believe that Rove would have just hidden the matter in a pile of other faxes and not passed the material on to Rice directly -- or at least to White House Chief-of-Staff Andy Card.

Do Republicans in the Senate really want to put all their faith into the gang that can't shoot straight? Do they really want to keep defending these guys and risk a third war? Iraq is broken. The White House is broken. Isn't it time for Republicans in Washington to join Democrats in cleaning up the mess?

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