The Washington Post’s current contribution to the Kerry campaign is a mega-series on the occupation of Iraq. The first installment, titled “Mistakes Loom Large as Handover Nears,” appeared this morning.
Despite its great length, today’s article manages the astonishing feat of reviewing the postwar occupation of Iraq without mentioning a single positive development. Not one. Based entirely on anonymous sources, the article chronicles an unrelieved series of misjudgments, errors and failures.
Some of the Post’s critique is obviously political. It criticizes the CPA for trying to establish a free market economy. Relying, one suspects, on information from a middle-aged State Department liberal, it describes “…conflict within the occupation bureaucracy [that] set[s] the legions of young staff members chosen for their loyalty to the Bush administration against older, more liberal diplomats from the State Department and the British Foreign Office.” And it portrays the Office of Strategic Communicatins as unsuccessful in efforts to reach Iraqis because it “viewed its job as helping Bush to win his next election.”
Mostly, though, the Post is just unrelentingly pessimistic. Sometimes in ways that seem disconnected from current developments in Iraq; the uprising sponsored by Moqtada Sadr is viewed as critical evidence of the failure of the occupation, with no mention of the fact that most recently, Sadr has abandoned his insurgency and told his militia to go home.
The bottom line, of course, is that the Iraq reconstruction effort has been delayed and complicated by security problems. But there is no apparent ground for declaring the occupation a failure. Authority is being handed over to a temporary government; a new constitution is in place; elections will be held. Security will ultimately depend on the Iraqis, not on us. But that was always true. Whether a positive result will emerge from Iraq remains to be seen, as does the impact of Iraq’s liberation on other Arab countries. Already, however, we have seen movements toward democracy spreading around the region.
Our efforts in Iraq may yet fail, but it is hard to see the Post’s one-sided assessment as a realistic contribution to our understanding of what is happening there.
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