In this Washington Post op-ed, Dan Senor destroys whatever might have been left of Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s credibility. Shortly after it ran his splashy piece on the Iraqi reconstruction, the Post was forced to correct (albeit incompletely) Chandrasekaran’s false statements about Simone Ledeen. His attack on James Haveman has also been exposed as grossly misleading.
Now Senor shows that, in order to sell his thesis that “ties to GOP trumped know-how among staff sent to rebuild Iraq,” Chandrasekaran simply ignored important counter-examples among top Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) staff. Consider, for instance, Richard Jones, the chief of policy and Ambassador Paul Bremer’s top deputy. Jones is a career diplomat who had served as President Bill Clinton’s ambassador to Lebanon and Kazakhstan. Then there’s Ryan Crocker, who led the CPA’s political team. According to Senor, Chandrasekaran once described Crocker as Bremer’s “top political aide.” Yet Crocker didn’t find his way into Chandrasekaran’s hit piece. Was this because, having served as Clinton’s ambassador to Syria and Kuwait, his inclusion would have undermined Chandrasekaran’s line of attack? If not, how does Chandrasekaran explain his exclusion (or failure to discuss the background) of several other prominent figures with similarly non-Republican, non-ideologue biographies?
Senor also exposes an apparent contradiction between Chandrasekaran’s suggestion that the CPA should have listened more to professional civil servants and State Department Arabists, and what Senor says is the conclusion of Chrandrasekaran’s book — that the Bush administration should have moved quickly after Saddam Hussein’s fall to empower a fully sovereign Iraqi government. According to Senor, the State Department had, before the invasion, favored an extended occupation, in which the United States would retain power for a long period while gradually organizing elections and facilitating an Iraqi constitutional convention. Indeed, says Senor, “the approach Chandrasekaran now claims to prefer has much more in common with the rapid political transition plan backed by the very Pentagon neoconservatives he disparages throughout his account.”
Which brings me back to my thesis — “It’s not as easy as it looks to the Washington Post.” As Senor concludes:
The truth is that both approaches [State’s and the Pentagon’s] would have been problematic. So, too, was the compromise solution sought by Bremer. But in a country as complicated as Iraq, there were no simple answers at hand. It’s unfortunate that instead of acknowledging the depths and ambiguities of the problem, Chandrasekaran chose to shoehorn carefully selected facts into a thesis that often seems all too pat.