After almost a week of studying the recommendations of the ISG (the Iraq Study Group) I have been forced to rename it the Iraq Stupid Group.
After almost a week of studying the recommendations of the ISG (the Iraq Study Group) I have been forced to rename it the Iraq Stupid Group. Why would I do such a rude thing? There are so many reasons. However, I will attempt to articulate the most important in this column. Stupidity Number 1 (the most glaring one) is that the recommendations were unanimous.
When do Americans agree unanimously on anything? The US Supreme Court hardly ever makes unanimous decisions. The Congress NEVER does, except for ceremonial issues, or when their polls tell them the nation is overwhelmingly behind something. As a nation we couldn’t even agree to go after our enemies after 9-11! Oh, the liberals pretended to be behind the war efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq (most of the Democrats voted to authorize action), but they never believed in it, and they almost immediately began to undermine the effort. Today it is almost impossible to find a Democrat who remembers voting in favor of military action.
So why is the ISG so proud of the fact that its conclusions were unanimous? Had the report come out in August the results would have been much different. This “bipartisan” group’s report would have almost certainly not have voted unanimously if it were not for the mid-term election results. I believe that the knowledge that Democrats will soon control Congress both emboldened the Liberals on the ISG, and caused the resolve of the few Conservatives to weaken. As a result, the recommendations were so watered down that all the politicians on the panel agreed. Thus the much-touted unanimity of the report.
Stupidity Number 2 is that the ISG was “bipartisan”. The fact that there were five Democrats and five Republicans on the ISG means nothing. The group was overwhelmingly Liberal. Just because someone is Republican does not mean that they are Conservative, and this panel certainly proves that point.
And where did we get the idea that having equal numbers of people from the big parties means a commission is “Fair and Balanced”? What about the millions of Americans who were totally disenfranchised in this process because they are Independents or members of smaller political parties. Where was their representation on the Iraq Stupid Group?
Stupidity Number 3 was that there was almost nothing new in the recommendations. The little that was new was, well, stupid. Almost everything of worth in the report was a regurgitation of idea that the President has already acted upon, is currently considering, or has considered and rejected as being, uh, stupid.
Stupidity Number 4 was the suggestion that we sit down and try to reason with unreasoning fanatics. The ISG wants the President to negotiate with terrorists, in particular Iran and Syria. The United States has always had a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, with good reason. Sitting down at the table with them gives them status in the eyes of the world that they do not deserve.
A terrorist is a terrorist. Whether it is an individual, a group like Hamas, or a nation that supports and engages in terrorism, I believe our national policy of never negotiating with terrorists should apply. What good can come of it? Will animals who are crazy enough to strap bombs to their bodies and murder innocent women and children keep their promises? Of course not. They don’t even understand concepts like honor and honesty. Our past experiences of negotiating with Islamic terrorists have always been disastrous for us.
Now I realize the President doesn’t view this as strongly as I do. He has said he would negotiate with Iran when they give up their offensive nuclear program. The Iraq Stupid Group knew that this was the position of the United States Government, a position well thought out by much smarter people than those on the ISG, and people with a lot more information that the panel possessed. By making this recommendation they undermined the foreign policy of the United States and placed our nation in a dangerous position by making it appear that we do not speak with one voice. That was – what’s the word I am looking for? – stupid!
Stupidity Number 5 was the way the ISG came about. Few people know this – the media certainly hasn’t talked about it – but the ISG was formulated and populated by a little-known quasi-governmental group called the United States Institute of Peace or USIP (see LINK below).
The USIP was established by an Act of Congress in 1984. According to its website, “The United States Institute of Peace is an independent, nonpartisan, national institution established and funded by Congress.” “Independent” but “funded by Congress.” In other words, We the People pay for it, but we have no control over how wise or stupid their pronouncements are.
Two things on the USIP website leap out at me and make me wonder why Congress would do something as stupid as appointing this organization to do a study on Iraq. To see the first, go to their website and click “About Us.” The document that explains the purpose of this taxpayer-funded “peace” organization is downloadable in only two languages – English (the language of our nation) and Arabic (the language of our enemies).
Some may take issue with my characterization of Arabic as “the language of our enemies.” If you do, I beg you to name one Arabic-speaking nation that is a friend of the United States. Don’t say “Saudi Arabia” because the only reason they have any relations with us is economic. Their people hate us (they danced in the streets when the World Trade Center was bombed) and their leaders despise us. Don’t bring up Kuwait. After we saved them from Saddam, losing lives in the process, they have spit in our face on many occasions. I could go on, but space prevents me.
So why did the USIP choose Arabic as the only language besides English for their defining document? Is it because there are so many Arabic speakers in the US? In researching this I looked up the top ten languages spoken in the United States (see LINK below). I found that besides the vast majority who speak English, 10% of us speak Spanish, and that of the other eight top ten languages spoken in the US, none are spoken by more than 1% of the population. And Arabic was nowhere to be found on the list!
So, again, why Arabic as the only language on their site besides English? Is this political correctness run amok? Or is there something more sinister afoot? I don’t know, but I sure don’t like it.
The other negative about USIP that leaps off their web page is that their proudest accomplishment prior to the ISG is their study on the United Nations. It took them over a year to decide that the UN needs reform. Duh! But they never came to the only sensible conclusion regarding the UN, the conclusion that most intelligent Americans reached years ago. They never said that we should withdraw from the UN.
In fact, far from it, they think the UN is just a delightful organization of lovely people who are our friends and wish us well. Listen to this garbage from their page about the UN report (see LINK below): “The United nations is one of the tools that America, our allies and other democracies use cooperatively on the basis of shared values.”
“Shared values”?! I can count on one hand the nations of this world which share our values. There are almost 200 members of the UN. Most of them passionately hate our guts. The great majority almost always vote against us. (You only see the Security Council votes on TV. They’re bad enough, but check out the votes of the General Assembly sometime. That will blow your mind.)
In 2001 the UN voted the US off the Human Rights Commission because of our supposed “human rights violations.” We had helped found it, and had been members since its inception in 1947. In 2003 the UN Ambassador from Libya, a terrorist nation with an atrocious human rights record, was voted Chairman of the Human Rights Commission. According to Joanna Weschler, the U.N. representative of the New York-based Human Rights Watch, the Commission turning into an "abuser solidarity" group with more and more countries with questionable human-rights records gaining election and then voting as a bloc not to single out individual nations for human rights abuses.
Our nation constitutes ½ of one per cent of the nations with membership in the UN. Yet we provide well over half its budget. Certainly we are one of the richest nations, but if all nations paid their fair share according to their Gross National Product, we would not be shouldering anywhere near the financial burden we currently pay.
So why did Congress choose the USIP, a group that came up with such a stupid report regarding the UN, to run the ISG? The only logical explanation is that there are a lot of stupid people in Congress. But we already knew that.
Stupidity Number 6 was the fact that the ISG chose to treat the situation in Iraq as a law-enforcement problem. Perhaps that is a result of the commission being top-heavy with lawyers, attorneys general and a judge. Whatever the reason, they missed the single, most obvious fact of the matter entirely. That is the fact that a big chunk of the Iraqi people hate another big chunk, and no amount of law enforcement will ever change that.
The British set the current cycle of sectarian violence in motion years ago when they decided to force three groups which had nothing in common but their hatred for one another to be one nation. (See my article “Iraq – Three Nations” at http://www.webcommentary.com/asp/ShowArticle.asp?id=barrettt&date=050815.) We had a chance to undo this grave error when we defeated Saddam. We should have allowed the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds to have their own nations. Our failure to do so is the direct cause of violence between the Sunni and the Shiites today.
The hatred between these two religious groups causes the great majority of the violence in Iraq. Most of the killing is between these two groups. The Kurds are keeping out of the way. When US troops get killed these days, it is because they are trying to stop the Sunni from killing the Shia and vice versa.
None of the ISG’s proposals which treat this as a law enforcement problem will have the slightest effect on the real cause of most of the violence in Iraq. Out of the 79 mostly ridiculous suggestions the ISG made, none included the only real solution to halting the violence in Iraq. We need to either let the three groups form separate nations, or come up with a solution that allows each group as much autonomy as possible. Only then will the violence stop.
Stupidity Number 7 the choice of members. Yes, they had to choose half Democrats and half Republicans. But why does it seem that bipartisanship (coupled with the fact that each of them was buddies with one of the two co-chairman who chose the members) was the sole criteria?
As I mentioned earlier, far too many (eight of the ten) of the members are lawyers. And all of them are (or have been) politicians. These two groups are about as useful in determining the conduct of a war as would be a bunch of Muslims planning a Christmas celebration.
I don’t pretend to be the smartest person in the world, but if I had been choosing members, I would have looked for people with military and diplomatic skills. After all, it is a war, so military expertise would be handy. And we have to deal with the Iraqi government, so diplomacy would be in order. None of the members has any substantive military experience, and only a few of the members of the ISG have any diplomatic expertise.
Two members (James Baker and Lawrence Eagleburger) have served in the position of Secretary of State. None of the others have diplomatic experience.
A few have some military experience, but none at the high levels of command that would be useful in determining the conduct of the war in Iraq, and none with any recent military experience. William Perry, a former Secretary of Defense, was en enlisted man during WWII, was second lieutenant in the Army Reserves from 1950 to 1955. Leon Panetta served as a first lieutenant in the Army from 1964 to 1966. Charles Robb commanded a rifle company. I don’t know his rank, but rifle companies have either lieutenants or captains as the CO’s. There were no general officers among the members; the closest to a real military strategist was Ed Meese. He was a colonel, but not in the regular Army (he was a reservist), and his experience was a long time ago.
Instead of appointing someone with current or even recent high-level military experience (preferably with personal experience in Iraq), the United States Institute of Peace chose to have five retired military officers serve one of five advisory panels that served the ISG. While this was better than nothing, it showed that the USIP did not consider the most important aspect of the Iraq problem, the military aspect, as serious. Retired officers can bring a lot to the table, but the equipment and methods of warfare changes very quickly in this technological age, and some active duty officers would have been very valuable. And they should have been part of the actual panel, not mere advisors.
All in all, the panel was not qualified, so we should not be surprised that they came up with a hodge-podge of SEVENTY-NINE mostly useless recommendations. Three members were stooges of Bill Clinton, the most corrupt president who ever disgraced the Oval Office. I’m sure Sandra O’Connor is a nice lady, and she served on the Supreme Court, but she had no qualifications to sit on this commission. William Perry served as the Secretary of Defense, but all his military was over half a century ago. Leon Panetta’s bio on the ISG says that he is a Former White House Chief of Staff. His only accomplishments since then have been that he is the Founder and Director of the Panetta Institute (whatever that is) and that he created the Leon Panetta Lecture Series.
I’m sure that if they really tried, they could have come up with a less qualified group of ten members for this panel. I am also sure that with very little effort they could have drafted a panel of highly qualified members who could have added something of substance to the debate over Iraq. They might not have had the “brand name” appeal of Sandra O’Connor, or the English knighthood of Lawrence Eagleburger, but a group of qualified military and diplomatic experts could have gotten the job done.
We will never know what a qualified group might have come up with. Instead, we are left with the fallout that one would expect from a group of politicians and lawyers who have been asked to do an important job.
Part of that fallout is the damage that has already been done to our relations with the fledgling Iraqi government. Their President has called the ISG report an “insult to the Iraqi people.” He also called it “dangerous.”
The “dangerous” comment refers to a provision of the ISG report that he says would undermine the new Iraqi Constitution. Our distinguished “experts” have “unanimously” recommended possibly the stupidest suggestion anyone has made since some liberals recommended that we not respond to the attacks on 9-11 until we could prove in court who had perpetrated the massacre.
The Iraq Stupid Group has called for Saddam loyalists, who were purged from the government at such great cost, to be reinstated to their positions of power. What a great idea! Once they are back in power, they can reverse Saddam Hussein’s death sentence and put him back in power. Then he can re-start his programs of Weapons of Mass Destruction, murder more hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and maybe even take out Israel, our only real ally in the Middle East. A great concept from a group of great thinkers.
Dr. Tom Barrett has been an ordained minister for 30 years. He has written for local and national publications for most of his life, and has authored several non-fiction books. He has been interviewed on many TV and radio programs, and speaks at seminars nationwide. Tom is the editor and publisher of Conservative Truth, an email newsletter read by over fifty thousand weekly which focuses on moral and political issues from a Biblical viewpoint.