Say Uncle, Rummy
By MAUREEN DOWD
Even some State Department officials thought it was like watching a cranky, eccentric uncle with an efficient, energetic niece.
Rummy was ordered to go to Iraq by the president, but he clearly has no stomach for nation-building, or letting Condi run the show. He seemed under the weather after a rough overnight ride on a C-17 transport plane from Washington into Baghdad. And Condi's aides were rolling their eyes at the less than respectful way the DefSec treated the SecState as she tried to be enthusiastic, in her cheerful automaton way, about what she considers the latest last chance for Iraq.
A reporter in Baghdad asked Rummy about the kerfuffle when Condi talked of "thousands" of tactical errors in Iraq. Rummy later noted that "I don't know what she was talking about, to be perfectly honest" and that anyone who said that had "a lack of understanding" about warfare. She's just a silly girl, after all.
He could have taken the opportunity to be diplomatic about the diplomat, but he's incapable of that, so he just added more fuel to the fire.
"She's right here, and you can ask her," he said, pointing to Condi, who said she had not meant errors "in the military sense." She must have meant mismanagement in the civilians-mucking-up-the-military sense.
The former "Matinee Idol," as W. liked to call him, is now a figure of absurdity, clinging to his job only because some retired generals turned him into a new front on the war on terror. On his rare, brief visit to Baghdad, he was afraid to go outside Fortress Green Zone, even though he yammers on conservative talk shows about how progress is being made, and how the press never reports good news out of Iraq.
If the news is so good, why wasn't Rummy gallivanting at the local mall, walking around rather than hiding out in the U.S. base known as Camp Victory? (What are they going to call it, one reporter joked, Camp Defeat?)
In further evidence of their astute connection with the Iraqi culture, the cabinet secretaries showed up there without even knowing the correct name of their latest puppet. It turned out that Jawad al-Maliki, the new prime minister-designate, considered "Jawad" his exile name and had reverted to Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.
On the cusp of the third anniversary of "Mission Accomplished," Rummy was still in denial despite the civil war, with armed gangs of Shiites and Sunnis going out and killing each other and Balkanizing whole communities.
When a reporter asked him what the U.S. had to do to get the militias under control and stop the sectarian dueling, he answered bluntly: "I guess the first thing I have to say is we don't, the Iraqis do. It's their country. It's a sovereign country. This is not a government that has an 'interim' in front of it or a 'transition' in front of it. It's a government that's in for a period of years and undoubtedly, unquestionably, will be addressing the question as to how they can best provide for the security of all of their people."
Yeah, let's leave it up to what's-his-name. We broke it. What's-his-name can fix it.
The assertions that Iraq is largely peaceful were belied yesterday by our own government. A State Department report on global terrorism counted 8,300 deaths of civilians in Iraq from insurgent attacks — more than half of all those killed by terrorists worldwide — and noted that violence is escalating. The elections have clearly not quelled the violence, and terrorists are said to be trying to turn Iraq's Anbar province into a base for Al Qaeda and other militants. (And since it's our State Department, you've got to figure it's soft-peddling things.)
April was the most lethal month for U.S. soldiers this year; at least 67 died.
The Bush II hawks were determined to restore a Reaganesque muscular, "moral" foreign policy, as opposed to the realpolitik of Bush I. But with no solution in sight, Congress is pressing for some realpolitik. With W.'s blessing, lawmakers are sending his father's old consigliere, James Baker, to Iraq to look for a way out.
As Iran vows to go ahead with its nuclear ambitions, the administration finds itself relying for help on the very people it steamrolled and undermined before the Iraq war: the U.N. and international arms inspectors.
"The Security Council is the primary and most important institution for the maintenance of peace and stability and security, and it cannot have its word and its will simply ignored by a member state," Condi said after a NATO meeting on Thursday.
Rummy may get prickly with his office niece, but who else but the automaton could make that threat with a straight face?