Josh Marshall has the perfect summary of Iyad Allawi's “state” visit to the US.
Talking Points Memo: Here we have a US-installed foreign head of state, whose travel schedule is determined by the US State Department, visiting the US to buoy the president's election campaign and spouting demonstrable lies in order to support a retrospective rationale for war that the White House wants Americans to believe but lacks the gall to state explicitly.
(As someone said, Bush has a 100% approval rating among foreign leaders he appointed.)
And the really sad thing is we have demonstrable evidence that Bush’s supporters won’t see anything fishy here. Their critical discernment process is pretty much: Anything pro-Bush (evidence is categorically okay), Anything anti-Bush (evidence is categorically unsatisfactory and “pessimistic”). As Chuck, a recent pro-Bush poster, might say…”Michael, why do you always focus on the dark side of things when it’s obvious to any fair-minded person that Allawi is a fine upstanding leader of a free country?”
But keep up the work–your blog changed me from someone merely indifferent to Bush to someone who recognizes his threat and wants him out. It will therefore influence others. And congrats on the 1-year anniversary!
Chris, I am unable to understand why it is wrong for the President of the United States to do his job and meet with a foreign head of state. Stop buying into these leftist conspiracy theories. Bush speaks before the U.N.? Must be a plot! Allawi speaks to the congress? Must be a plot! Bush rearranges furniture in the Oval Office? Must be a plot! Prime Minister Allaw speaks for the overwhelming majority of Iraqis who want to live in a free society. Democratic partisans are using the situation in Iraq to try to gain power and I find that shameful. They have no better plan for Iraq than Bush yet they continue to criticize.
Nigel, you make a fair comment. As you may guess, the President is a busy man and meetings with heads of state–particularly lavish photo-ops with a front pager on the WP web site, to boot–therefore assumes calculation that is presumably to be mutually beneficial to both men. Bush, after all, could meet with any head of state. For instance, and I could be wrong (as I don’t have time to check this), but Bush has not met with the President of Mexico, ever. The reason is that the President of Mexico is not linked to one of Bush’s “achievements” being hyped in his campaign, which is the invasion of Iraq. Allawi is the personification of that success–the alleged new sovereignty of Iraq. So I don’t think to see calculation here is a “leftist conspiracy theory,” but simply intelligent campaigning by Bush. But Michael objects to the fact that Allawi can’t possibly represent Iraq’s interests to anyone simply because he owes too much to the US for his prestige and safety. So anything he says in support of Bush is so much self-interested pap–to say otherwise would be to risk his life and power. My point is that Bush supporters assume everything pro-Bush is credible, so the mere idea that Allawi might say anything inaccurate would be inconceivable in their minds. Allawi is too smart for that.
On a side note, you make a factual claim that Allawi speaks for the “overwhelming majority of Iraqis who want to live in a free society.” There’s a lot of wiggle room for parsing words in your statement, so I’ll amend your statement to something less ambiguous and say “Iraqis in general.” With that amendment in mind, please back your assertion up with some evidence. Preferably evidence that can withstand at least some level of credibility probe.
Allawi is concerned about America’s willingness to stick by the people of Iraq. THAT is the reason he’s speaking about the progress we’re making. Not because he’s some kind of Bush supporter, because the democrats are already screaming defeat and withdrawal and he’s saying “we still need you”. That his obvious goal in his trip here. If we leave Iraq now his country will be thrown into chaos. He’s been fighting for a Iraq for DECADES. So now he’s supposed to turn his back on his country simply because it election season? Freedom is bigger than one campaign (at least it is to non-liberals). This is what bothers me about you partisan liberals, you justify your actions because you’re fighting us “evil republicans”. You see hidden agendas in everything. Could you imagine for just a second that even though someone disagrees with you that they may be trying to do the right thing?
Oh, and yes Bush did meet with President Vicente of Mexico. I believe it’s been about a year and a half but he was governor of Texas and knows him well. Be it that he speaks the language, and that’s not french like a certain democratic nominee i know.
I won’t dispute that you might be right. Self-interested parties sometimes tell the unvarnished truth. The question about “self-interest,” though, is one of the first credibility probes one learns about when going about detecting propganda. It has nothing to do with being liberal or something else–it is an objective and apolitical criterion. In an election year, it is to one’s advantage to get elected; or nothing else follows. Bush must convince people that things in Iraq are going well as his election depends upon it, so it is foolish to accept his characterization of Iraq at face value. Any more than it is to accept Kerry’s. Allawi may have sacrificed himself for Iraq in years past, but he owes his current position to Bush and it is exceedingly imprudent for him to do anything to offend the person on whom his life and power depend. So it is foolish to accept his word without question.
My point is that you should be self-consciously skeptical of information from self-interested sources (even me, though I don’t need to tell you that) and rely on other sources of credible information before forming an opinion. I only ask you to consider data from sources that are non-self-interested when judging success in Iraq, actual events reported by people in a position to know (and corroborated by others), or statistical information collected using documented and good methodology. Namely, consider that Western reporters are afraid to leave their hotel, that US troops are hunkering down still further in their fortified bases, civilians getting strafed by US aircraft, beheaded at will, and so on (see some of Tom Englehardt’s recent dispatches for more, or Juan Cole). There is a huge disconnect between Bush’s and Allawi’s words and the reality. Or else, neither have offered any credible evidence of progress apart from their word. That should not be good enough for anyone who genuinely wants to make an informed decision.
I’m pleased to hear from you that Bush met with Fox. I remember that there was some comment that Bush was ignoring the leaders of countries in this hemisphere and that Fox was one of them. I especially respect that you honor freedom. In that case, the facts indicate that you should not vote for Bush. But don’t take my word for it. The authenticated government documents and news events posted throughout Michael’s blog regarding the torture memos, detainments, and absolutist presidential power show that Bush believes that dictatorial-like power is one of his prerogatives as CIC. I believe in freedom, too, and in a land where the president can unilaterally declare me an enemy combatant, strip me of my rights, take me away indefinitely to torture me, and is not answerable for it, there is no freedom worth the name. Some of your “conservative” colleagues posting here, however, see the growing power of government to wreck our lives as acceptable–as a fellow conservative, I can honestly say that I hope you do not share that sentiment. Freedom used to be a conservative value, but it’s out of fashion now.
Let’s review. Allawi claimed that the situation in Iraq is good and getting better. Earlier in the same speech he mentioned that he’d survived four assassination attempts so far. Many other high-level government officials, not to mention hundreds of police and other lower level government workers, haven’t been so lucky. Electrical power distribution, clean water distribution, and oil production have all stagnated or even decreased over the past few months. So much for things being good. Several major cities that used to be under the control of the coalition are now no-go areas. Casualties among US, coalition, and Iraqi government personnel are all up. Rumsfeld said that a full quarter of the Iraqi people might not be able to vote in the January elections because of violence and disorder. So much for things getting better. (Bush claimed that the Afghan National Army occupied Nafaf, so we can pretty much ignore his contribution to the news conference altogether.) When Kerry failed to agree with Allawi’s blatantly false characterization of the situation in Iraq, Bush blasted him and actually had the gall to say that you can’t lead the country while undercutting an ally! (Let’s see, what were the tremendously supportive things Bush said about Germany for the past year and a half?) To Nigel’s credit, he’s right that Allawi’s only purpose in the visit wasn’t to support Bush’s campaign. He was also lobbying for forgiveness of hundreds of billions of dollars that Iraq owes the US and other countries.
For all the grand talk of Democracy with a capital D, the fact remains that Iraq doesn’t yet have a democratically elected government. Nor is that government abiding by the rule of law, as evidenced by their torture of prisoners (which our soldiers tried to stop before being ordered to return the prisoners to their torturers), significant corruption, and the recent removal of the judge trying Saddam’s case because he wasn’t willing to rush the trial through to get it over with prior to their elections.
Please understand that I support working to improve conditions in Iraq and movement toward a democratic government. I opposed the invasion but, now that it’s happened, we have a moral obligation to help them get back on their feet. However, I’m not going to close my eyes and pretend that things aren’t really bad right now. If you don’t assess the situation realistically, attempts to make things better are doomed.