Robert Fisk on the Baker Report

Friday, December 8, 2006 10:20 AM

Middle East expert Robert Fisk does a critique of the "Baker Report"--see below. If you really want to take the "Baker Report" seriously and act upon it to make genuine progress toward peace, stability and justice in the Middle East, herewith are a few suggestions. Drastic measures need to be taken now, not later. We have had a bellyful of nonsense up to this point from Bush, the media, the Democrats and from what is left of the befuddled Republicans.

The first thing which ought to be done is to fire Condoleezza Rice, and replace her with James Baker, as Secretary of State. Rice is a disaster, as is Bush himself. Baker at least has credibility. President Bush can turn the entire Iraq/Middle East fiasco over to Baker, with full authority to do whatever Baker thinks best. Let Baker try to implement his own report with his people. If Bush can be brought to his senses for just a day or two, Bush can do this. It might salvage his failed Presidency.

The second thing, Dick Cheney should be urged and pressured to resign for health reasons. If he refuses, he should be sidelined by Bush from having anything to do with foreign or military affairs. Cheney's huge staff, which amounts to a shadow Presidency, should be eliminated. Under the Constitution, the Vice President has no power or duties, except those delegated to him by the President. Cheney must be cut off at the knees, before he does any further damage to the country. Let him retire and go duck shooting.

The third thing, all "neocons" on the White House staff could be purged, starting with Elliott Abrams, who heads up the Middle East desk at the National Security Council. The next notorious "neocon" operative to go would be David Wurmser, who acts as "Middle East advisor" to Cheney. Both Abrams and Wurmser, among others, should be thoroughly investigated by the FBI and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald for links to the Mossad and to the Likud party in Israel, and for malfeasance in general. Watch the Democrats in Congress squeal, as AIPAC turns up the heat.

If Cheney does resign, he should be replaced by Vietnam veteran, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. Bush should relax and do nothing to interfere with Secretary of State James Baker, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and Vice President Chuck Hagel. Bush can sit back and relish his role as a lame duck President. Bush should stay off the skyline, and let Chuck Hagel act as the spokesman for the Administration. It sure beats impeachment. If you want to get serious, my friends, these are a few ideas for starters. But who really wants to get serious in Washington at this late date? The President is not the only one who is in denial.

Robert Fisk: The Roman Empire
is falling--so it turns to Iran and Syria

7 December 2006 || The Independent (London)

The Roman Empire is falling. That, in a phrase, is what the Baker report says. The legions cannot impose their rule on Mesopotamia. Just as Crassus lost his legions' banners in the deserts of Syria-Iraq, so has George W Bush. There is no Mark Antony to retrieve the honour of the empire. The policy "is not working". "Collapse" and "catastrophe"--words heard in the Roman senate many a time--were embedded in the text of the Baker report. Et tu, James?

This is also the language of the Arab world, always waiting for the collapse of empire, for the destruction of the safe Western world which has provided it with money, weapons, political support. First, the Arabs trusted the British Empire and Winston Churchill, and then they trusted the American Empire and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the Truman and Eisenhower administrations and all the other men who would give guns to the Israelis and billions to the Arabs - Nixon, Carter, Clinton, Bush...

And now they are told that the Americans are not winning the war; that they are losing. If you were an Arab, what would you do? Be sure, they are not asking this question in Washington. The Middle East--so all-important (supposedly) in the "war on terror"--in itself, a myth-- doesn't really matter in the White House. It is a district, a map, a region, every bit as amorphous as the crescent of "crisis" which the Clinton administration invented when it wanted to land its troops in Somalia. How to get out, how to save face, that's the question. To hell with the people who live there: the Arabs, the Iraqis, the men, women and children whom we kill--and whom the Iraqis kill--every day.

Note how our "spokesmen" in Afghanistan now acknowledge the dead woman and children of Nato airstrikes as if it is quite in order to slaughter these innocents because we are at war with the horrid Taliban. Some of the same mindset has arrived in Baghdad, where "coalition" spokesmen also--from time to time--jump in front of the video-tape evidence by accepting that they, too, kill women and children in their war against "terror".

But it is the sentences of impotence that doom empires. "The ability of the United States to influence events within Iraq is diminishing." There is a risk of a "slide towards chaos [sic] [that] could trigger the collapse of Iraq's government and a humanitarian catastrophe."

But hasn't that already happened? "Collapse" and "catastrophe" are daily present in Iraq. America's ability "to influence events" has been absent for years. And let's just re-read the following sentence: "Violence is increasing in scope and lethality. It is fed by a Sunni Arab insurgency. Shiite [Shia] militias, death squads, al-Qa'ida and widespread criminality. Sectarian conflict is the principal challenge to stability."

Come again? Where was this "widespread criminality," this "sectarian conflict" when Saddam, our favourite war criminal, was in power? What do the Iraqis think about this? And how typical that the American media went at once to hear Bush's view of the Baker repor--rather than the reaction of the Iraqis, those who are on the receiving end of our self-induced tragedy in Mesopotamia. They will enjoy the idea that American troops should be "embedded" with Iraqi forces. Not so long ago, it was the press that had to be "embedded" with the Americans!-- as if the Romans were ready to put their legions amid the Goths, Ostrogoths and Visigoths to ensure their loyalty.

What the Romans did do, of course--and what the Americans would never do--is offer their subjects Roman citizenship. Every tribe--in Gaul or Bythinia or Mesopotamia--who fell under Roman rule became a citizen of Rome. What could Washington have done with Iraq if it had offered American citizenship to every Iraqi? There would have been no insurrection, no violence, no collapse or catastrophe, no Baker report. But no. We wanted to give these people the fruits of our civilisation - not the civilisation itself. >From this, they were banned.

And the result? The nations we supposedly hated--Iran and Syria--are now expected to save us from ourselves. "Given the ability [sic] of Iran and Syria to influence events and their interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq, the United States should try to engage [sic] them constructively." I love those words. Especially "engage". Yes, the "influence of America" is diminishing. The influence of Syria and Iran is growing. That just about sums up the "war on terror". Any word yet, I wonder, from Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara?