Administration changes direction on Iraq

Posted 10:57pm October 15

by Aaron Huertas
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

In response to slipping poll numbers and persistent criticism from political opponents, The White House has launched a new campaign to bolster support for the occupation of Iraq and has drastically shifted the structure of the Iraqi reconstruction effort.

Condoleezza Rice, the National Security Advisor for President Bush, issued a confidential memo announcing a new Iraq Stabilization Group that would put the National Security Council in charge of coordinating activities in Iraq that had formerly been the domain of the Department of Defense, headed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld said at an October 7 press conference that he did not know about the change in the Iraqi reconstruction effort. However, he later talked to a reporter for DefenseLINK News, part of the Department of Defense, saying he hadn’t seen the memo because it was being handled at “lower levels”. He added, “The reality is that the National Security Council’s responsibility is to do exactly what this one-page memo says they should do.”

“This is like shifting the decks on the Titanic,” said Trisha Enright, Communications Director for the Dean Campaign. “This won’t help the fact that the situation is still a mess.”

Anthony Clark Arend, a professor of government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University, said he perceived the move as fulfilling a “need seen by the President to have a point person to minimize agency disagreements.”

This bureaucratic scuffle comes at a time when the administration has been vigorously defending its efforts to reconstruct Iraq.

Condoleezza Rice spoke to the Chicago Council of Foreign Relations on October 8 regarding reconstruction efforts in Iraq. She cited the recently released CIA report regarding the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, saying “We now have hard evidence of facts that no one should ever have doubted” showing that Saddam Hussein continued to hide illegal weapons programs from inspectors.

The next day, President Bush addressed members of the National Guard in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“Who can possibly think that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein still in power?,” he said. “There’s only one decent and humane reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein: good riddance.”

The day after Bush’s speech, Vice President Dick Cheney addressed the Heritage Foundation, delivering a powerful assertion of the United States’ power to act unilaterally.

At the same time, the United States has presented a new version of its original proposal to the United Nations in hopes of having more nations join in the Iraqi reconstruction effort. The resolution sets a deadline for the creation of an Iraqi constitution and would give the UN Security Council a strong voice in the reconstruction effort.

A Gallup poll taken earlier this month showed that 58% of Americans thought the reconstruction effort was going “very badly” or “moderately badly” while 42% thought it was going “very well” or “moderately well”. The same poll showed that 40% thought going into Iraq was a mistake, while 59% thought it was not.

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