A Sneak Peak at the Baker Commission Report

As we have stated in the past, the reports of government commissions serve their intended purposes best when they act as a cover-up disguised as an exposé. The 9/11 Commission Report is the classic and best-known recent example, with Tom Kean and Lee Hamilton giving bravura performances in pretended gravitas, with only an occasional lapse into imbecility by John Lehman or Jim Thompson. [1] The Robb-Silverman Report, by contrast, was so shakily constructed, and the co-chairmen’s dissembling so unconvincing, that their “investigation” should have been accompanied by the music track of “Three Blind Mice.”

In the wake of the human and fiscal wreckage of the Iraq fiasco, all Washington trembles in anticipation at the release of the Baker-Hamilton Commission’s report on Iraq. Unlike many other commissions, its lucubrations have been held in camera, the method favored by chief Bush family consigliere and fixer James Baker.

A run-down of its other principals should give us a strong indication where this operation is heading. Aside from Baker, there is as co-chairman once again Lee Hamilton, a past master at these performances. As the éminence beige of the Democratic foreign policy apparatus, Hamilton has been participating in high-level cover-ups of government shenanigans stretching back to the Iran-Contra affair.

The rest of the cast consists of: Vernon Jordan, one of Bill Clinton’s money men and obviously intended to slap the Wahabbite insurgents of the Black Caucus into line; Ed Meese, faithful purveyor of balderdash for countless decades and a link to the Reaganites; Lawrence Eagleburger, a saturnine Bush family wheel horse and Kissinger liegeman known mainly for his staggeringly immense girth and ability to balance on a cane while juggling a cigarette and an asthma inhaler; Leon Panetta, a professional ward heeler and thief of a 1986 Indiana Congressional election, tasked to corral a spectrum of Democrats roughly bounded by Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer; former Defense Secretary William Perry, representing the interests of the merchants of death; Charles Robb, who began his career as a White House doorman and who symbolically remains one four decades later; ex-Senator Alan Simpson, wise-cracking cowpoke (and member of a disastrous Congressional delegation to Iraq in 1990, whose purpose was to ply Saddam with U.S. taxpayer loot via the Commodity Credit Corporation); and former Associate Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the lone member of the commission with no obvious ties to Beltway monkey business and presumably tapped for the sheer novelty value.

Probably the only reason Baker and Hamilton didn’t select Clark Clifford or Paul Nitze to serve on the commission is that these two quintessential Establishmentarians are legally dead. But the leaden predictability of its membership preordains its conclusions.

Given that the rules governing these types of commissions are as ritualized as Noh drama, we believe it is safe to roll out our own projection of what its findings will be. Here, in capsule form, are the Baker-Hamilton report’s major findings:

There have been major challenges to stabilizing Iraq, but it remains vital to our interests; precipitate withdrawal risks chaos and a power vacuum (i.e., Iraq has been a colossal screw-up, but we are holding no one accountable. “Our” interests means superior folks like us. Nature abhors a vacuum; too bad it does not abhor drones and aged blowhards).

The next six months will be critical (Where have we heard that before? As we have been in Iraq for over 42 months, there have been at least 7 inflexion points where “the next six months will be critical.” These are Fabian tactics).

The Iraq government needs to get its act together (Do tell. But how can the dummy solve problems created by the ventriloquist?).

The Iraq government must be given a timetable/benchmarks/some other euphemism (This finding will challenge the creative writing skills of the commission staff).

We need to strengthen/beef-up/robustify Iraq’s army and police forces (No kidding; you geniuses earned your per diems for this? We tried that with a variety of indigenous forces: the ARVN, Hmong, Meo, Coral Gables Cubans, and a host of other Third World paladins now operating chop suey parlors in proximity to CIA front buildings in the Northern Virginia suburbs).

U.S. forces will redeploy to neighboring states (where the ruler has a CIA stipend or the local emir has business interests intertwined with the Bush family. The “deliberate” and “phased” withdrawal means the redeployment will proceed at the speed of the Humboldt Glacier).

The United States must pursue a multilateral approach with its friends/allies/coalition partners/nodding acquaintances in order to bring stability to Iraq (That would be a first; but why, then, has the Executive Mansion resubmitted the nomination of acting UN ambassador John Bolton, who vetoes UN resolutions as maniacally as Grover Cleveland vetoed pension bills? And for the express purpose “as part of a public relations strategy to put the onus on the Democrats for not allowing a vote on his appointment to go to the floor”). [2]

There must be a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. But Israel, our major ally/the only true democracy in the region/the light unto the gentiles, deserves blah blah blah (This is standard boilerplate wherewith the commissioners will simultaneously sound “balanced,” yet not risk suffering a boycott against their lucrative consultancies by the Israel lobby).

There will be more in the report, but it will amount to cotton-wool packing, filigree, and cathedral gargoyles.

The politicians will rush to praise the report’s sagacity, and heed it, more or less. For the Establishment, which stretches back through Clifford and Nitze, through Henry Stimson, Colonel House, Albert Beveridge, back through the Morgans and the Astors, through the founding of Skull & Bones, and finally alighting on Alexander Hamilton, the prototypical oligarch of the new North American republic, it will be a Bromo-Seltzer after the nightmarish hangover of a failed scion’s rebellion against his illustrious father. It will be an assurance, like a bank vault slamming shut, that in Washington, everything will be fundamentally the same for all eternity.

WERTHER is the pen name of a Northern Virginia-based defense analyst.

[1] Indeed, the session in which then-National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice writhed on the cruel hook set by commissioner Richard Ben Veniste was a masterpiece of high television drama which connoisseurs of the old Perry Mason series could fully savor.

[2] “U.N. Post Will Test Bush on Pledge for Consensus,” The New York Times, 11 November 2006.



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