Monday, June 28, 2004

Proconsul Paul checks out:

UPDATE! TomDispatch says it better than I ever could in a million years:
Other than L. Paul Bremer, not a significant American official was in sight, even though the President, Secretary of Defense, National Security Advisor, and Secretary of State were all in Turkey, not 90 minutes away. There were no representatives from other governments. No flags. No bands. No cheering crowds. No marching troops. No hoopla. Nothing at all. And two hours later, Bremer, the erstwhile viceroy of Baghdad, his suits and desert boots packed away, was on a C-130 out of the country.

Talk about "cutting and running," he didn't even stick around the extra five hours for the swearing in of the new interim administration. That's not a matter of catching a flight, but of flight itself. I'm sure Bremer is already heaving a sigh of relief and looking forward, as Time magazine tells us, to enrolling in "the Academy of Cuisine in Washington." As for the "psychological boost" provided by the transfer of sovereignty, Prime Minister Allawi and friends are not likely to be its recipients. It looks as if the Bush administration engaged in a game of chicken with a motley group of insurgents and rebels in urban Iraq -- and at the edge of what suddenly looked like a cliff, the Bush administration flinched first.

This is a victory, certainly, but not for Bush & Co. or for their plan to, as they like to say, put "an Iraqi face" on Iraq. It may be spun here as a brilliant stratagem to outflank the Iraqi insurgency, or as Carol Williams and Alissa Rubin of the Los Angeles Times put it, a "ploy to pre-empt disruptions," or as proof that the interim administration was ready ahead of schedule, but the word that most fits the moment is actually humiliation. Ignominious humiliation.


It's hard to believe that, in such a brief span, we've gone down the imperial rabbit hole and out the other side of who knows what, so that when the moment that would validate everything came in Iraq, though it was morning, it had the feel of the dead of night. Who would have believed that the administration which declared, in Greta Garbo's famous phrase, "I vant to be alone," would find itself so profoundly alone -- and undoubtedly fearful.

Be careful what you wish for, they say. The Bush administration talked the talk, but when it came to the walk, they bogged down on only the second stop in their armed stroll across our planet, and their representative in occupied Iraq had to make a mad dash for the exits.

George Bush himself now exists inside an ever-shrinking bubble of emptiness. This week the President and his entourage toured the emptied streets of Europe. Here's how Alec Russell of the British Telegraph described it:

"From Co[unty] Clare's cliffs to the Anatolian plain; from medieval battlements to Ottoman minarets; from the slate grey Atlantic to the Golden Horn; from armoured cars on deserted streets to, er, armoured cars on deserted streets… The only difference was the colour of the armoured cars: in Ireland they were khaki; in Ankara and Istanbul they were black. Otherwise the impression from the motorcade was the same: anti-Bush graffiti, lines of armed policemen, roadblocks, and emptied roads."