George Bush is to statecraft what Mr. Bean is to vacations; both threaten disaster at every turn. Actually, when it comes to rebuilding New Orleans and Iraq, America would probably be a lot better of if we had Mr. Bean at the helm instead of Mr. Bush. This week marks the second anniversary of Bush’s mishandling of the Katrina disaster. However, Bush is still desperately seeking to salvage his legacy not by rebuilding New Orleans, but by trying to reconstruct Iraq after America’s invasion turned the country into a failed state. Press reports indicate the Bush administration may ask Congress and the taxpayers for an additional $ 50 billion this September, roughly four-fifths of the cost of what is needed to repair America’s ailing bridges and highways.
When the final tab comes due, Iraq is almost certain to be Bush’s $2 trillion Bridge to Nowhere (which will provide a new twist on the slogan Bush once used to describe his economic philosophy: “It’s your money, you paid for it”). The Bush administration claims, of course, that although it may have made a few teensy weensy mistakes in the past, this time they have Iraq moving in the right direction. Indeed, one conservative interest group is spending $15 million to run an ad campaign in decisive Congressional districts in hopes staving of a Republican defection from the president’s Iraq policy come September.
A newly leaked summary of a report prepared by the General Accounting Office presents a grim assessment of the “progress” being made in Iraq. In short, the report indicates that the Iraqi government has made little or no progress towards meeting 15 out of the 18 benchmarks that have been set by Congress and the president.
More ominous, by far, is the fact that Iraq’s much maligned prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, has been hinting that he may have to find new friends (Iran or Russia) to replace the United States as a stabilizing force in the country. Is this the thanks we get for ensuring the free and fair elections that helped place al-Maliki in power? Actually, as David Ignatius reports in the Washington Post, the Iranians funneled so much money to Shiite religious candidates favorable to Iran, that they essentially bought the outcome they wanted. Indeed, 5,000 Iranians a week slipped into Iraq with counterfeit credentials that the results in Baghdad were even more suspect than the results in Palm Beach, Florida during the 2000 election.
In sum, the triumph of “free elections” hailed by the Bush administration as a milestone in Middle Eastern politics appear to have paved the way for Iran’s dominance of Iraq, and the Persian Gulf. Mr. Bush, like Mr. Bean, is largely oblivious to all this. There is one difference between Mr. Bush and Mr. Bean: Mr. Bean makes me laugh, but I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when watching Mr. Bush.