Tuesday, June 29, 2004

On the Iraqi "Handover"

Bremer Flees Iraq Two Days Early
Paul Bremer suddenly left Iraq on Monday, having "transferred sovereignty" to the caretaker Iraqi government two days early.
It is hard to interpret this move as anything but a precipitous flight. It is just speculation on my part, but I suspect that the Americans must have developed intelligence that there might be a major strike on the Coalition Provisional Headquarters on Wednesday if a formal ceremony were held to mark a transfer of sovereignty. Since the US military is so weak in Iraq and appears to have poor intelligence on the guerrilla insurgency, the Bush administration could not take the chance that a major bombing or other attack would mar the ceremony.
The surprise move will throw off all the major news organizations, which were planning intensive coverage of the ceremonies originally planned for Wednesday.
This entire exercise is a publicity stunt and has almost no substance to it. Gwen Ifill said on US television on Sunday that she had talked to Condaleeza Rice, and that her hope was that when something went wrong in Iraq, the journalists would now grill Allawi about it rather than the Bush administration. (Or words to that effect). Ifill seems to me to have given away the whole Bush show. That's what this whole thing is about. It is Public Relations and manipulation of journalists. Let's see if they fall for it. . .
Well Juan, they fell for it. Here are the headlines from my regional papers:
Bentonville Morning News -
Problems Remain
U.S. Hands Over Sovereignty Back to Iraq
Power transfer comes two days ahead of schedule
[What's with the tiny script? Are you embarrassed that "problems remain"? -ed]
Rogers Morning News -
U.S. Hands Over Limited Power to Iraqis
[The most honest headline . . . if understated. -ed]
Fayetteville Morning News -
Handover Complete
Iraq Now Sovereign Nation
Rogue militants claiming to have killed soldier
[More tiny stuff, 'cept you're embarrassed about the handover being "complete"? Considering that the nest line is about a dead soldier. Accurate . . . but not so honest. -ed]
Benton County Daily Record -
A New Day
Handover of power in Iraq done early
[As of midnight, June 28th . . . a new day did indeed begin. Very accurate. -ed]
Springdale Morning News -
Early Handover
Iraq Gains Sovereign Identity
Militants claim soldier killed
[Embarrassed again, I guess. -ed]
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, NWA Edition -
U.S. Transfers Power to Iraqis
American captive dies, report says
[. . . sigh . . . -ed]
I agree with Juan that the media will eat this up. However, I think the public will be a little more pragmatic.
I'm convinced this is going to be another "Mission Accomplished" moment. Politically expedient for Bush in the short-term, but damaging for him in the long-term.
How much time will pass before Americans begin to ask, "Great! Iraq is sovereign! Now, uh, when is my dad / uncle / brother / niece / nephew / employee going to come home??". "It ain't going to be soon; and they're still dying" is not the answer folks are looking for.

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