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Gonzales for White House Czar on Iraq, Afghanistan

Gonzales for White House Czar on Iraq, Afghanistan

By Ray McGovern

Wanted: A czar to take charge of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! Yesterday’s press report of the White House vacancy announcement was hard to believe until the administration confirmed that the search is on, and that the catalyst is the departure from the National Security Council staffer Meghan O’Sullivan—one of the young folks sent to do an adult job for pro-consul Paul Bremer and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

So it was the young Meghan O’Sullivan who held the White House portfolio-without-clout to manage US policy on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan! It was she who was supposed to rein in the likes of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld—not to mention Elliot Abrams and the other “neo-conservatives” who have not yet jumped ship.

The details provided by the White House spokesman speak volumes about the inept performance of Condoleezza Rice and Stephan Hadley in the key role of national security adviser. THAT’S the job that is structured to oversee and coordinate departments like Defense, State, and Intelligence and make sure that White House policy is developed and implemented in an orderly, effective way. THAT’S the job that Vice President Dick Cheney and his own coterie of national security advisers—his own mini-National Security Council—have usurped. Let’s not blame it on poor Meghan.

According to early reports regarding former CIA director George Tenet’s book due out in a couple of weeks, he concedes the US policymaking mess, and concedes, magnanimously, “I confess, but the czarina (Condoleezza Rice) did it.”

The czar proposal certainly bears the earmarks of the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute, and its recent star Frederick W. Kagan, author of the current “surge” in US troops in Iraq, which will bring nothing but additional death and destruction—and delay in extricating our troops from the quagmire. Among the more interesting details of the report of the search for the czar, we learn that the quintessential surge protector, retired Army General Jack Keane, was among those asked if they wanted to be anointed czar and refused. What does THAT tell you about putting your body where your mouth is! Among those asked, former NATO commander, retired Marine General Jack Sheehan, has been the most candid and concise:

“The very fundamental issue is, they don’t know where the hell they’re going.”

It is another case of the Cheney-Bush administration attempting to create its own reality, with help from those who still refuse to face the real reality, so to speak.

And when things go awry, restructure, reorganize, super-impose a new level of “tasking authority.”

It isn’t the structure; it’s not the management; IT’S THE POLICY, STUPID.

The White House is desperately searching for someone to tinker with the structure, when it should be reassessing US policies related to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Both wars are UNWINNABLE. The generals, active and retired, know that better than anyone else. Small wonder none will sign up for a job they know to be impossible, a job they know to be orchestrated and run by a vice president and his apprentice president neither of which has any experience of war.

A suggestion: Chances are better than even that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will be looking for a new job in another week or two. He has shown himself ever ready and eager to implement the instructions of the czar behind the czar, Cheney. Given the impossible task, Gonzales would be as good as any to take it on.


Ray McGovern is on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. The group's statements can be found at

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