Fables of the Reconstruction

A Coalition memo reveals that even true believers see the seeds of civil war in the occupation of Iraq

And then there is the problem of Iran. According to the memo, "Iranian money is pouring in" to occupied Iraq -- particularly the area under British control -- and it asserts it is "a mistake" to stick to a policy of "not rock[ing] the boat" with the Iranians, as "the Iranian actors with which the State Department likes to do business . . . lack the power to deliver on promises" to exercise restraint in Iraq. According to senior US intelligence and military officials queried on this point, the Iranian influence in Iraq is both real and formidable, and the US is, as one put it, at best "catching up" in the battle for influence. But the officials also added that pushing the point with Iran too hard -- either through diplomatic channels or on the ground in Iraq -- would likely be more troubled than the current course of action, possibly resulting in armed conflict with Iran or a proxy war in Iraq that the US isn't ready to fight.

Famously, Lord Cromer once described Great Britain's approach to the Land of the Nile: "We do not rule Egypt; we rule those who rule Egypt." Compare that with several statements made by the US official who wrote the memo considered here. Of one senior Iraqi official, whose name is redacted, he states that "it is better to keep [him] a happy drunk than an angry drunk." And he says of two other Iraqi leaders that they are "much more compliant when their checks are delayed or fail to appear," adding that "the same is true with other Governing Council members." The attitudes aren't much different, are they? And yet sometimes, the most true and heartbreaking view is afforded from the wheel of the mighty ship of state.


Jason Vest is a senior correspondent for the American Prospect. His book on the current Bush administration and national security will be published in 2005. This piece was commissioned by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) for use by its members.

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