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Above email address currently deprecated! Use gary underscore farber at yahoodotcom, pliz! Sanely free of McCarthyite calling anyone a traitor since 2001!
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I've a long record in editorial work in book and magazine publishing, starting 1974, a variety of other work experience, but have been, since 2001, recurringly housebound with insanely painful sporadic and unpredictably variable gout and edema, and in the past, other ailments; the future? The Great Unknown: isn't it for all of us?
I'm currently house/cat-sitting, not on any government aid yet (or mostly ever), often in major chronic pain from gout and edema, which variably can leave me unable to walk, including just standing, but sometimes is better, and is freaking unpredictable at present; I also have major chronic depression and anxiety disorders; I'm currently supported mostly by your blog donations/subscriptions; you can help me. I prefer to spread out the load, and lessen it from the few who have been doing more than their fair share for too long.
Thanks for any understanding and support. I know it's difficult to understand. And things will change. They always change.
I'm sometimes available to some degree as a paid writer, editor, researcher, or proofreader. I'm sometimes available as a fill-in Guest Blogger at mid-to-high-traffic blogs that fit my knowledge set.
If you like my blog, and would like to help me continue to afford food and prescriptions, or simply enjoy my blogging and writing, and would like to support it --
you are welcome to do so via the PayPal buttons.
"The brain is wider than the sky, For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include With ease, and you beside"
-- Emily Dickinson
"We will pursue peace as if there is no terrorism and fight terrorism as if there is no peace."
-- Yitzhak Rabin
"I have thought it my duty to exhibit things as they are, not as they ought to be."
-- Alexander Hamilton
"The stakes are too high for government to be a spectator sport."
-- Barbara Jordan
"Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to
trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule --
and both commonly succeed, and are right."
-- H. L. Mencken
"Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom.
It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
-- William Pitt
"The only completely consistent people are the dead."
-- Aldous Huxley
"I have had my solutions for a long time; but I do not yet know how I am to arrive at them."
-- Karl F. Gauss
"Whatever evils either reason or declamation have imputed to extensive empire,
the power of Rome was attended with some beneficial consequences to mankind;
and the same freedom of intercourse which extended the vices, diffused likewise
the improvements of social life."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Augustus was sensible that mankind is governed by names; nor was he deceived in his
expectation, that the senate and people would submit to slavery, provided they were
respectfully assured that they still enjoyed their ancient freedom."
-- Edward Gibbon
"There exists in human nature a strong propensity to depreciate the advantages, and to magnify
the evils, of the present times."
-- Edward Gibbon
"Our youth now loves luxuries. They have bad manners, contempt for authority.
They show disrespect for elders and they
love to chatter instead of exercise.
Children are now tyrants, not the servants, of their households. They
no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents,
chatter before company, gobble up their food, and tyrannize
"Before impugning an opponent's motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments."
-- Sidney Hook
"Idealism, alas, does not protect one from ignorance, dogmatism, and foolishness."
-- Sidney Hook
"Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
"We take, and must continue to take, morally hazardous actions to preserve our civilization.
We must exercise our power. But we ought neither to believe that a nation is capable of perfect
disinterestedness in its exercise, nor become complacent about particular degrees of interest
and passion which corrupt the justice by which the exercise of power is legitimized."
-- Reinhold Niebuhr
"Faced with the choice of all the land without a Jewish state or a Jewish state without all the
land, we chose a Jewish state without all the land."
-- David Ben-Gurion
"...the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him
an incapacity of being called to offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this
or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages
to which, in common with his fellow citizens, he has a natural right; that it tends also
to corrupt the principles of that very religion it is meant to encourage, by bribing,
with a monopoly of worldly honours and emoluments, those who will externally profess
and conform to it;[...] that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion
and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty....
-- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, Thomas Jefferson
"We don't live just by ideas. Ideas are part of the mixture of customs and practices,
intuitions and instincts that make human life a conscious activity susceptible to
improvement or debasement. A radical idea may be healthy as a provocation;
a temperate idea may be stultifying. It depends on the circumstances. One of the most
tiresome arguments against ideas is that their 'tendency' is to some dire condition --
to totalitarianism, or to moral relativism, or to a war of all against all."
-- Louis Menand
"The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis."
-- Dante Alighieri
"He too serves a certain purpose who only stands and cheers."
-- Henry B. Adams
"The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the
poor to beg in the streets, steal bread, or sleep under a bridge."
-- Anatole France
"When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
-- Edmund Burke
"Education does not mean that we have become certified experts in business or mining or botany or journalism or epistemology;
it means that through the absorption of the moral, intellectual, and esthetic inheritance of the race we have come to
understand and control ourselves as well as the external world; that we have chosen the best as our associates both in spirit
and the flesh; that we have learned to add courtesy to culture, wisdom to knowledge, and forgiveness to understanding."
-- Will Durant
"Glimpses do ye seem to see of that mortally intolerable truth; that all deep, earnest thinking is
but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest
winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore?"
-- Herman Melville
"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
-- Louis D. Brandeis
"It is an error to suppose that books have no influence; it is a slow influence, like flowing water carving out a canyon,
but it tells more and more with every year; and no one can pass an hour a day in the society of sages and heroes without
being lifted up a notch or two by the company he has kept."
-- Will Durant
"When you write, you’re trying to transpose what you’re thinking into something that is less like an annoying drone and more like a piece of music."
-- Louis Menand
"Sex is a continuum."
-- Gore Vidal
"I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibit the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, 1802.
"The sum of our religion is peace and unanimity, but these can scarcely stand unless we define as little as possible,
and in many things leave one free to follow his own judgment, because there is great obscurity in many matters, and
man suffers from this almost congenital disease that he will not give in when once a controversy is started, and
after he is heated he regards as absolutely true that which he began to sponsor quite casually...."
-- Desiderius Erasmus
"Are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy? And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens? Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched? Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule of what we are to read, and what we must disbelieve?"
-- Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to N. G. Dufief, Philadelphia bookseller, 1814
"We are told that it is only people's objective actions that matter, and their subjective feelings are of no importance. Thus pacifists, by obstructing the war effort,
are 'objectively' aiding the Nazis; and therefore the fact that they may be personally hostile to Fascism is irrelevant. I have been guilty of saying this myself more than once. The same argument is applied to Trotskyism. Trotskyists are often credited, at any rate by Communists, with being active and conscious agents of Hitler; but when you point out the many and obvious reasons why this is unlikely to be true,
the 'objectively' line of talk is brought forward again. To criticize the Soviet Union helps Hitler: therefore 'Trotskyism is Fascism'. And when this has been established, the accusation of conscious treachery is usually repeated.
This is not only dishonest; it also carries a severe penalty with it. If you disregard people's motives, it becomes much harder to foresee their actions."
-- George Orwell, "As I Please," Tribune, 8 December 1944
"Wouldn't this be a great world if insecurity and desperation made us more attractive? If 'needy' were a turn-on?"
-- "Aaron Altman," Broadcast News
"The great thing about human language is that it prevents us from sticking to the matter at hand."
-- Lewis Thomas
"To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?"
"Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it."
-- Samuel Johnson, Life Of Johnson
"Very well, what did my critics say in attacking my character? I must read out their affidavit, so to speak, as though they were my legal accusers: Socrates is guilty of criminal meddling, in that he inquires into things below the earth and in the sky, and makes the weaker argument defeat the stronger, and teaches others to follow his example."
-- Socrates, via Plato, The Republic
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, represents, in the final analysis, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children."
-- Dwight D. Eisenhower
"The term, then, is obviously a relative one; my pedantry is your scholarship, his reasonable accuracy, her irreducible minimum of education, & someone else's ignorance."
-- H. W. Fowler
"Rules exist for good reasons, and in any art form the beginner must learn them and understand what they are for, then follow them for quite a while. A visual artist, pianist, dancer, fiction writer, all beginning artists are in the same boat here: learn the rules, understand them, follow them. It's called an apprenticeship. A mediocre artist never stops following the rules, slavishly follows guidelines, and seldom rises above mediocrity. An accomplished artist internalizes the rules to the point where they don't have to be consciously considered. After you've put in the time it takes to learn to swim, you never stop to think: now I move my arm, kick, raise my head, breathe. You just do it. The accomplished artist knows what the rules mean, how to use them, dodge them, ignore them altogether, or break them. This may be a wholly unconscious process of assimilation, one never articulated, but it has taken place."
-- Kate Wilhelm
"The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed."
-- Albert Einstein
"The decisive moment in human evolution is perpetual."
-- Franz Kafka, Aphorisms
"All of old. Nothing else ever. Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
-- Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho
"First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you."
-- Nicholas Klein, May, 1919, to the Third Biennial Convention of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America (misattributed to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, 1914 & variants).
"Our credulity is a part of the imperfection of our natures. It is inherent in us to desire to generalize, when we ought, on the contrary, to guard ourselves very carefully from this tendency."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The truth is, men are very hard to know, and yet, not to be deceived, we must judge them by their present actions, but for the present only."
-- Napoleon I of France.
"The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know."
-- On the subject of torture, in a letter to Louis Alexandre Berthier (11 November 1798), published in Correspondance Napoleon edited by Henri Plon (1861), Vol. V, No. 3606, p. 128
"All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore, or pronounce to be monstrous and wrong, or deny to be possible."
-- George Santayana, Dialogues in Limbo (1926)
"If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big."
-- Hesiod, Work And Days
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
-- Eugene V. Debs
"Reputation is what other people know about you. Honor is what you know about yourself."
-- Lois McMaster Bujold, A Civil Campaign
"All that we have to do is to send two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written "al-Qaida," in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without their achieving for it anything of note other than some benefits for their private companies."
-- Osama bin Laden
"Remember, Robin: evil is a pretty bad thing."
Gary Farber is now a licensed Quintuple Super-Sekrit Multi-dimensional Master Pundit.
He does not always refer to himself in the third person.
He is presently single.
The gefilte fish is dead. Donate via the donation button on the top left or I'll shoot this cutepanda. Don't you lovepandas?
Current Total # of Donations Since 2002: 1181
Subscribers to date at $5/month: 100 sign-ups; 91 cancellations; Total= 9
Supporter subscribers to date at $25/month: 16 sign-ups; 10 cancellation; Total= 6
Patron subscribers to date at $50/month: 20 sign-ups; 13 cancellations; Total= 7
...writer[s] I find myself checking out repeatedly when I'm in the mood to play follow-the-links. They're not all people I agree with all the time, or even most of the time, but I've found them all to be thoughtful writers, and that's the important thing, or should be.
-- Tom Tomorrow
I bow before the shrillitudinousness of Gary Farber, who has been blogging like a fiend.
-- Ted Barlow, Crooked Timber
Favorite.... [...] ...all great stuff. [...] Gary Farber should never be without readers.
I usually read you and Patrick several times a day, and I always get something from them. You've got great links, intellectually honest commentary, and a sense of humor. What's not to like?
-- Ted Barlow
One of my issues with many poli-blogs is the dickhead tone so many bloggers affect to express their sense of righteous indignation. Gary Farber's thoughtful leftie takes on the world stand in sharp contrast with the usual rhetorical bullying. Plus, he likes "Pogo," which clearly attests to his unassaultable good taste.
Jaysus. I saw him do something like this before, on a thread about Israel. It was pretty brutal. It's like watching one of those old WWF wrestlers grab an opponent's
face and grind away until the guy starts crying. I mean that in a nice & admiring way, you know.
-- Fontana Labs, Unfogged
We read you Gary Farber! We read you all the time! Its just that we are lazy with our blogroll. We are so very very lazy. We are always the last ones to the party but we always have snazzy bow ties.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber you are a genius of mad scientist proportions. I will bet there are like huge brains growin in jars all over your house.
-- Fafnir, Fafblog!
Gary Farber is the hardest working man in show blog business. He's like a young Gene Hackman blogging with his hair on fire, or something.
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Gary Farber only has two blogging modes: not at all, and 20 billion interesting posts a day [...] someone on the interweb whose opinions I can trust....
-- Belle Waring, John & Belle Have A Blog
Isn't Gary a cracking blogger, apropos of nothing in particular?
-- Alison Scott
Gary Farber takes me to task, in a way befitting the gentleman he is.
-- Stephen Green, Vodkapundit
My friend Gary Farber at Amygdala is the sort of liberal for whom I happily give three cheers. [...] Damned incisive blogging....
-- Midwest Conservative Journal
If I ever start a paper, Clueless writes the foreign affairs column, Layne handles the city beat, Welch has the roving-reporter job, Tom Tomorrow runs the comic section (which carries Treacher, of course). MediaMinded runs the slots - that's the type of editor I want as the last line of defense. InstantMan runs the edit page - and you can forget about your Ivins and Wills and Friedmans and Teepens on the edit page - it's all Blair, VodkaP, C. Johnson, Aspara, Farber, Galt, and a dozen other worthies, with Justin 'I am smoking in such a provocative fashion' Raimondo tossed in for balance and comic relief.
Who wouldn't buy that paper? Who wouldn't want to read it? Who wouldn't climb over their mother to be in it?
-- James Lileks
I do appreciate your role and the role of Amygdala as a pioneering effort in the integration of fanwriters with social conscience into the larger blogosphere of social conscience.
-- Lenny Bailes
Every single post in that part of Amygdala visible on my screen is either funny or bracing or important. Is it always like this? -- Natalie Solent
People I've known and still miss include Isaac Asimov, rich brown, Charles Burbee, F. M. "Buzz" Busby, Terry Carr, A. Vincent Clarke, Bob Doyle, George Alec Effinger, Abi Frost,
Bill & Sherry Fesselmeyer, George Flynn, John Milo "Mike" Ford. John Foyster, Mike Glicksohn, Jay Haldeman, Neith Hammond (Asenath Katrina Hammond)/DominEditrix , Chuch Harris, Mike Hinge, Lee Hoffman, Terry Hughes, Damon Knight, Ross Pavlac, Bruce Pelz, Elmer Perdue, Tom Perry,
Larry Propp, Bill Rotsler, Art Saha, Bob Shaw, Martin Smith, Harry Stubbs, Bob Tucker, Harry Warner, Jr., Jack Williamson, Walter A. Willis, Susan Wood, Kate Worley, and Roger Zelazny.
It's just a start, it only gets longer, many are unintentionally left out.
And She of whom I must write someday.
THE QUIET VICEROY. I'm not clear: did Paul Bremer ever take an oath to uphold and defend the United States Constitution? Regardless, obviously his first loyalty was to his President.
We now know his current version of events from his new book. Longtime NY Times reporter in Iraq Dexter Filkins reviews:
The most startling moment in "My Year in Iraq," L. Paul Bremer III's memoir from his days as the head of the American occupation, comes near the end, when violent uprisings were sweeping most of the central and southern parts of the country in May 2004. With the whole American enterprise verging on collapse, Bremer decided to secretly ask the Pentagon for tens of thousands of additional American troops — a request that, as the rest of his book makes clear, was taboo in the White House and Pentagon.
Bremer turned to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American commander in Iraq, and asked him what he would do with two more divisions, as many as 40,000 more troops. General Sanchez did not hesitate to answer. "I'd control Baghdad," he said. Bremer then mentioned some other uses for the soldiers, like securing Iraq's borders and protecting its infrastructure, to which General Sanchez replied: "Got those spare troops handy, sir?"
This is a jaw-dropping scene, and probably in ways that Bremer did not intend. To nearly anyone who spent time in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein, it was scandalously obvious that the American military, for all its prowess, lacked sufficient numbers of soldiers to bring the country under control. Iraqis knew it. American officers, beneath their breath, often said it. A two-mile drive on the road to Baghdad International Airport, the scene of daily suicide attacks, confirmed it.
Yet for most of the 14 months that Bremer oversaw the occupation, he and his aides, and General Sanchez and his, often seemed the only people in Iraq who refused to acknowledge the anarchy in the streets. Though confronted by the growing guerrilla insurgency and the brazen behavior of armed militias, Bremer and other senior American officials routinely batted down any suggestion that they needed more soldiers.
Instead, Bremer and his aides would point to the Iraqi police and army, which, they claimed, totaled 200,000 men by April 2004. Anyone who had had even a passing encounter with Iraqi soldiers or police officers during that time worried that American officials were inflating their numbers and exaggerating their quality. Sure enough, later that month, when Sunni and Shiite guerrillas rose across the country, the Iraqi security services disintegrated and disappeared.
Thanks to Bremer's book, we now know he harbored doubts of his own. He knew, or at least strongly suspected, that the fledging Iraqi security forces weren't up to the job. He just didn't say so in public.
Bremer's concern reflected a broader disquiet: "Coalition forces were spread too thin on the ground," he writes. "During my morning intelligence briefings, I would sometimes picture an understrength fire crew racing from one blaze to another."
What are we to make of such an admission?
But Bremer bears a heavy responsibility for keeping silent — and so does General Sanchez. If we can assume that Bremer's recollection is correct, then General Sanchez' remarks indicate that Baghdad was indeed out of control, that both he and Bremer knew it and that without more troops, it was likely to stay out of control. And so it did, for many months after Bremer and General Sanchez left Iraq. Neither man ever gave a public assessment of the security situation that remotely approached the one Bremer gives here.
By staying silent, Bremer ensured that there would be no public debate on the merits of deploying more American troops. By staying silent, he helped ensure that there would be little public discussion over the condition of the Iraqi security forces, whose quality he doubted. When his request for more troops was ignored, his silence helped ensure that the troops would never come.
Former Ambassador Peter W. Galbraith reviews Bremer's My Year in Iraq: The Struggle to Build a Future of Hope and George Packer's The Assassins' Gatehere. (Read it before it disappears beyond the paywall in a couple of months.)
What were Paul "Jerry" Bremer's qualifications to be Our Man In Baghdad?
Bremer, a former career diplomat, had been Henry Kissinger's special assistant, ambassador at large for counterterrorism in the Reagan administration, and ambassador to the Netherlands before leaving government in 1989 to become managing director for Kissinger Associates. Although he did not know Bush before, the two men immediately got on well, partly thanks to their shared interest in physical exercise. Even while representing an international coalition in Baghdad, Bremer was careful to emphasize his partisan credentials; he told George Packer in his Green Zone office that he was "a bedrock Republican." (This struck me as odd to tell a reporter, since in my view a US ambassador represents the entire US, not one political party.) Bremer had a reputation as a good manager, and many thought that if he had a successful record in Baghdad, he had a chance to be secretary of state in a second Bush administration.
Bremer knew nothing about Iraq. He had never been there, did not speak Arabic, had no experience in dealing with a country emerging from war, and had never been involved in "nation-building." During the two weeks he was given to get ready, he recruited a senior staff including several retired ambassadors, a former assistant secretary of state for administration, and a high-powered Republican Washington lobbyist. Only one of his recruits had any background in the region.
So that was a fine start, wasn't it? But at least Bremer had the benefit of the George W. Bush Exercise Workout.
[...] Packer writes that General Franks, the overall commander for the Iraq war, was prohibited from seeking Zinni's advice. Zinni's plan for a comprehensive occupation of Iraq—including providing security with US forces—was put aside as too pessimistic. Presumably this meant his plan would require too many troops to do too much. Packer is devastating about Franks, a tyrant toward his own staff who failed to challenge Rumsfeld's optimistic assumptions that postwar security would not be an issue. Nor did Franks initiate planning for postwar operations, Phase IV, which was a political hot potato. Packer writes: "When an officer at a Centcom meeting raised the question of Phase IV planning, Franks said, 'Mr. Wolfowitz is taking care of that.'" Packer gives a particularly incisive picture of Wolfowitz, who bears a heavy responsibility—precisely because he was by far the brightest of the war's architects —for the failure to prepare for the postwar chaos. As Packer demonstrates, Wolfowitz promoted the invasion of an Iraq that existed only in his imagination:
Paul Wolfowitz was the intellectual architect of the war. He made the case for war with more passion and eloquence than anyone else in the administration, often speaking publicly about the nature of Baathist tyranny and the stifled talents of the Iraqi people that were just waiting to be set free. Listening to him, you sometimes felt that he had dozens of close Iraqi friends and perhaps even a few distant cousins in Baghdad and Basra. He once told an interviewer who asked whether democracy in Iraq might lead to Islamist rule, "Look, fifty percent of the Arab world are women. Most of those women do not want to live in a theocratic state. The other fifty percent are men. I know a lot of them. I don't think they want to live in a theocratic state."...
For him Iraq was personal. He didn't seem driven by other agendas: Military transformation and shoring up the Likud Party and screwing the Democrats were not his obsessions. He wasn't a religious ideologue possessed by eschatological visions of remaking biblical lands. He was the closest thing to a liberal in the group. He had been pursuing this white whale for years, and he had everything to lose if Iraq went wrong. Why, then, did he find it all [i.e., the realities of Iraq] so hard to imagine?
Whether he agreed with the war plan or not, Wolfowitz was not about to go up against his hugely powerful boss on the subject Rumsfeld jealously owned. Wolfowitz was a true believer, but he was also a bureaucratic survivor of many administrations, and when it mattered he was more than capable of bowing to political reality. In the late 1990s, when regime change in Iraq became his signature issue, Wolfowitz lined up behind the flimsy idea of overthrowing Saddam with a few thousand followers of Ahmad Chalabi, because he understood that the public had no interest in committing large numbers of American troops to the cause. And now that America was about to go to war and finish the job that Wolfowitz had long felt had been left incomplete in 1991, he accepted the terms: light force, little commitment in the postwar. He told the public again and again that the reconstruction would be cheap, that it could be paid for by Iraqi oil revenues. He said this in the face of expert advice from oil company executives who knew the state of Iraq's neglected oil facilities.... The administration systematically kept forecasts of the war's true cost from the public and, by the insidious effects of airtight groupthink, from itself. This would be historic transformation on the cheap. Wolfowitz as much as anyone else was responsible.
[...] I think Bremer was right about not reconstituting the armed forces and partially right about de-Baathification. Still, whether he was right or wrong, it was absurd to have had Garner pursuing the exact opposite course of action. Either the Bremer approach or the Garner approach could have been feasible strategy. Following both was a disaster. The President should have decided on a clear policy before US troops arrived in Baghdad and his failure to do so proved very costly.
The President's directions seem to have been limited to such slogans as "we're not going to fail" and "pace yourself, Jerry." In Bremer's account, the President was seriously interested in one issue: whether the leaders of the government that followed the CPA would publicly thank the United States. But there is no evidence that he cared about the specific questions that counted: Would the new prime minister have a broad base of support? Would he be able to bridge Iraq's ethnic divisions? What political values should he have? Instead, Bush had only one demand: "It's important to have someone who's willing to stand up and thank the American people for their sacrifice in liberating Iraq." According to Bremer, he came back to this single point three times in the same meeting. Similarly, Ghazi al-Yawar, an obscure Sunni Arab businessman, became Bush's candidate for president of Iraq's interim government because, as Bremer reports, Bush had "been favorably impressed with his open thanks to the Coalition."
Not only had Garner publicly committed the United States to establishing an Iraqi interim government by mid-May 2003, but a presidential envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad (now the US ambassador to Iraq), visited the new Iraqi leaders in April carrying the same message. Normally, a presidential envoy speaks for the President. But in the undisciplined Bush administration, it appeared the envoys said whatever they wanted. Bremer clearly had the authority to decide whether or not to form a new government and he decided not to. Bush made no decision one way or another.
To make the ILC more representative, Bremer added eighteen new members, and renamed it the Iraqi Governing Council (GC). Collectively, Bremer's new members won about 3 percent of the vote in 2005. He evidently had no idea of who was representative and who was not.
Bremer treated the Iraqi Governing Council more or less like a student council. In July 2003, he came up with the brilliant idea that the members of the Governing Council should "demand" that the Coalition Provisional Authority do things it was already planning to do, arguing that this would enhance the GC's credibility. When they did not take up his suggestion, Bremer told the astonished members of the Governing Council: "Look, you can't very well hope to run a country of 25 million without working hard. The Governing Council works fewer hours in a week than the CPA works every day."
It seems never to have occurred to Bremer that the leading Iraqi politicians had no real interest in enhancing the credibility of the American-installed Governing Council. And they certainly had better things to do than to demand that the CPA do what it was already doing. Bremer seems surprised that the Governing Council members stopped attending meetings, sending lower-level substitutes.
And in the permanent constitution approved on October 15, 2005, the Kurds won every point that Bremer had refused. But there were no hard feelings. As one Kurdish leader tells me almost every time I see him, "We will erect a statue of Bremer here in Kurdistan. He did more than anyone else to break up Iraq."