President Bush made a few remarks regarding the situation in Iraq and the appointment of the new Iraqi leadership yesterday. The remarks were followed by a few questions which turned into an informal press conference.
The President again repeated the, "the early formation of the U.S. government was also tough," line. While the early years of the formation of the U.S. government was difficult, anyone who has spent any time reading about the period will realize how rediculous of a comparison this is. There was no widespread guerrila conflict with massive civilian casualties and armed rival facions fighting each other in the streets.
The President said that Brahimi made the decision to appoint the new leadership, also that he doesn't know why Chalabi was not chosen. Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has been doing a great job of covering the shifting factions jockeying for power and the many groups involved; the IGC, INC, Chalabi, Brahimi and the U.S. administration. The President's assertion that Brahimi is responsible for chosing the new leadership in Iraq has been pretty clearly exposed as fiction by Marshall and others. The U.S. side-lined Brahimi and selected members of the exile, Iraqi Governing Council. The IGC is the rival group to the Iraqi National Congress which Chalabi used to head.
As to the question of the President's knowledge of why Chalabi has been pushed aside, it may be true that he may not know specifically what was in Brahimi's mind at the time, but I think it is fair to say that he should be familiar with the major points. The Iraq war is the most important thing this President is going to do, it will be his legacy, for good or for bad. The fate of millions of Iraqis and the U.S.'s international reputation is at state and the President doesn't know why one candidate to lead the new Iraq was chosen after another? Either this is an example of an extreme lack of interest on the President's part, or there is something else.
That something else could be the current investigation into the Chalabi and his hawksih supporters both in and out of the administration. The FBI wants to know how Chalabi got his hands on classified information that ended up in Iran. While many hawks in the administration, such as Wolfowitz, dismiss this as an attempt to discredit Chalabi and his supporters. Yet there is apparently some solid information that Chalabi's intelligence chief, Aras Karim Habib, has been working for Iranian intelligence. Josh Marchall goes into depth on this issue in an article in The Hill.
On questions of oil prices, the President asked congress to pass his energy bill saying it would help alleviate the some of the prices consumers pay currently. He also added that if the government has simply drilled in ANWR (artic national wilderness reserve) starting back in the 1990's, we would be pumping a million barrels a day. The U.S. currently consumes, on average, 20 million barrels a day (MMBD). How one million barrels of oil could make a substantial difference, especially in relation to the damage and cost invovled in extracting the oil.
The President asserted that such domestic production could help free us from depending on foreign sources of oil. Our top source of foreign oil is Canada, so it is safe to assume that "foreign oil" is meant to mean middle-east oil. The amount of oil imported from the Persian Gulf is around 2 million barrels a day, the overall amount of importation is around 12 million. How is it that the provider of one sixth of our total oil imports can wield so much power over our foreign policy? It is easy to see that there is much more invovled in middle-east policy than simply pulling the plug on oil.
There is a lot to the President's remarks. However, the importance is not in what he is telling us he knows, but what he doesn't know.
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