Unfortunately, I missed the President's news conference last night and had only been able to hear and read news summaries and editorial commenting from either side of the aisle (including what's been written here). What I heard and read were a lot of things which are not really substantive and objective concerns of mine. So, I decided to quickly read the text posted at the White House website. My main interest was to understand what the President is telling the American people about the transition of power in Iraq and "The Date" - June 30th.
Below are the primary comments from the President:
"One central commitment of that mission is the transfer of sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. We have set a deadline of June 30th. It is important that we meet that deadline. As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation -- and neither does America…Were the coalition to step back from the June 30th pledge, many Iraqis would question our intentions and feel their hopes betrayed. And those in Iraq who trade in hatred and conspiracy theories would find a larger audience and gain a stronger hand. We will not step back from our pledge. On June 30th, Iraqi sovereignty will be placed in Iraqi hands."
This is true. President Bush did set a deadline of June 30th. What factors were key in choosing that date, I have no way of knowing. However, it is clearly a date set into a concrete calendar and not a date tied to any pre-existing conditions on the ground. In other words, it has nothing to do with how secure and stable the environment is nor does it have anything to do with how advanced or firm the planning is for the transitional government. This concerns me.
"The nation of Iraq is moving toward self-rule, and Iraqis and Americans will see evidence in the months to come. On June 30th, when the flag of free Iraq is raised, Iraqi officials will assume full responsibility for the ministries of government. On that day, the transitional administrative law, including a bill of rights that is unprecedented in the Arab world, will take full effect. The United States, and all the nations of our coalition, will establish normal diplomatic relations with the Iraqi government. An American embassy will open, and an American ambassador will be posted."
In other words, there is not currently evidence of Iraq moving towards self-rule, but be prepared for some pomp and circumstance on June 30th. The clear implication is that Iraq is regaining its sovereignty on June 30th and we will become welcome guests of a legitimate and sovereign Iraqi government. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) Hq will become the largest embassy in the history of the world. The Iraqi security forces (such that they are) will become junior members of our military Coalition and fall underneath the command of our top general. Perceptions of this are likely to be colored by the beholder's level of faith in the current administration. As a point of reference, I'd like to put forward a definition of sovereignty that I found on the web.
SOVEREIGNTY. The union and exercise of all human power possessed in a state; it is a combination of all power; it is the power to do everything in a state without accountability; to make laws, to execute and to apply them: to impose and collect taxes, and, levy, contributions; to make war or peace; to form treaties of alliance or of commerce with foreign nations, and the like.
This is not a definition that will apply to Iraq after June 30th. Do I expect that Iraq is, in fact, ready for this kind of sovereignty? Absolutely not. Based on what I saw in the streets of Baghdad and on what I saw and heard in the CPA Hq, the Coalition military Hq, and Iraqi ministries, I do not believe Iraq is even remotely close to being ready for this kind of sovereignty.
I've previously stated on this site that the June 30th transfer date is either a tremendous gamble or a tremendous farce. The gamble would be if the U.S. is actually handing sovereignty over to the Iraqi people. However, I think it is pretty clear that it is a show. I'm sure it will be very clear to the group of Iraqis that "accept" sovereignty from the Coalition, that they will not be free to make any decisions to which we are opposed.
Despite the fact that Iraq is clearly not ready to be a sovereign democratic nation on June 30th, I am not criticizing sticking to that date. The President is correct is saying that we cannot change the June 30th date now without significant negative backlash on the streets. The President has made our bed and now we have to sleep in it with the Iraqis for a long time to come. Get familiar with the odors…and just leave the billion dollar bills on the nightstand.