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Incompetents:  Faith Based Foreign Policy

Peter Galbraith

     ... Ambassador (ret) & foreign policy expert.  The End of Iraq:  How American Incompetence Created a War Without End is Mr. Galbraith's first-hand account of Bush Administration "arrogance and ignorance" in foreign policy, particularly in Iraq. A 23 year veteran of government service, Mr. Galbraith served as professional staff to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was the first U.S. Ambassador to Croatia and is currently the Senior Diplomatic Fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. He contributes regularly to The New York Review of Books.


The U.S. is on a "Mission Impossible" in Iraq, says foreign policy expert and Ambassador (ret.) Peter Galbraith. He has documented American incompetence, ignorance and arrogance leading up to the invasion of Iraq and throughout the American occupation.

Regardless of who is president, America will withdraw from Iraq in 2009, he says, but it should happen in 2006 (he favors leaving a small force in Kurdistan.) Why? Because America is less safe and less secure that it was before it invaded Iraq. Genuine security threats exist elsewhere and Iraq is a costly diversion. That's before one takes into account the incalculable cost in human suffering, lives and the staggering financial costs.

The choice America now faces, says this 23 year veteran foreign policy expert, is clear. An endless war in pursuit of President Bush's fantasy of a stable, unified and democratic country. Or deal with reality. The fact is, Iraq has already broken up, Amb. Galbraith shows.  In spite of neo-conservative wishful thinking, this is not 1787 Philadelphia. Instead, creating the Iraqi Constitution was like Dayton (he was there,) when the peace treaty that ended the Bosnia war was drafted, a three-way negotiation in which the different sides wanted to protect their interests, and basically did, he says.

Why have the Iraqi people not been allowed to go forward with their own Iraqi solution, codified by them in their Constitution -- Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds each with their own territory and clearly defined sovereignty? Denial, Amb. Galbraith says. The Bush Administration refuses to admit it was wrong on Bush's signature issue.

The first victim of propaganda is the propagandist, Amb. Galbraith reminds us. Leading up to the invasion and afterward, the Administration systematically excluded foreign policy professionals who spoke Arabic or had worked in post-conflict situations. The qualifications of people recruited to run the occupation of Iraq ended with their embrace of extreme neo-conservative ideology they shared with the Administration. The results were catastrophic.

Occupy a country, Amb. Galbraith points out, and you're legally responsible for law and order, to fulfill all functions of the government you erased, obliged to preserve that countries assets: cultural heritage, bank funds, government ministries. Even if you don't believe in international law, there were deeply practical reasons why it was in America's interest to protect these facilities -- occupation depends on goodwill, support or at least acceptance, especially when you are a foreign occupying force. The United States failed spectacularly to do any of the above and continues to do so, failures which Amb. Galbraith relentlessly documents.

What has the Bush Administration accomplished?  The previously unimaginable. At the time Bush introduced his infamously inaccurate "Axis of Evil" rhetoric, Iran and Iraq were the two most bitter enemies in the world, Amb. Galbraith recalls. Today, Iran's closest ally in the world is Baghdad. The unthinkable has become a true axis -- Teheran and Baghdad.

How can Americans get their foreign policy back on track? Start with professionalism, says Peter Galbraith. And deal with the world as it is, not wishful thinking.


[This Program was recorded August 2, 2006, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.]

Conversation 1

Peter Galbraith outlines the gross incompetence and arrogance of George W. Bush's Administration, focusing on the consequences of their massive failures prior to attacking Iraq and up to the present day, for Paula Gordon and Bill Russell.

Conversation 1 RealAudio7:47

Conversation 2


Amb. Galbraith reviews ignorance, incompetence and arrogance, including: Bush's use of false information about "yellow cake" while allowing the proliferation of a genuine "yellow cake" threat; Bush's pre-invasion ignorance that Islam has two competing religious sects; watching as horrific live disease viruses were looted, high explosives powerful enough to set off a nuclear weapons carted away by the truckload; and allowing the destruction of Iraq's cultural heritage, bank funds and government ministries. With the suggestion to listen to Watergate's "Deep Throat" advice to "follow the money," Amb. Galbraith continues the litany of outrageous Administration failures which he has documented.

Conversation 1 RealAudio11:04

Conversation 3

It is essential to improve people's lives quickly in post-conflict situations, especially if you are a foreign occupying army whose legal responsibility is to restore order, Amb. Galbraith says.  It never happened, he says, because of gross incompetence of Bush Administration political appointees, for example, 6 very young, utterly inexperienced individuals who spectacularly failed to spend $13 billion on reconstruction.  Examples of unrelenting ignorance of Iraqi realities continue, include, for instance, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's blind rejection of Kurdish realities and President George W. Bush praise for the senior Iraqi Parliamentarian linked to Al-Quaeda. Amb. Galbraith offers his hopes for post-invasion Iraq.

Conversation 1 RealAudio12:58

Conversation 4

America has a choice, Amb. Galbraith says. Pursue a much expanded, radically destabilizing and endless war chasing George Bush's dream of a stable, unified democratic Iraq. Or reject neo-conservative fantasies of 1787, analyze and deal with the reality of a decades-long, 3-way conflict. Accept the 3-way negotiation that allows the Iraqi people to decide their own futures, he urges, and suggests how he expects that future will look for Iraqis who never wanted to be united in the first place.

Conversation 1 RealAudio11:48

Conversation 5

The Bush Administration is in denial about Iraq, Amb. Galbraith documents, because they refuse to admit they have failed in their defining issue -- Iraq.  Whoever is president in 2009 will withdraw American troops from Iraq, Amb. Galbraith says -- convinced it should happen in 2006 -- because there is no mission that the U.S. can accomplish there.  In spite of enormous American bases under construction in Iraq, Amb. Galbraith sees no long-term plan to stay. Iraq -- a relatively unimportant place, he says -- is diminishing our national security, while we need to focus resources on serious threats that exist elsewhere.

Conversation 1 RealAudio5:08

Conversation 6

Identifying the core problem in Iraq, Amb. Galbraith shows how Bush has turned two bitter enemies into strongly anti-American allies with his inappropriate metaphor of an "Axis of Evil." Citing Paul Wolfowitz' fantastical thinking, Amb. Galbraith concludes that foreign policy requires professionalism, dealing with the world as it is, not as we wish it were.

Conversation 1 RealAudio7:13


Foreign policy and national security are too important to leave to ideologues, prevaricators and wishful-thinkers. We thank Ambassador Galbraith for bringing to light some of the much-needed information on which the American people must decide what kind of a nation we chose to be. The alternative -- yielding our sovereignty to destructive elites forever profiting from war, ravaging the world as they unrelentingly substitute one excuse for the next -- is unacceptable.

Related Links:

The End of Iraq: How American Incompetence Created a War Without End is published by Simon & Schuster.

In a later book, Unintended Consequences: How War in Iraq Strengthened America’s Enemies, Mr. Galbraith looks at "who lost Iraq" and then turns to the question of how America can regain its standing in the global community and better protect American citizens.

One of those who very publicly predicted the morass of an American invasion of Iraq was Sandra Mackey who has written extensively about the Middle East.

In No god but God Reza Aslan provides an excellent summary of the historical relationship between the Sunni and the Shi'a variants of Islam and advances the idea that much of what is occuring within that religion is comparable to the Christian Reformation. After years of living in and reporting from Egypt, Geneive Abdo examined the relationship between Islam and democracy in her book, also titled No God but God.

Christopher Dickey shows (Securing the City) that good police work, good diplomacy and the American dream are better tools for dealing with terrorism than invading armies.

Susan Faludi blames spurious myths dredged up in the wake of 9/11 for America's flailing responses, including the invasion of Iraq.

The intelligence failures contributing to the invasion of Iraq are part of the CIA's Legacy of Ashes which Tim Weiner documents in his history of the "Agency."

In American Dynasty, Kevin Phillips examined the Bush family's entanglement with the Saudis and with the military/industrial/intelligence triad.  In American Theocracy he argues that a dangerous mixture of fundamentalism, oil and debt are undermining America.

From her experience with The Carter Center's Human Rights Program, Karin Ryan says that America's use of torture and dismissal of the Geneva Conventions has subverted human rights around the world.

Curtis White argues that Americans are being entertained to extinction, that our political failure to respond to the lies and incompetence described by Amb. Galbraith are a sign of that fatal distraction.

Based on her experience growing up amidst civil war in what is now Zimbabwe, memoirist Alexandra Fuller cautions that once a society has created soldiers and demanded that they kill, that society carries the full weight of responsibility for their actions forever.

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