Sunday, December 03, 2006

I Didn't Know Where the Iraq Study Group Came from Either. Do the People Who "Created" It Know?

How many people know what the "Baker-Hamilton Commission" aka "Baker Commission" aka "Iraq Study Group" really is? I thought so. No shame, I didn't, either. So I went looking, and this is what I found:

First stop, Wikipedia, which says that the Iraq Study Group "is a ten-person panel appointed on March 15, 2006, by the United States Congress". Pretty impressive.

Next stop, Congress. Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress does not have a website. So I go to the Senate website, where there are a bajillion references to TSG, but nothing about its authorization. The H.R. website fares better, where I manage to locate a news release entitled Statement of Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) On the Creation of the Bi-Partisan Iraq Study Group, Which Evolved from his Idea for "Fresh Eyes on the Target" (yes that is the actual title), but reveals nothing more on the actual act of conception. The website also gives us a couple of press releases from the U.S. Institute of Peace, this, which tells us that USIP "is organizing a fresh look by persons outside the government" "[a]t the urging of Congress"; and this fact sheet, which says that "[I]t was created at the direction of a bipartisan group of members of the U.S. Congress". These two versions, both issued by USIP, do not necessarily contradict each other, but do not reinforce each other either. This yet another memo from USIP, which says that "[t]he effort is undertaken at the urging of several members of Congress" isn't helpful either, even if "the White House welcomes it". Having given up my efforts to find out how the ISG was spawned…

Next stop, the USIP website, where I hope, at least, to find out who appointed the ISG members, and how they did it. There, I find this which answers its own question as follows:

"6. How was the membership chosen?
"Co-chairs Baker and Hamilton were chosen by mutual agreement among the Congressional organizers, USIP, and the other supporting organizations. After being named co-chairs, Baker and Hamilton selected the remaining group members in consultation with USIP and the other supporting organizations." By supporting organizations, the logos on the press releases indicate that they are Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP), and the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy"

So it turns out that some members of Congress decided that it would be a good idea to ask Mssrs. Baker and Hamilton to head a group of non-government people to study the situation in Iraq to come up with some recommendations. Nobody in Congress seems to have publicly objected, the White House (whoever that is) agreed, and the other members of the committee were chosen by the aforementioned people plus ISG plus the other supporting organizations. And ISG has become everybody's projection of his/her desire or abhorrence, much like the shapeshifting aliens in The Martian Chronicles.

Is this the consequence of the inability of The Decider unable to decide, the Congress to congress? The US answer to gaiatsu? Irresponsible? But then, who can blame them? After all, it's a matter of life and death.


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