Bush’s war lacks ‘link to realities on the ground’


Kiki Munshi was showcased by the media in September as a seasoned U.S. diplomat who came out of retirement to lead a rebuilding group in Iraq.

021907iraq.jpgNow she is back home, angry, and convinced that President George W. Bush’s new strategy of doubling the number of such groups to 20 along with a troop surge of 21,500 will not help stabilize Iraq.

A diplomat for 22 years, she quit her job last month as leader of a Provincial Reconstruction Team — groups made up of about 50 civilian and military experts that try to help Iraqi communities build their own government while strengthening moderates.

“In spite of the magnificent and often heroic work being done out there by a lot of truly wonderful people, the PRTs themselves aren’t succeeding. The obstacles are too great,” Munshi said this week in Washington, where she was pressing her view at the State Department and to Congress.

“Once again we are proceeding to lay people’s lives on a line drawn with faulty information. Once again the fantasies of the ‘policy-makers’ drive decisions without much link to the realities on the ground,” said Munshi, who retired from the foreign service in 2002 .

Her postings included Romania, India and Sierra Leone before Iraq, where Munshi said he had felt a “moral obligation to sort out the mess we have made there.”

An audit by the special inspector general for Iraq last October found similar problems with the PRTs to those listed by Munshi, including an “ever-changing security situation, the difficulty of integrating civilian and military personnel, the lack of a finalized agreement on PRT operational requirements and responsibilities.”


Members of Congress have also been critical of the program, which suffered early on from not being able to attract enough civilian staff and a dispute between the State and Defense departments over who would provide security for the teams.

The Bush administration rejects Munshi’s views and the State Department said the expanded PRT plan was more focused, requiring team members to do pre-deployment training and with a clear goal of bolstering moderates and sidelining militants.

“We have been very mindful of the problems our PRT leaders have reported to us. We have worked very hard to streamline it,” said Barbara Stephenson, the deputy coordinator for Iraq at the State Department, which oversees the PRT plan.

Munshi said the PRT plan was ill-conceived, under-funded and poorly staffed.

She said security was so bad that the council in the town in Diyala province where she was based had not had a quorum since last October and that death squads were rife.

PRT members found it hard to meet with Iraqis because of intimidation, she said, giving the example of training sessions that had been canceled because of poor security.

The PRTs are embedded with the military, a tactic Munshi says has varying results depending on the ability of the unit.

“All the PRTs embedded with the military are subject to the vicissitudes of military fortune, for good or ill,” she said.

But the State Department countered that Munshi’s experiences were not repeated in all the provinces and set up interviews with two PRT leaders who said while there were difficulties, they believed their work was making an impact.

Stephanie Miley, a PRT leader in the Iraqi town of Tikrit, said her teams managed to get out to see Iraqi officials five or six times a week but security issues meant they could not stay for long.

“I just hope that people will recognize that this is not something we will achieve overnight,” she said.

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited


  1. RSW

    The last President we had that knew the realities of ground warfare was

    Eisenhower and at least some of his administration. Never mind that the

    Dulles’s screwed him (and Kennedy) royally. Ike got his due with his exit

    speech, but nobody listened. Since then, we’ve pretty much had our wars

    run by civilians — business men, really — that only experience adrenaline rushes when they pull off a deal. (As much as we could use a few experienced military people at the top of our food chain, we don’t need McCain, who was programmed, deprogrammed, and programmed again before returning to civilian life.)

    As I look into the crystal ball, I see more of the same. I guess that until this country really gets its behind slung, we’ll remain adolescent and full of hubris. Perhaps we need a war fought on our own turf before its horrors sink in and we wake up to the reality that we’ve let an almost worthy experiment (albeit created by lawyers, businessmen, bankers, and slave owners) get away. We need to remember that exit speech and live among ourselves if we are to defeat the corporate globalism that is (has?)

    overtaken us.

  2. Ray

    Jennifer, It is Urageuy or Paraguey ( excuse spelling) where the Bushes have purchased thousands of acres to build thier fortress. They will need a fortress to hide from the world. When the people realize all that they have done, the Bush Family will be hunted.

  3. Well folks, I feel like Alice in Wonderland today; I fell down a Rabbit hole and wound up in a weird place. D.C. has become a GIGANTIC Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with all the insanity to boot. War for the purpose of profit is criminal in every sense of the word. I wonder where W and all his friends will be retiring to when 2008 wraps up? I hear Argentina is lovely this time of year.

  4. Arion

    More than forty years ago, an American novelist named Eugene Burdick exposed the corrupt and inefficient patronage system of Washington, whereby hopelessly inexperienced political insiders won ambassadorial posts based on their political connections. George W. Bush, never a reader, has not only committed the same sin, he has upped the ante by making Iraqi policy without the faintest idea of the country’s history nor of how its culture works. In fact, it is worse than that because Bush outrightly rejects factual information which does not conform to his own preconceptions! He is demanding that the world work according to the way he wants it to! This is childish behavior; certainly not that befitting a head of state.