Last week the White House provided a midterm report on its strategy of surge in Iraq. The report card provides an “assessment of how the Iraqi Government is performing in 18 specified benchmarks, rather than the effects being generated.” in three major areas of concern, security, political reconciliation, and diplomatic engagement. Report cards that most of us have received included more than one audience, the parents, the student and the permanent record. This report card is required by Congress, together with the White House the parent, but probably was intended for the student, the Iraqi nation. All of us remember with trepidation the distribution of the report cards. Report cards are the expression of power and provide leverage for schools, certification bodies, parents and sometimes even students. Of the eighteen benchmarks (see below for listing) of the Iraqi report card eight are judged satisfactory, eight are judged unsatisfactory and two are given a mixed grade. When I went to school a report card like this would not have been considered a moment for celebration.
In reflecting on the report card Secretary of State, Candaleeza Rice said, “ I hope we can show America can protect its interests in Iraq”. Some people continue to be confused about what those interests are. And in response to the suggestion that Al Queda now seems to be stronger than ever, President Bush replied, “They are weaker than they would have been”, which of course is an unprovable observation that probably honestly reflects the thinking of a dwindling number of people in his administration. Behind these observations is the overwhelming reality that the US Congress and the President get to do the report card because they control the weapons of the biggest army on earth. This position of power does not require substantial understanding, skill, listening, reflection or action on the things that make for peace.. It does require imagination on the part of anyone who is vulnerable at the next election cycle.
I invite the reader to remember the sense of powerlessness, vulnerability and fear that often comes over the student at report card time. Blame for bad grades begin with the weakest actor, the student and only rarely worked its way up the chain to parents, teachers, school systems or accrediting bodies. The preoccupation with security and related constitutional issues is stark especially when viewed at the exclusion of electricity and water now in the hottest season of Baghdad when the temperature rises as high as 130 degrees Fahrenheit or more than 50 degrees Celsius.
The Iraqi report card makes no mention of this long civilization which largely abhors groups like Al Queda and has found ways to “live and let live” among the various clans and religious tendencies. This is a land that was largely untouched by fundamentalist religious movements until recently but has now been visited by styles of intolerant behavior that will require generations of struggle and negotiations to overcome. For 5000 years since the dawn of organized warfare in Iraq, big invading armies have distinguished themselves with their ability to break things and push old customs deep underground where they are pent up and can explode without competent leadership and negotiations. Like the near devastations of native civilization in North America by big armies that broke up settlements, culture and environment, the wrath and brokenness in Iraq and the Middle East goes underground only to surface generations later in unpredictable ways.
Just below the surface of every report card students, parents and community regularly ask how the system works and if it is broken. Out of that conversation arises a call for a report card on the real suff of education or in this case the fundamental reality and consequences of invading armies. There are different kinds of benchmarks to define and report cards to develop, for nations and civilizations. These benchmarks need to create credible and trusted interlocking threads of truth towards which we can agree in the human family. We need an approach that takes into account every person’s security, the security of the earth including its plants and animals, the security for that which is above the earth and under the earth, and agreement for a space in order for the unknown and knowable parts of divine power to become visible. Would that be too much? Can we settle for less?
Benchmarks and their Grade
1. Satisfactory: Forming a Constitutional Review Committee and then completing the constitutional Review
2. Unsatisfactory: Enacting and Implementing legislation the de-Ba’athification reform
3. Unsatisfactory: Enacting and implementation of legislation to ensure the equitable distribution of hydrocarbon resources (oil ed.)
4. Satisfactory: Enacting and implementing legislation on procedures to form semi-autonomous region
5. Mixed: Enacting and implementing legislation establishing an Independent High Electoral Commission, provincial elections law, provincial council authorities, and a date for provincial elections.
6. Unsatisfactory: Enacting and Implementing legislation addressing amnesty
7. Unsatisfactory: Enacting and implementing legislation establishing a strong militia disarmament program.
8. Satisfactory: Establishing supporting political, media, economic and services committees to support the Baghdad Security Plan
9. Satisfactory: Providing three trained and ready Iraqi brigades to support Baghdad operations.
10. Unsatisfactory: Providing Iraqi commanders with all authorities to execute this plan and to make tactical and operational decision in consultation with U.S. Commanders without political intervention to include the authority to pursue all extremists including Sunni insurgents and Shite militias.
11. Unsatisfactory: Ensuring that Iraqi Security Forces are providing even-handed enforcement of the law.
12. Satisfactory: Ensuring that as Prime Minister Maliki was quoted by President Bush as saying, “the Baghdad Security Plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation.”
13. Mixed to Unsatisfactory: Reducing the level of sectarian violence in Iraq and eliminating militia control of local security.
14.Satisfactory: Establishing all of the planned joint security stations in neighborhoods across Baghdad.
15.Unsatisfactory: Increasing the number of Iraqi security forces units capable of operating independently. (Police capability ed.)
16 Satisfactory: Ensuring the rights of minority political parties in the Iraqi legislature are protected.
17.Satisfactory: Allocating and spending $10 billion in Iraqi revenues for reconstruction projects, including delivery of essential services, on an equitable basis.
18. Unsatisfactory: Ensuring that Iraq’s political authorities are not undermining or making false accusations about members of the ISF (Iraqi Security Forces).
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