White House centralizes Iraq policy-making

It's hard to know what to make of the White House's new "Iraq Stabilization Group" (also see the NY Times version).

Rice is being put in charge of various policies of Plan "New Iraq", including economy, "counterterrorism", and just what everyone needs, propaganda. We also see that Cheney had a hand in this as well. It's certain that he wants more say over how the cronyism reconstruction there is going.

This decision can mean a number of things. The Times quote officials as saying that it diminishes the authority of Rumsfeld. The WaPo hints that it may diminish the authority of Bremer. In my opinion, what this new group indicates (besides the fact that Iraq is not going as well as the Bushies were hoping) is that Bremer has had some kind of minor falling out or disagreement with Rumsfeld. According to the Times, "...Paul Bremer III, the head of the allied provisional authority in Iraq, will still report to the Defense Department. But one of Mr. Bremer's key deputies will sit on the new stabilization group, giving him a direct line outside the Pentagon." This seems to indicate that Bremer wanted to have someone he could go to for a decision other than Rumsfeld (cf. Juan Cole's idea of the "dual administration centers).

Rice's new commissariat seems like a bit of slap at Powell and the State Department as well. With all of these new functions assigned to Rice and her officers - functions that have traditionally been those of the State Department - it seems that the only thing left for Powell is to keep being Bush's message boy to other countries.

Anyway, from the Post we also get this gem:
Bush was scheduled to meet today with Americans who have just returned from Iraq and could tell tales of progress. The White House was encouraging them to go before cameras after the meeting.[Emphasis added]
I supppose it would look bad for the White House to meet with wounded veterans, ask them to tell their tales, and put them in front of the cameras.
"Listen, we're making good progress in Iraq," Bush said at his news conference. "Sometimes it's hard to tell it when you listen to the filter."
Or pay attention to the body count.

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