The ISG's central conclusion, important to say with the group's imprimatur even though the conclusion is obvious, is that the problem with Iraq is the Iraqis, a semi-nation of peoples who are very difficult to help. The ISG's report will help accomplish what it recommends -- increase pressure on Iraq's ``government'' in the hope of turning it into a government by June, when Maliki says Iraq will be able to cope with its security needs.
How likely is that? Look back two years. In June 2004, at the time the Coalition Provisional Authority was to transfer sovereignty to what it thought would be an Iraqi government, Americans were toiling to finish their work of occupation: ``A lawyer who had once clerked for Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was poring over a draft edict requiring Iraqi political parties to engage in American-style financial disclosure.'' Such surreal vignettes abound in ``Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone,'' by The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran. The book, which should be read along with the ISG report, would be hilarious were it not horrifying that so much valor and suffering have been expended in this context:
Halliburton, writes Chandrasekaran, hired Pakistanis and Indians for kitchen work, but no Iraqis. ``Nobody ever explained why, but everyone knew. They could poison the food.'' Of the CPA staff, ``More than half, according to one estimate, had gotten their first passport in order to travel to Iraq.'' Two CPA staffers said that before they were hired, they were asked if they supported Roe v. Wade. The traffic code the CPA wrote for Iraq stipulated that ``the driver shall hold the steering wheel with both hands'' and ``rest should be taken for five minutes for every one hour of driving.'' But Chandrasekaran's driver, who like other Iraqis had obeyed the laws under Saddam's police state, began disregarding all traffic laws. ``When I asked him what he was doing, he turned to me, smiled, and said, 'Mr. Rajiv, democracy is wonderful. Now we can do whatever we want.'''