Joel Mowbray

  Pressed several weeks ago by Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) at a hearing about whether or not the U.S. would insist that Iraq become a secular democracy, Bremer responded, “the Iraqis are writing this constitution, not me.”  Which prompted one frustrated administration official to ask, “Who is Bremer referring to, the Islamists he stacked the council with?”

  The State Department has long been obsessed with stability and not challenging conventional wisdom.  With the apparent rise of Islamists—at least that’s the perception created by the media—State is more likely to accommodate them than to ward them off with even stronger guarantees of secular governance in the constitution.  And the ever-present violence—particularly the assassination of one the 25 members on the IGC—makes that much less likely that the secularists on the council will fight vigorously for an Islam-free constitution.

  Further complicating matters, it is unclear at this point, of course, who is really controlling Iraq policy.  From the Washington perspective, it is National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice—or apparently now Donald Rumsfeld again.  But from the standpoint of the people implementing policy and making the day-to-day decisions that often have greater collective impact than larger policy directives, State Department personnel are clearly in the driver’s seat.  The Department of Defense has few civilians in Iraq—by the Pentagon’s own choice—leaving most of the key U.S positions to be filled by State Department careerists.

  Before Bremer took the reins this spring, State Department officials in Iraq had placed several top Baathists—meaning Saddam loyalists—in positions of power, in direct conflict with the President’s goal of de-Baathification.  With those same people on the ground today, a legitimate question is: how effectively—or vigorously—will they fight to guarantee religious liberty for millions of non-Muslim Iraqis? 

  And if Iraq becomes an official Muslim state, the most important question may be: Will Islamists hold enough sway to make Iraq an incubator for Islamic terrorism?

  Warns one administration official, “We are heading down a very dangerous path.”

Joel Mowbray

Joel Mowbray, who got his start with, is an award-winning investigative journalist, nationally-syndicated columnist and author of Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Threatens America's Security.

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