Robert Novak

As an example of how the billions of American dollars pouring into Iraq do not promote an effective legal system, the letter noted that the State Department "has failed to move on final approval" of a proposed codification of Iraqi law. "Perhaps the people in Washington do not have a sense of urgency because they live in Washington," the lawyers wrote.

The broader problem appears to be that diplomats, both in Washington and Baghdad, are not suited to be nation builders. Ryan Crocker, the highly esteemed U.S. ambassador to Iraq, is a superstar of the Foreign Service with the exalted rank of career ambassador. But he is essentially a reporter and negotiator, not a manager. So are his subordinates. His embassy is organized on the same basis as the small missions around the world, with the diplomats trained to send informative telegrams back to Washington and untangle bilateral difficulties, but not to manage large projects.

The Iraqi lawyers for an hour Tuesday presented their pleas to Flood, who made no comment. Flood assured them that Fielding, but not necessarily the president, would see the letter. They then returned to the bus, which transported them to the Supreme Court. There, much to the surprise of the Iraqis, they were given 45 minutes by Chief Justice John Roberts for a substantive discussion. "This was much better than the White House," exclaimed an Iraqi lawyer, who can only hope that President Bush gets interested in building the rule of law in Iraq.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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