Iraq's security situation has gone from bad to worse; October saw over 100 Americans killed in Iraq, and according to Iraq Body Count, there were around 665 Iraqi civilian deaths reported during the same period. Baghdad's restrictive security curfews have been partially lifted since Saddam Hussein's sentencing this weekend, but some fear another surge in violence in reaction to the verdict. So it's understandable that some of the neoconservative architects of the Bush administration's Iraq debacle are expressing dismay about the war effort and the administration generally. But in Vanity Fair's recently published list of complaints and revelations from influential GOP policymakers, it was a strange remark from military cheerleader Michael Ledeen that caught our attention. "Ask yourself who the most powerful people in the White House are," Ledeen said. "They are women who are in love with the president: Laura [Bush], Condi, Harriet Miers, and Karen Hughes."
Um, what? I'm not clear on whether Ledeen has a problem with women serving as advisors or with the general lack of accountability in the White House, but either way, this assertion stinks. It's a fact that some of Bush's closest advisors are women. And though implying that the White House's women are getting ahead by passing love notes insults their professional acumen, Ledeen isn't the first to make that squirm-inducing suggestion. Frankly, when the secretary of state mistakenly refers to the president as her husband, it's reasonable to wonder what's going on over there. But to suggest that this lovefest puts these four women in control of the administration overlooks some other key players -- Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, to name two extremely obvious examples.
Ledeen's dig is important because it implicitly exonerates some of the real heavy hitters in the Iraq war. Yes, Rice and Hughes, and to a lesser extent Miers and Laura Bush, are partly responsible for the administration's failed foreign relations strategy. But it's generally acknowledged that Cheney and Rove are the real puppeteers in the Bush White House. And if we're making a list of those at fault for the mishandling of the Iraq war, how can we overlook George Tenet and Donald Rumsfeld?
The full Vanity Fair piece won't be out until December, so who knows, maybe Ledeen goes on to make a more thorough and nuanced critique. But as it stands now, his "most powerful" list looks like a dangerous piece of reverse engineering, suggesting that Bush's female advisors flirted their way into power and blaming them for a disastrous administration's worst failures.