The lies and half-truths of the Bush Administration are by now old news. And since so much of what the Administration says publicly is fabricated, it’s easy to let certain things go in order to get on with our lives.
Still, certain statements continue to shock and infuriate us, because we can’t, for the life of us, figure out where Bush & Co. got the information on which their statements are based.
This was my reaction to the declaration by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in the September 29 issue of the Wall Street Journal that “5,000 small businesses [in Iraq] have opened since liberation on May 1.”
On what data, I wondered, did the Secretary base this statement? And what exactly did he mean by “small businesses”?
For a month I tried to get an answer to these questions from the US government, sadly, I must admit, without success. Below is the story–not without its comic elements–of my minor quest for truth.
USAID’s Limited Success
I initially contacted the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which, according to its website, “is committed to helping the newly freed Iraqi people rebuild their own nation after decades of oppression and mismanagement. We provide humanitarian and reconstruction resources to help improve the daily lives of the Iraqi people.”
The statement further notes that “USAID is working to improve the efficiency and accountability of the Iraqi government and to expand the economic opportunities of all its citizens. From helping build and refurbish schools and medical clinics to helping restore essential infrastructure like electricity and roads, USAID is working with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) to help the Iraqi people build a stable and democratic society with a future full of hope in a land that is free.”
But USAID, despite its numerous economic projects in Iraq, could not assist me.
A Ms. Palmer, whom I contacted there, showed little interest in my questions (indeed, she said she was not pleased by an article I had written about Iraqi schools that recently appeared in the Washington Post), and she immediately directed me to the Department of Defense.
An Amiable Major at the Defense Department
So I e-mailed Maj. Joseph Yoswa, defense press officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, seeking answers to how Rumsfeld had arrived at the 5,000 figure and how his department defined “small businesses.”
In his prompt reply, the major wrote that “the Secretary received this information from the CPA during his last visit to Baghdad. So you would need to get the details from them.”
After some insistence on my part, the major eventually provided me with the e-mail address of an actual person at the CPA whom I could contact, Ms. Karen Triggs, CPA public affairs.
Ms. Triggs Does Her Best
On October 10, Ms. Triggs replied to my e-mail with the encouraging statement that “you’ll be pleased to know that we are looking at your questions. I will be back in touch by email with answers as soon as they come in.”