© 2005 Ross Williams
Who’d-a guessed that there’d be a target-rich environment this late in the Iraq War and Occupation … and in the US no less?
There isn’t a single public figure, on either side of this “debate”, who’s capable of being honest and candid. Everyone is trying to dodge and dissemble, no one can admit to his own hyperboles. Makes you long for the good old days of monarchical dictatorship. Nearly. At least then, if some governmental policy seriously miscarried, you’d know that some official would lose his head, and the nation would move on. When our governmental policies miscarry, the head that might otherwise be lost simply talks and talks and talks, endlessly rationalizing why up is down and failure is success.
One of the benefits of two-party democracy is choice; one of the drawbacks of two-party democracy is that this choice grants an easy, which is to say superficial, means of assigning blame. And blame is often the least of the worries. It doesn’t matter who was driving when you’re fender-deep in the snow bank. You need to get out of the snow. Recreate the accident over hot rum punches next weekend. For the time being, shovel.
Imagine two great big groups of dunces, one dressed in jesters’ motley and called the TweedleDums, the other dressed in Fauntleroys and called the TweedleDummers, both arguing over who is right. The Dums claim that 2+2=3; the Dummers claim 2+2=5. The Dums have the majority, and 2+2 is made 3 by law. When the world falls over and everyone goes bankrupt because mathematics has been turned on its ear, the Dummers are going to blame the Dums for politicking an idiocy. Yet they were no better themselves, and their solution was just as wrong.
Parsing the politics out of policy is not usually that simple. Typically, the differences between Dum desires and Dummer desires lie buried in the weeds. Both will normally agree that 2+2=4, that East is East, and that Up is not Down. What they normally disagree about is what color the sky is while it’s all happening. Chartreuse versus pink with puce stripes. So the Dums propose legislation that declares 2+2 to be 4, East to be in the east, Up to be over your head in the direction of the Chartreuse Sky. The Dummers agree that 2+2 is 4, East is indeed in the east, and Up is over your head, … but in the direction of the pink-n-puce sky instead. And thus they derail or delay the legislation. So the Dums go home to their constituents and complain about the Dummers being against the new law because the Dummers believe that 2+2 is NOT 4, that East is anyplace BUT in the east, and that Up is under your feet.
And then – get this – the constituents believe the Dums. Or the Dummers. They’ll believe whomever will earnestly describe the sky in colors the constituents prefer to see. If one voter likes a pink sky, well, then, it’s obviously the chartreuse Dums who are wrong; they must think 2+2=3. If another voter likes a sickly green sky then the Dums are correct, and the Dummers think Up is Down.
In our country, the Republicans are Dum, and the Democrats are Dummer, and this type of nanny-booing goes on continually. “Republicans are obviously trying to kill old people because they want to restructure Social Security financing…” and “Democrats are socialists because they want to tax the rich into poverty…”
One perennially convenient bit of “sky is pink” legislation was welfare expansion in the Sixties. The Democratic Congress and White House pushed and passed the – ha ha – Great Society legislation in the mid-Sixties, to the skepticism of a great many Republicans who pointed out fundamental flaws, i.e., the sky is not pink. In the Seventies, a Democrat was sent off to investigate some disturbing trends in Great Society results and discovered – lo! and behold! – the sky really isn’t pink after all. Gosh! Who’d-a thunk.
The Democrats swept the critical report under the rug. Show of hands: who is surprised?
The nation evolved, Democrats lost majority status in Congress, Republicans came in and one of the things they did was implement many of the recommendations in the 20-year-old report, and called it “welfare reform”.
And whenever Democrats bring up the subject of welfare reform today, they do it one of two ways:
1] as an indication of the courageous figure that Bill Clinton was and is, … to have signed a Republican bill that had too much support to be vetoed – which is what both Bill Clinton and the Democrats wanted to do to it; or
2] as a criticism of Republicans who were being mean and overbearing to poor people, depriving them of the funding and sustenance they need to survive. If poor people suffer, it is all the Republicans’ fault. I.e., because the Republicans know the sky isn’t pink, they obviously believe East is somewhere in the Southwest – and that poor people should starve.
So, given that two-party politics is full of self-serving dishonesty by its nature, I read news articles discussing politics and policy with one eye pre-rolling and one hand ready to grab the barf bag. This past week has been particularly indigestionable.
First, Bill Clinton was in Dubai holding sway on military strategy as an arm of foreign policy. This is the same Bill Clinton whose draft-dodging pre-presidency concept of the military was “tool of oppression”, and whose presidential military use – one could say “meddlesome micromanaging” if one were to be undiplomatically honest – was dominated by refusing to supply US forces with armaments necessary to counter known threats in Somalia and taking stupid and unnecessary casualties because of it; sissy-slapping uninhabited deserts with a cruise missile and then running [twice]; and then violating virtually every rule in the tactical war book, and killing hundreds of civilians stupidly in order to avoid risking a handful of US casualties. This very same Clinton told a crowd of Arab students that the Iraq war had been a mistake.
How in the hell would Clinton know?
Next, we get John Murtha, a Democratic Congresscritter from Pennsylvania, a Decorated War Hero® and war hawk who has decided to forget all the tactical training he ever received during his 37 years as a US Marine and military officer, and declared that we must immediately vacate Iraq, because – and this is his direct quote – “our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency.” He said this in a week where fewer than ten US soldiers and over a hundred Iraqis died at the hands of the “insurgents”; in a month where dozens of US soldiers and a few hundred Iraqis have died at the hands of the “insurgents”; in a year where a few hundred US soldiers and a couple thousand Iraqis died at the hands of the “insurgents”. Who is the primary target again?
John, dude, you’re either very bad at math, or very good at figuring out that your constituents want to hear you being very bad at math.
And finally, we get to everybody’s favorite punching bag, George Bush who, yet again, declared that we’re going to stay there until the Iraqis can do their own job of self-protection.
…so sell them helicopter gunships already, sell them the bombs and the bullets, help plan raids of Syrian border-area safe houses … and let the Iraqis handle it by themselves. If you constantly hold their hands, they’re never going to be able to take over. Once we stop holding their hands, we can leave. And then they can handle their own protection in the inimitable Arab manner: so brutally that it makes Abu Ghraib look like a church picnic. So brutally that it makes the ACLU’s worst nightmares of “secret CIA torture bases” look like a church picnic with rancid potato salad.
As always, everybody’s right, and everybody’s wrong. And as always, nobody’s honest enough to admit when he’s wrong and someone else is right. So I’ll do it for them.
Bill Clinton was right – scratch that… the little bird on Clinton’s shoulder was right about one of the fundamental failures of the post-war occupation policy implemented in Iraq. You don’t create a provisional government from the top down. You don’t create any government from the top down. You can’t create a government from the top down; you’ll get … Iraq … if you’re lucky. Governing is done from the bottom up. That’s the basics of democracy, that’s the basics of despotism. Face it, it’s Government 101. If there is no food and water in the neighborhoods, then there is no sustainable government. In today’s world, if there is no electricity and phone service on your street, then there is also no sustainable government.
US occupation policy was to remove from power the Saddam Hussein government, and all its bureaucratic tentacles. This meant removing the Baathist functionaries who ran and operated the water and phone and electric companies. This meant replacing them with non-Baathist Shi’a who were probably very earnest but also probably very incompetent. This meant that the Baathists were now unemployed, had nothing to occupy themselves, and had the time and motivation to become “insurgents”; it also meant that there was no water, electricity and phone service.
These meant that the US occupation started out, from an Iraqi-on-the-street perspective, as a greater privation than they had under Hussein. At least with Hussein they had phones and lights, even if someone on the block occasionally disappeared.
There’s a scene in the movie Patton, toward the end. The war is over, Patton is riding his horse around the arena, answering questions from reporters. One of them tells him, “General Marshall is wondering why you’ve employed the Nazis. Weren’t we just fighting the Nazis?” Patton replies, “You tell General Marshall that when he sends me 10,000 people to run their cities, I’ll fire the Nazis, but until then, the German people need water and electricity.”
Hmmmm. The … needs … of … the … people … you say? What a strange and interesting concept. So why didn’t we think of that?
Might I suggest the reason we didn’t think of that is because we were more intent on driving out of power anyone who was remotely associated with Saddam Hussein than we were in replacing him with something viable in the short term. Ergo, no Baathists need apply.
Idle hands … are the pan-islamist terrorist’s workshop. This needs to be a lesson for the Administration’s post-war/occupation planners. You created the groundwork for this part of the mess, or at least a significant portion of it. The time for culpability is now. Say it with me, State Department: “We should have hired the Baathists.”
Deep cleansing breath!
But don’t laugh too hard, Administration Critics. You’ve got your own mea culpas to swallow. Idle hands create terrorists. There is nothing in the world more time-tested and proven to busy up idle hands than capitalistic greed under a democratic, freedom-granting government. The Middle East is a terrorist breeding ground. Know why? The only capitalistic, democratic government of note in the area is Israel.
The long-term recipe for eliminating terrorism is a wealthy middle class. Middle classness is a result of capitalism – it grows nowhere else. Capitalism doesn’t work well under dictatorships or other forms of tyranny. Ergo …?
Ergo the Bush Administration was right. If we’re going to have a War Against Terrorism – and win it – then we need to do things that will ensure we win it, and not simply protract it. We would war against terrorism from now until doomsday if we did what the militarily deep thinking strategists of Michael Moore and Ward Churchill want us to do: respond only to those who have actually attacked us. In 1941, the Japanese Navy attacked us. Their Army was off limits… Furthermore, it was only a few hundred planes from a handful of aircraft carriers which attacked us, the rest of the Japanese Navy gets a pass… Rote, hyper-discerning response is a recipe for 1984-like perpetual war.
To win a war, you need to fight the fighters, and also the fighters’ support systems. Most critics of the War Against Terrorism as playing in Iraq only support fighting the fighters, and leaving the support systems alone, because it’s rude to hurt “innocents”. And thus we would be left with the landscape of an unwinable war. And who wants to fight that?
One of the first things a winnable War Against Terrorism needs to accomplish is not merely toppling the governments which support terrorism [like Hussein’s Iraq], but replacing them with democracies that create capitalistic wealth generation, so that its citizens will be too busy making money to make bombs with which to settle their political intrigues and millennia-old grudges. Rich people don’t revolt.
Yeah, I know, now the whimpers start filtering in: “But the leaders of these terrorist organizations are the children of the wealthy from the relatively prosperous Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The theory that capitalism stymies revolution is flawed.”
Pay very close attention to what you said, you naïve, superficial and simplistic weenies. The leaders of these movements are wealthy individuals – just like the leaders of our own Glorious Revolution in 1775 … and our current political parties, it should be noted. Wealthy individuals with hot heads in a democracy with greater or lesser freedoms are called Town Crackpots. They are the Privileged Dissenters who continually backbite whatever city council they happen to have, whatever county board, whatever school board, whatever state legislature. Once in a while, they create enough of a stink themselves, and get enough of a following to be elected to something. Nearly always they demonstrate their prime talent is only anklebiting and not solving the problem, whatever it may be. They’re quickly known for being the ex-councilman Mr Town Crackpot.
You take that same privileged anklebiter, and give him access to tens of thousands of disaffected rabble who work for pennies a day doing nothing, or who do nothing because there is no work to do, and who cannot begin to save pennies or educate themselves into even a dimes-a-day job, and you’ve got yourself the leader of a revolution. Couple that with a theology which, in its fundamentalist form, teaches the obliteration or subjugation of all else in the world, … Couple that with a culture that teaches this fundamentalist theology as a majority-held worldview, … Couple that with a built-in scapegoat of Western Crusaders – never mind that this scapegoating relies upon a dishonest reading of history, … What do we end up with?
Gosh. The Middle East. Who could ever have guessed?
Revolutions and mass movements are populated by the poor and uneducated; the affluent dissenters only lead them. Affluent dissenters with no poor, uneducated masses to follow them are the grouchy guys you laugh at when they get yet another Letter To The Editor printed.
But, Bush critics? Now’s the time to admit your own. You can say it, “Bush was right.”
There, now doesn’t being honest for once make you feel cleaner?
If you need to cleanse your palate, you can immediately follow it up with, “…but Bush was wrong about what to do to start an occupation…”. That’ll remove some of the partisan distaste, I’m sure.
And the distaste is purely partisan, too. Not only partisan, but circumstantially partisan. I’d strongly suggest that the current Bush Critic anklebiters are anklebiting current Iraq occupation policies because they are a Republican Administration creation, and not because they are fundamentally wrong, immoral or contrary to non-Republican values. I can say this for a few reasons: first, when Democrats controlled the nation’s trigger finger and spoke about Iraq, the Democrats sounded just like the Republicans did prior to the war; second, when Democrats controlled the nation’s trigger finger, the Democrats undertook foreign policies very similar to Iraq/2003 – in Iraq  and Serbia ; and third, when Democrats controlled the nation’s trigger finger, Democrats and other Bush critics – apart from a very scant handful of outright pacifists – didn’t complain one bit about the Democrats acting then just like Republicans are acting now.
Bush critics don’t want to seem two-faced, do they? Of course not. So the honest and decent thing to do is to admit it. “It’s what we would have done if we were in charge, but there were some mistakes and a few miscalculations – just like there were when we were in charge – and now we’re here, so what do we do next?”
Ahhh, maturity. So nice to finally hear from the Dums and Dummers, even if I did have to supply the words myself.
So what do we do?
Well, first, as I indicated before, cutting and running violates every rule in the tactical rulebook. Murtha’s plan is dead on arrival. …unless we want to relive Vietnam, that is. All this talk about “Bush’s Iraq is Johnson’s Vietnam” will only be true if we do in Iraq what we did in Vietnam. The US won the military engagements in both places; the US lost the political will in Vietnam. Hence, the US lost Vietnam.
We all need to understand that Murtha’s cynical political calculation is cynical, … and political, … and calculated. He doesn’t mean what he says. If he did, then either he’s not the military guy he’s claimed to be, or he’s suffering from some form of debilitating dementia. Let’s just settle on Murtha having a fit of Partisanheimer’s Syndrome and be done with it. He’s playing front-page politics for the folks back home.
Even Hillary Clinton, the Carpetbagger from NY, is astute enough to understand this tactical reality: you don’t cut-n-run. A power vacuum sucks in all kinds of dirt and debris, and in that part of the world most of the dirt is anti-American, and most of the debris pan-islamist.
Second, again, if we want to leave successfully then we can only do it after the Iraqi government can do for itself what we’re doing for it now. And they’re not going to be able to do what they need to do if we keep doing it for them. The Iraqis have thousands of their own soldiers and paramilitary – same as we have there. There are dozens of military operations in Iraq every month, large and small. Mostly small. How many do the Iraqis handle by themselves?
How many are they even 50-50 partners on?
Same number: none.
The official explanation is that “we’re waiting for the next election”. It’s great and noble and laudable and even touching that for the first time since Adam and Eve voted on which direction to flee Eden, this spot on the planet has been holding elections. But it seems that the process of democracy itself is gumming up the works, now. We’ve always waited on the next election. You don’t hold elections to determine whether or not the military should obliterate a safe-house for terrorists on the Syrian border; you order it to be done and just do it. And there’s no reason that the Iraqi military can’t start doing some of these by themselves.
Yes, right, the Administrations’ whines start pouring in. “But if they do it themselves and fail, then it will set back all their progress over the past two years…” Oh, yeah, golly. Somebody might fall over the first time they try to ride a bicycle without training wheels. So let’s never take the training wheels off, then. Izzat the solution? It’ll be too much of a set back to fall over? They might scrape their tiny widdow kneeeeees.
Scraped knees happen. It’s not going to change by leaving the apron strings on them another month or another year. We used our trigger finger – and validly. Maybe a little on the N-th degree side, but still validly. The Iraqis have triggers and they have fingers; they’re getting more fingers all the time, and we can sell them as many triggers as they can buy. Let them go. Push the little bird out of the nest and see if it can fly, already.
That way, when there’s legitimate torture of Iraqi “insurgents” in Iraq – and not the “torture-lite” of Abu Ghraib – it’ll be done by the Iraqis themselves using time-tested and Mullah-approved techniques. And we won’t be the ones having to suffer the tear-stained slings and wet-panty arrows of outrageous Hollywood fortune. Direct your ire to the people torturing the terrorists: the Arabs. Or, better yet, direct it at those responsible for there being terrorism in the Middle East: the terrorists.
Third, we must have a sound public expectation of foreign policy. Which brings us around to the dopes who believe what politicians tell them, … and then complain because they were lied to. “Bush lied, people died”.
Wow; pithy. You might wanna think of slapping that baby on a bumper sticker, sometime. You might turn a few bucks.
Here are a few unassailable facts:
1] Politicians play politics. It’s what they do; it’s who they are. Mr Smith doesn’t go to Washington. Ever. Unless it’s as a tourist. If a politician thinks he can get the public behind his policy by scaring the masses into believing that the Other Party is trying to kill old people by eliminating Social Security, then that’s pretty much what he’ll say. If another politician thinks he can get the public behind his war by scaring everyone into believing another nation is the Boogeyman and is going to FedEx anthrax to everyone with an odd-numbered street address, then that’s exactly what he’ll tell you. It’s not difficult to figure out. To say “Bush lied” is to add the grand sum of bupkus to human knowledge.
2] People die all the time because of governmental policy, even – and especially – policy which is not built on the premise of killing people. To say “people died” because of Bush’s policies is to multiple human knowledge by the factor of double-bupkus.
I might suggest that if Bush lied to you, that maybe the problem isn’t with Bush; it’s with you. Bush didn’t lie to me. I knew he was playing politics. There was a legitimate reason for having a war in Iraq, and then there was the politics of getting the unknowledgeable morons in the country to go along with it. The legitimate reason had virtually nothing to do with “pre-war intelligence”, outed CIA agents, their contrarian diplomat husbands, weapons of mass destruction being mass-mailed, airmailed or emailed to the American public, or anything of the sort.
For someone to claim that a politician lied to him, he is advertising himself to be a simpleton. It takes two people to conduct a lie. One person to say something knowingly false, and another person to believe him. If you believed Bush when Bush played politics, then you’re a dope. It’s no more complicated than that.
And it’s amazing to me the number of people who claim to be cynical of politics and politicians, who will turn right around in their next breath and declare, with the righteous piety of a Chautauqua preacher, that Bush lied!! It’s also amazing the number of people who are self-deceptive, gullible nitwits. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that both groups of people are the same people.
When a fact cannot be confirmed outside the realm of politics, then it is politics and not fact. Facts can sometimes originate within politics, and by politicians. But if the politician’s claims cannot be independently confirmed, then … if you believe the politician, you’re an idiot.
Weapons of mass destruction? Possible, even plausible, but unconfirmed. Iraq violated the cease-fire? Independently verifiable by anyone who had a] followed the news, and b] read the cease-fire document.
So what was the reason for Iraq/2003 again?
And then what was the political rationale?
These questions have two separate and distinct answers.
The people who cite political rationale as reality are the ones who make illusionists like David Copperfield very rich men. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and you will forever be the same some of the people Lincoln famously described.
…which leads to perhaps the biggest problem with the American public. I am extremely critical of Europe and Europeans, for their smugness and self-righteous arrogance which is, particularly lately, unsupportable. It’s one thing to be smug and arrogant when you’re the best at something; it’s completely laughable to be smug and arrogant when you haven’t been the best at anything meaningful in generations. That’d be Europe. And especially France.
But Europeans are sometimes right about things. One of the things Europeans are right about is one of their biggest criticisms of America and Americans. Europeans think Americans are unknowledgeable, impatient and self-centered, particularly as it relates to international issues.
Waddaya know? They’re right. For the most part, Americans are unknowledgeable. How else would you explain the great oozing gobs of high school and college graduates who can’t even place the United States on a world map, or give a basic outline to the course of Middle Eastern history – that we see repeating itself today?
For the most part, Americans are impatient. How else would you explain the desire of the majority of Americans to have the war and occupation of Iraq be a microwave meal? Pop it in the microwave, nuke it on high for 45 seconds, and out pops piping hot peace, stability and democracy. Mmmmm, good.
For the most part, Americans are self-centered. How else would you explain American indifference to two generations of escalating pan-islamist extremism in Europe? It was only after that extremism touched the US that Americans decided it was troubling.
Of course, most of these criticisms go both ways: Europeans have acquired ignorance and impatience – possibly as a US export. But they are correct, for the most part.
Historical ignorance is inexcusable as far as I’m concerned. There are people and political philosophies in the world who are literally out to kill everyone in their way. And the US isn’t one of them; the US wants to make a peaceful and prosperous customer base. Peaceful and prosperous customers have the only color and creed that is important to America: green cash. Anything else is irrelevant.
Impatience is fatal. Anyone can wreck any policy overnight and make it a failure; making a policy succeed takes time – and always more time than the general public is willing to grant. If you can’t be patient, then it’d be far better to be strictly self-centered. At least that way you’re a money-grubbing workaholic paying taxes. You won’t have the time to pester our foreign affairs people with unknowledgeable demands that twenty years of foreign policy be started and concluded before the next election.
But stifling our fatal affair with impatience does not mean that our foreign policy can afford to be stuck in neutral. Being in Iraq for the next two years or five years or ten years is not the issue as much as getting Iraq more involved in the process of protecting Iraq. More involved.
Iraq doesn’t have the capability to undertake military operations on its own? That’s correct, they don’t. And they won’t until they undertake one. The very moment they do their own military operation, regardless if they succeed or fail, they will have the ability to undertake their own operations. With more practice, they will learn to succeed. With more success, they will be more independent, and we will be closer to the door.
The door is our goal at this point.
 Answer: anybody who’s been paying attention.
 Don’t laugh; Alabama once tried passing a state law to declare pi [π] = 3. The thinking – if one could be so presumptuous as to call it that – was that 3.14159etc was too difficult for elementary school students.
 …unless it’s the other way around
 The critical report was The Moynihan Report, and the critical – and surprisingly honest – Democrat who investigated was Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Hence the name of the report.
 He has speechwriters, and he’s coached is how.
 about something
 about something else
 Or something close to that. I’m going from memory. Rent the movie and find out for yourself.
 And Patton was fired as commander of the occupation forces in Bavaria, because he wasn’t singing from the same song in the “denazification” hymnal.
 etcetera; read Klauswitz.
 In great gobs of unfiltered irony, Ward Churchill’s notorious magnum dopus calls 9-11 a legitimate attack by “combat teams”, “soldiers, really” when they killed upwards of 3,000 accountants and stock brokers and lawyers, who he claimed were not innocent of the evils perpetrated “upon their people” by US politicians. So who is truly innocent?
 and thus commit churchillian [as in Ward, not Winston] war by “braying into cell phones”
 Again: anyone who has been paying attention.
 she has bright little birds on her shoulder chirping into her ear as well
 who would have been fired post haste from any other administration
 Iraq had boatloads right up until the UN stopped finding them in 1998 – when Iraq booted the UN out of the country
knock yourself out.
 they’ve always been self-centered themselves
 …in case there are any third world apologists wetting their panties over this