Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Abort This

Abort This
© 2006 Ross Williams

I just don't get all the ruckus over abortion. What's there to wrangle about? We're a democracy, and the vast majority of Americans want to have legal abortion. You'd think that would settle it, wouldn't you?

It doesn't. For some reason it only inflames the issue. You see, about 15% of Americans want to have no abortions allowed at all. Normally, this would be the statistical noise of Majority Rule, but abortion is not a normal issue. It's special. If the subject were anything else, say, whether to plant a memorial apple tree for John Chapman [Johnny Appleseed] and it was 85% pro to 15% con, it would be a case-closed situation. The 15% would be roundly ignored and any disagreements among the 85% on the variety of apple tree to plant would be settled discreetly and politely. What we would not see is public name-calling and immature rants by the Granny Smith crowd toward the Red Delicious gang and back again.

But again, a memorial apple tree is a normal issue, and abortion is special.

After watching it from the middle for the past generation, I've concluded that abortion is not a normal issue because its major activists – pro and con – are not normal people. They've both been breathing the heady, dank, chemically-laden air around their basement mimeograph machine, on which they've both been churning out opposing polemics since the early seventies. They're loopy; they're stoned. They're off their gourd with fume-induced paranoid delusions of conspiracy against them.

Time to come up for air, folks, and clear your heads. The monsters under your bed will disappear once your tox-levels drop.

Two-thirds of the American people want to have legal abortion, but they don't want all abortions to be legal. This is a sound, valid, normal, typical, have-your-cake-and-eat-it democratic solution to any society's social predicaments. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, both sides covered, the majority’s happy… and in a democracy that’s the important thing. We see it every day in thousands of ways in America. We want to have free speech and press, but most of us don't want to see slander and libel and easily-amused fools shouting "FIRE" in the crowded theater. And we don't seem to have a problem reconciling free speech with reasonable limitations.

When two-thirds of Americans, though, say that legal abortion doesn't need to include, for instance, last-trimester abortions for "choice", the roughly 15% who want no limits on abortion whatsoever start screaming. And it literally is screaming.

The demographic breakdowns are roughly as follows:
One of six want legal abortions with no restrictions;
Four of six want legal abortions with certain restrictions;
One of six want no abortions at all.

Of course, the two-thirds in the middle have somewhat differing notions of what restrictions should be in place; that's always going to be the case no matter the subject. While most of us want free speech without slander, not all of us are going to agree on the same definition of slander. "President Bush is a great big poopy head" would be fine for most, while there is likely to be a sizable contingent who would say "Presi-chimp Bush is a nazi fascist pig" crosses the line.

On the main theme of the issue, though, all parties agree without the name-calling and screaming. Or ... well ... maybe using Bush wasn't a good example, but unless you're trying to play stupid, you get the point.

And I suddenly question whether or not the simile was worthwhile at all, since I've discussed this subject repeatedly with the one-sixth advocates on both sides over the last decade-plus, and they cannot grasp this point. I firmly believe they are the guy in the lab coat we used to see in commercials: "Hi. I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV..."

The issue-advocates I've discussed this with have a very un-subtle subtext running through their screed: "Hi, I'm not stupid, but I play stupid on abortion..."

It's very easy to dismiss the one-sixth of us who do not want to have any abortion at all under any circumstances as yet another incarnation of the dour, pious moralizers who seek to control everything and everyone as a testament to their close proximity with All That Is Holy. They claim abortion is murder. Yet it's the only case of murder where there was no person beforehand.

"Life begins at conception!!" is the top-of-the-lungs rebuttal. Fine; then you'll be able to point me at the law which says so...

"It's god's law!!" is the next high-volume retort. And again, that's fine; but if it's god's law, then we should really let god enforce it. The US is only authorized to enforce US laws, and "life begins at conception" ain't one of them. Nor is it likely to be, what with only about 15% of us wanting it that way.

It's usually at this point that I've been sentenced to hell by various of god's proxy Judge Nots. And if I cared, I'd probably be upset. But I'm of the opinion that if god's thoughts on murder had included abortion in the first place, the Omniscient One would have scribbled that as at least a footnote on the stone tablet – even if Moses didn't understand what it meant. Yet he didn't. But he did have his Only Begotten tell us to not bother about judging others ... so I feel fairly safe insofar as eternity is concerned – to the degree I’m actually concerned – whereas some of the folks I've discussed this with might oughta hit the confessional a bit harder. And more introspectively, as well.

The Only Begotten also advised rendering unto Caesar, which sorta implies leaving legal matters to the legal authorities. I’m open to definitive correction if god is willing to advise me, of course, but I don’t recall it being the duty of the religious to forcibly ensure that all fellow citizens be qualified for entry into heaven; free will and all. We seem to have endured some of that forcible salvation already, with unfavorable results. If some of us are willing to risk hell for abortion, well, no one else is under any obligation to follow suit. So butt out. Practice your religion on yourself. Thanks.

Proving that self-righteousness doesn't belong merely to the pious, or imperiousness to the baldly manipulative, the one-sixth who want no restrictions on abortion at all are waging their own earth scorching war.

Once again, it's not safe to be a centrist; being moderate means being a target. You can't say "well, yeah, let's keep legal abortions, but since most people think an abortion without medical necessity at 8-1/2 months is not a good thing, we can probably do without that one."

Know what happens when you say that? Why, why, why ... you become the American Taliban! You would only say that late-term abortions should be prohibited if you secretly seek to keep women barefoot, pregnant, cooking, cleaning, at your beck and call, and quite possibly wrapped in linen! First deny late term abortion, then goodbye women's suffrage, then hello sex-slaves! Crypto-fascist!! You are denying women their choice!!!

Pah! Hardly. "Choice" isn't open-ended in anything else; why such pregnancy-termination be any different? People who say "legal abortion yes, late-term abortion no" are saying nothing more sinister than “make your choice a little sooner”. C'mon, toots, step on it. The gas is on the right. Move it or lose it. You snooze you lose. You ain't got all pregnancy to make up your mind.

Saying "speed up your choice" is not the same as saying "no choice at all", but the one-sixth ideologues who equivocate the two are not honest enough to acknowledge that.

The ones saying "no choice at all" are the one-sixth equal-n-opposite ideologues. The two-thirds in the middle have no problem agreeing with both – just not necessarily at the same time. And the two-thirds in the middle do not like being told what they believe by the self-righteous all-or-nothing simpletons on both ends.

The next trick both sides play on those in the middle is to deny that the middle exists. Some may have noticed that I haven't footnoted, as I normally might, with polling results showing the approximate breakdowns in the demographics. Those in the middle intuitively know it anyway, while the advocates on both sides are fully aware of the statistics already. Indeed, each time a new survey comes out they usually beat it to the press with their version of "what the survey means".

Both sides do it. Here's how it works.

There's an entire survey, multiple questions, on how an individual feels about abortion. Taken in its entirety, it shows the 1/6 - 2/3 - 1/6 breakdown – classic bell curve. But each side will select out certain questions as being "the most important" and which therefore “typify the results”. The "no abortions at all" side will select out "how do you feel about abortion in the last month without a medical purpose" for example. Most people – sometimes well over 80% – are against such abortions. Because this specific result is in line with the “no abortions at all” position, well! it just proves that 80% of the nation agrees with "no abortions" on everything else!

Um ... no it doesn't.

Then the "all abortions always" side will select out "how do you feel about abortion for an adult woman in the first trimester" – to which usually around 80% are in favor – and they tell everyone that the vast majority of the nation agrees with abortion on demand.

Um ... no it doesn't.

Frighteningly, because each of the one-sixth demagogues rely on public support and donations to survive and print up their ridiculous tracts, they will both play the opposite “non-existent middle” game in all their Give Us Money campaigns. The “no abortions ever” group will use slanted results showing the majority which wants most abortions to be legal to show that the forces of evil are at work on the American electorate, send money now to help get the word out. Likewise, the “all abortions always” cabal will use the dishonest parsing that shows the majority which doesn’t like late-term abortion to indicate that abortion rights are being “imperiled as never before” and send money now to educate the country away from this medieval mentality.

And when someone from the two-thirds middle reminds the one-sixth freaks on either end of all this...? why, the folks in the middle are shouted down. Into submission or silence – the modern American version of the islamofascist's "convert or die" dichotomy.

See, both our one-sixth ideologues have years of practice at shouting about this subject; they've been at it since 1973 and have all the throat lozenges and everything, not to mention ... it's their issue! The ones in the middle have a life apart from slim issue-oriented politics, and they don't have the desire or the energy to go vocal chord to vocal chord with the narrow-minded ideologue.

Which explains why a combined one-third of our nation has been driving the abortion discussion away from the majority for well over a generation. It's obvious that the issue isn't going to be driven anywhere conclusive soon with the current navigators, so let me drive for a while.

Among the limitations seen as reasonable by the two-thirds in the middle are these:
1] No late-term abortion for choice. That's just icky to most people. Those in the middle don't have any problem at all with late-term abortion for medical necessity, which is thankfully a fairly rare occurrence – for everyone involved, for all kinds of reasons. And if we are to believe the "all abortions always" crowd, the instance of late-term abortion for choice is even rarer than that. So the problem with prohibiting them is ...?

2] Parental notification for a minor's abortion. This is just plain common sense to most people. Parental consent would be even better. A 14 year old girl cannot even get her ears pierced without a parent consenting, why should she be able to get invasive surgery without at least notifying her parents?

The "all abortions always" gang has a few pat answers to this question.

First, they claim that the girl is "often afraid" of her parents' reaction, yet no quantification of such fear is provided apart from 1950's anecdotal secrecy and shame and running the girls off to 'their aunt' for a year. Which means that current policy against parental notification laws is being irrationally guided by a social reality two or more generations out of date. From this we are supposed to conclude that their position is reasonable? the policy that admits to not being able to use a calendar? the argument stuck at least fifty years in the past?

Second, they claim "choice" and "bodily autonomy" that cannot be denied simply because of age. Yet we deny choice over bodily autonomy because of age all over the place. Apart from the pierced ear deal, a 14 year old cannot get cosmetic surgery without parental consent. But isn't it still the 14 year old's body, the 14 year old's choice? Uh ... yes it is. The 14 year old cannot get a tattoo without a parent's consent. The 14 year old cannot quit school even with parental consent. Nor can the 14 year old go to work full time. The 14 year old is considered – with good reason – to not be mature enough to make these decisions. What is so special about abortion that it should be granted the lone exemption from reality?

Third, they claim "privacy"; we should grant the minor girl the respect she deserves to make this difficult choice herself in "privacy". But ... um ... why is the choice so difficult it it’s “just a mass of cells” as we are so often told? It's not because the choice is to kill a living being is it? because that would be painfully similar to the piety of the dingbats on the other side of the issue. The Manchurian Abortion. Besides, isn't the 14 year-old's cosmetic surgery a privacy issue as well? the tattoo? quitting school? getting a job? These are all difficult decisions; shouldn't they also be granted to the 14 year old with the privacy to make unilaterally?

Or will the "all abortions always" mob continue to talk out of whichever side of their mouth gets them what they want and democratic philosophy be damned?

The reason this comes up now is because my state – Illinois – seems to have passed a law eleven years ago that was never enforced. It was preemptively "estopped", or something, by a federal court. Completely flew by me which makes sense, because this is not my issue. The law mandated that minor girls who want an abortion notify their parents. Not get their parents' consent mind you, simply notify them.

"Mom, Dad, I've got a honkin' beak, so I'm going to get a nose job..." Nope, sorry, need permission; notification doesn't cut it.

"Mom, Dad, I'm not as phat as the other kids, so I'm going to get a tattoo on my ass..." Sorry, still need permission.

"Mom, Dad, I'm pregnant, so I'm going to get an abortion..." This is fine, because abortion is not a normal issue. It is special.

But even this degree of specialness isn't special enough for the ideological freaks. The law was stopped before it started, because somebody might – boo hoo – be unfairly impacted by it. Somebody other than parents privately trying to raise their children themselves, that is. Parents apparently don't count, and their rights to privacy from state intrusion into their business is not a protectable concern. However, some 14 year old girl might feel uncomfortable telling her parents, and so the federal judge told Illinois, "You can't enforce this law without certain rules in place first."

...which brings up a question. Isn't the job of the courts to rule on issues arising after enforcement? and not what might occur in future enforcement? How did this ever get into a courtroom in the first place without the judge saying "Come back when someone's actually affected"?

So for eleven years, the state of Illinois did nothing about it – which again completely escaped my attention, since this isn't my issue. Illinois did nothing about it until just a few weeks ago when the Illinois Supreme Court undertook to finally write the enforcement rules for the law. Two days ago the Illinois Supreme Court announced that the rules would be coming out fairly soon, and yesterday the Illinois Supreme Court issued those rules.

...which brings up another question. Whatever happened to "separation of powers"? Isn't the legislature supposed to be writing the rules? the legislature we elect to write the rules we want to have? What is the state court system doing amending the enforceable wording of the legislature’s law? besides altering legislative intent?

Of course, the one-sixth "all abortions always" ideologues are now claiming – screaming – that the Illinois Supreme Court has just written the enforcement rules for the parental notification law for political reasons. Uh huh; and Illinois sat on it for eleven years doing nothing about it at all for political reasons as well. Chances are real good, close to 100% in fact, that when one ideologue accuses another of playing politics it's because his own political gamesmanship has just been discovered. So the "you only did this for political reasons" whine is irrelevant noise.

Here’s the thing. Both of you one-sixth ideologues listen up: We. Are. A. Democracy. The majority gets to have their political will enacted on social issues like these. Our form of government is built around that concept. We are not your ideological fiefdom in which the minority gets to set the rules for all and to hell with what they think.

Parental notification does not mean “no choice” and saying it does means you’re lying.

Having personal moral qualms does not imbue those personal feelings with supernatural or spiritual importance that overrides our laws and majority rule.

You’ve wasted enough of our nation’s time and energy on this subject. You’ve dominated the discussion, you’ve domineered everyone around with your self-righteous piety – both religious and secular, and you’ve had your say and everyone else’s too … and then some. It’s time for you to sit down and shut up. Let democracy work.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

As if On Cue

As if On Cue…
© 2006 Ross Williams

Just about a year ago, a Danish newspaper commissioned Danish cartoonists to depict the prophet Mohammed to test the theory that western liberal freedoms were cowering under threats from islamist – um – fascism. So twelve cartoons were printed, a few of which depicted islam as an inherently violent religion, and muslims in most of the world responded by saying “IT IS A LIE!! ISLAM IS NOT VIOLENT!! WE ARE A RELIGION OF PEACE!! RENOUNCE YOUR LIES OR WE WILL KILL YOU!!”

To be fair, muslims in the US and Canuckia responded mostly by writing the same type of letters to the editor as every other North American writes: “oh, golly, it’s just so unfair…!” Dry your tears, Hassan; we’re glad to see you assimilating.

Well, earlier this week, Pope Benedict – and contrary to popular belief, the German Pope has not issued an edict to place a 200-watt light bulb above the chair in the confessional, or leave short lengths of rubber hose lying about – Pope Benedict gave a speech to some catholics at the University of Regensburg in which he recited some statements from a Byzantine emperor of the 14th century.

Benedict was talking about inter-religion intolerance. How christianity and islam have been rude to each other for centuries. And he quoted the rude statements of Emperor Paleologus to show how long christianity has been rude to islam. Paleologus said "God is not pleased by blood -- and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature."

Paleologus followed that with "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

This is rude. It as much as declares islam to be an inherently violent religion … which we know is not the case. Mass uprisings over cartoons which call for random murder doesn’t typify their religion any more than planes hijacked by muslims to destroy the world’s tallest building in the name of islam being cheered by hundreds of millions of muslims in their mosques.

No; simply because most of the world’s muslims celebrate the violent attacks on western civilization made in the name of islam doesn’t mean that they or their religion supports such violence. How could we ever have drawn that inference?

Silly us.

So when Benedict said, essentially, “We’re rude to islam, and we’ve been rude since at least the 14th century when the Byzantine emperor said … even though the Koran says ‘no force in matters of faith’ … ”, a reasonable person would expect the islamic world to say “Damn straight! Thanks, Pope, for admitting that christianity has been rude to islam!”


Oh, but I said “reasonable person”. And that doesn’t seem to include many muslims. For when the Pope said in a speech that christianity is rude to islam, demonstrations and protests erupted in muslim parts of the world denouncing the Pope, demanding apologies and calling his statements a lie.

…pretty much on cue, if The Danish Dozen are anything to go by. Pakistan has already passed a law about it.

Whether the Pope apologizes or not, riots are next, a few random lootings and razings, a bomb or three, a few people will get killed, and in some months one-point-five billion muslims will, in unison, take a deep breath and dig their wadded undies out of the crack of their ass.

This will only serve to remind us, yet again, that islam is not the violent religion that the bigoted twerps who see only the riots and bombs and the mass cheerings for riots and bombs believe it to be. …and that the Pope said we shouldn’t be thinking it is.

Darn that islam-apologist Pope Benedict Allah, anyhow!

So in the interest of world peace and quiet – particularly quiet – and though I am not catholic and think catholicism and catholics are patently silly, I hereby apologize on behalf of the Pope and retract his statements for him:

Christianity has not been rude to islam down through the centuries.

It is not inappropriate to describe as violent a religion which preaches expedient violence in contradiction of [part of] its scripture.

We do not need to learn to get along with islam if the world is to become a peaceful place.


I hope – but am not counting on – that this is sufficient to halt the burgeoning self-righteous indignation currently welling up in the muslim-dominated parts of the globe. …again. I also hope – but am also not counting on – American and Canuckian muslims who read the Pope’s statements will have the comprehension abilities of at least a high school graduate before they write their inevitable letters to the editor to protest the unfairness of it all.

When Serendipity Knocks

When Serendipity Knocks
© 2006 Ross Williams

Being right for the wrong reasons doesn't make you smart; it makes you dumb and lucky. That sums up the loyal opposition's common position on Iraq: vacate the premises.

Holding foursquare to a plan that is working ... kinda ... while reality is changing all around is blockheaded. That sums up the administration's position on Iraq: stay the course.

I'm going to be siding mostly with the Democrats now, but for reasons which will annoy most of them who might actually read the details: Iraq is two fries short of a civil war, and we'd be stupid to stick around while they fight it. No democracy creation is worth the time and effort involved in interfering in someone else’s domestic squabbles. It can wait.

If all things were equal, then deposing a Hussein government which violated the cease fire on a daily basis – hell, on an hourly basis – and replacing it with a democracy is a sound long-term goal. Using war to do it, even a conquest that requires occupation, is a sound if heavy-handed means of achieving it.

But all things were not equal, and many plans for long-term goals reach short-term impasses. I personally haven't seen a long-term plan that hasn't been massively edited yet. Doesn't mean that the plan was faulty, or the people creating the plan stupid ... although that is what the bulk of our nation's Democrats have been and will be saying about the Bush administration. I shouldn’t need to point out that the Democrats haven't created a long-term plan themselves that hasn't been massively edited either, and in the case of Iraq they don't have a long-term plan at all apart from playing National Gainsayer.

Indeed, from listening to many blue-mooded voters on the Democratic Street, the long-term plan for Iraq is comprised of hopping in the Wayback Machine, returning to the summer of 2002, and altering the debate leading up to the initial invasion in the first place. For every time someone brings up the pesky, pesky question “what do you propose we do now?” some administration critic chimes in with “we shouldn’t have been there at all” which is dutifully met with the Democrats’ secular version of the “Amen Brother!” chorus.

Those individuals who can be pressured into staying fixed in the present rather than jumping around time like an H G Wells character will say that because we shouldn’t have gone in at all, the best solution now is to just leave. …as if turning our backs, tiptoeing away and whistling nonchalantly will fake out the rest of the planet. “Ha! You thought we were involved in a war in Iraq, dincha?”

Yeah. That’ll fool ‘em, alright.

The plan to depose Hussein, throw democracy at Iraq and hope its sticks is a viable long-term goal, and is still on the table. But you don’t change a society’s entire cultural outlook overnight; it’ll be at least a generation before we see a meaningful democracy in the Cradle of Civilization. They’ve got 5,000 years of dictatorial bad habits to shed. These things take time. So while idealistic, the US plan was not, and is not, foolish.

But holding to that plan, as written, can be foolish if the path of the current plan is effectively blocked. We’re supposed to be fomenting democracy and cooperation between the tripartite factions within Iraq. And it seems to be working – if you look at Iraq with one eye closed, stand far enough back, and hold your hands just so. The same way a teenager with bad skin looks in the mirror.

The southern portion of Iraq is largely peaceful. But then the southern portion of Iraq is almost entirely comprised of Shi’a who are relieved to be rid of the Sunni, baathist Hussein. The northern portion of Iraq is mostly peaceful. But then the northern portion of Iraq is populated by ethnic Kurds who, while Sunni, had committed the unpardonable sin of not being Arab in a nation ruled by the racist Arab Hussein. The Kurds are also relieved to be rid of him. The western portion of Iraq is largely peaceful. But then the western portion of Iraq is largely composed of sand and rock and hovels built in the middle of nowhere which house pro-baathist revolutionaries coming from Syria which – shhhhhh – nobody is supposed to notice. See, the notion of turning around, tiptoeing away and whistling nonchalantly wasn’t invented by silly American political neophytes. It’s as old as the hills, and is a common diplomatic gambit.

Syria isn’t supplying pro-baathist forces in Iraq, wink wink. No, really, they aren’t, nudge nudge. And as soon as Assad uncrosses his fingers, he’ll sign a treaty saying so.

Which will greatly relieve and satisfy the silly American political neophytes, some of whom hold elected office – and have for years. After all, only Republicans lie for political reasons. Wink wink.

The impediment in the administration’s plans for Iraq lie in Iraq’s natural factionalism. Time was, Iraq was the foundation of Babylon. A unitary ethnic and [pagan] religious people, who did their best to conquer as many surrounding tribes as possible. It worked for a while, but then they were conquered, in turn, by the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans; the Byzantines [the eastern Greek half of the Roman Empire] inherited it back from Rome, then the Arabs consolidated under islam, swept out and into central Asia, then the Turks swept back from Asia and held it for a millennium; then after World War One ended with the Ottomans being voted out of existence by a Europe bored with them, the British inherited it. French and British post-colonial meddlers then started drawing random lines on a world map and calling the lines national boundaries, and naming random tribal leaders within those borders King. That’s how Iraq was created. It has no modern identity other than what was pronounced upon it by bureaucrats in the British Foreign Office. It is a hodge-podge. I’ve seen things more coherent than Iraqi demographics barfed up by my dogs.

Most of Iraq is mostly quiet and peaceful. It’s only where those mostly peaceful parts meet in the middle that it’s mostly not peaceful. Unfortunately, the peaceful parts meet in the middle where most of the people live; it’s where Kurd meets Arab, and Sunni meets Shi’a. The belief is that he who controls this middle controls Iraq. This belief is not without merit; smack dab in this middle is their capital: Baghdad.

Almost four years ago, the US outraged the sensitive and peace-at-all-costs free world by invading Iraq. “Foster democracy” the US said. “Can’t impose democracy,” the world shouted back; “you’ll only create islamic hatred of the US.” “We’ve already got islamic hatred of the US, so what’s there to lose,” the US responded. “Mark my words: you’ll see!” the world prophesied.

And we have seen. It wasn’t a year later that the islamic hatred of the US, which sought to pick off American soldiers in Iraq like ducks in a carnival shooting gallery, switched from mainly targeting American soldiers to mainly targeting the Iraqi assistants to the American soldiers. “If we can punish Iraqis for helping the Americans, we can single out the Americans” seemed to be the rationale.

It wasn’t another year before the islamic hatred of the US manifested itself in free-for-all warfare. “If we can create a jumbled mess, then maybe we’ll kill American soldiers by accident” seemed to be their thinking.

Yes; we see. We see that the predictions of both sides failed to materialize.

It wasn’t only the sensitive West we outraged by invading Iraq. We outraged many islamic nations as well. And yet… two of those islamic nations – Syria and Iran, not to name names – were quick to pounce on a Hussein-less Iraq as an opportunity for furthering their own self-interest. While publicly wailing and bitterly denouncing the US, privately they rubbed their hands in glee.

With Hussein in charge of Iraq – baathist, Sunni Hussein – the baathist, Sunni Assad of Syria was second banana. With Hussein gone, Assad has visions of Assyrian Empire dancing in his head.

With Hussein in charge of Iraq, Iran was on the defensive. They’d fought a ten-year war to a draw. With Hussein gone and a virtual power vacuum in his place, Iran sees a chance to breathe life back into the Persian Empire which has been missing for lo these many centuries.

Syria is – shhhhhh – funneling weapons and guerillas into Iraq ostensibly to fight US occupation, but even a cursory glance through the newspaper shows quite clearly that the primary target for Syrian-backed Sunni-baathist insurgents is Iraq’s own Shi’a population.

Similarly, Iran is – shhhhhh – funneling weapons and guerillas into Iraq also ostensibly to fight US occupation, but the same cursory glance through the newspapers shows equally clearly that the primary target for Iranian-backed Shi’a militias is Iraq’s own Sunni-baathist population.

American soldiers who die in Iraq today are the true innocent bystanders to the real war in Iraq.

This notion isn’t going to sit well with huge wads of people, including those I’m going to agree with for better reasons than they have the ability to conjure up. Here we sit, having held a war in a foreign country, having been occupying that country for the nearly four years since, and when our soldiers die they’re the innocent victims?

What can I say? When you rudely crash someone else’s wedding reception, and the other guests get into an argument about whose side of the dining room you sit on, and get into a food fight between the two families, by and large leaving you out of it … you having crashed the party becomes the secondary squabble. And when you get hit in the face by a plate full of crackers and cheese, you’re the victim of their food fight.

So yes, we’re now the innocent victims of Iraqi violence in Iraq. Even though we caused the conditions that led to their current civil war. That’s the way it works sometimes.

There are several things going on all at once here. First and foremost, the US isn’t about to stay in Iraq. This flies in the face of America’s X-Files freaks, who see a nefarious government plot under every slimy rock, and a PNAC Republican in every board room. But keep this in mind: Republican wars of the past generation that were completed – Grenada and Panama – have no occupation forces; Democratic wars of the past generation that were completed – Kosovo – we’re still there. Do the math.

No, if America wants something, we’d prefer to buy it, even – and especially – other people’s oil. That way, if we don’t like the product, or the people who make it, we can shop elsewhere. If we own the product, or the people who make it, we have to fix it. And we’ve got repair problems of our own, thankyouverymuch.

Syria and Iran both know what silly American political neophyte conspiracists don’t: the US isn’t going to stay in Iraq any longer than we have to. They both squawk the obligatory pitiful, whining complaints of US imperialism, dredging up ghostly shadows of the Crusades that Ottoman imperialism created in the first place, but they know that the US isn’t a conquer-n-keep nation. Knowing this, they have spent the hours after the fall of the Hussein regime planning to use the circumstances to increase their own power and prestige.

Personally, I’d give the better odds to Iran, which is flush with oil revenue. Syria hasn’t got so much as a grease-stain to call their own. Even so, the two are vying to form a post-occupation – hell, even a mid-occupation – Iraq into their own satellite state. Bronze-age empires come to life in the twenty-first century!

Straight out of the Hollywood the pan-islamists love to hate.

Left to their own devices, making all things equal, both the Shiite Persians and the Sunni Assyrians would both clamor to take down the Big, Bad Great Satan US, and they’d cooperate with each other while they do so – as they cooperated this past summer on a coordinated Hamas-Hezbollah war against Israel. And scads of silly American political neophytes would all weep their crocodile tears about how it would all be our own fault for being better at national self-interest than anyone else, boo hoo.

But Syria and Iran aren’t left to their own devices, and all things are not equal. They have their own egos to deal with, for one thing. And those egos are whispering prideful things into their ears: “build the old Empire… build the old Empire…”. In both cases, Babylon was part of their old Empire.

Much of History is not the result of planned events. It is the result of serendipity, making use of plain old dumb luck. The US had planned to topple Hussein, replace him with a democratic government that would be able to parlay their domestic oil wealth into jobs for all, and Iraqis would be too busy making money to get bogged down in more politics than could be displayed on the op-ed page. Y’know, like America generally is. Rich people don’t revolt.

And that will likely be the ultimate result for Iraq. …eventually. But in trying to get there, we’ve hit the roadblock of competing insurgencies who have created what looks, acts, sounds and bleeds just like a civil war. If we’re smart, we can come out ahead in this. In other words, we tripped and landed on a feather bed. We dropped the egg and it fell into an omelet pan filled with cheese and ham. We lucked out.

Sorry to be the lone RealPolitik pragmatist in a national dialog of competing fantasies here, but if we don’t take this opportunity to let two groups of people who both hate us to fight amongst themselves – hopefully to the death of at least one, and without our involvement or presence – then we’re stupid.

Put away the idealism of creating a democracy in Iraq today; it ain’t gonna happen. Maybe in ten, twenty, fifty years. Today? they don’t want one. They prefer to kill each other. Let them.

Put away the competing fantasy of blaming America first for [sob sob blubber] daring to operate out of self-interest. If we didn’t we wouldn’t exist in the first place, and if we don’t continue to we won’t exist for long.

The lion’s share of Democrats are saying that we should leave Iraq – Democrats holding elected office, those who shape their party’s politics, and the vast majority of those ignoramuses who mopily wander the streets vowing an electoral takeover come next election. They are right. For once. They are like the stopped clock because they have become right by not changing their tune according to the wildly shifting circumstances – which is how the wise and intelligent are right – but they are right nonetheless.

We need to leave Iraq. Not because we shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and not because the Iraqi people don’t want us there, and not because a handful of American soldiers have gotten killed. But because the muslim extremists who have sworn to kill us are currently more interested in killing each other. They need to proceed apace.

Pan-islamism is the political theory that the world is to be ruled by islam. It is their eschatology, written into their scripture. It has existed under one name or another for almost 1,400 years.

There are many people preaching this political theory, and not all of them like each other. The one thing they have in common is that they hate The West in general and the US in particular. And as long as they remain focused on that, it’s what they’ll do: attack the west in general and the US – or Israel, what they virtually believe to be the 51st state of the union – in particular.

But they don’t stay focused for very long. When they lose focus we have to take advantage, and damn the pride which won’t let go of an idealistic plan to recreate five millennia of dictatorships as democracy during a single [or double] presidential term; and to hell with the faux-enlightened group hug harmony being preached from behind Blackberrys and Gameboys during commercials breaks in “American Idol”. America’s job is to serve America, not the theoretical good of the world.

In the anti-American pan-islamism which has dozens of groups and individuals claiming to speak for it, anytime two of them square off against each other, the only one who can win is us. If we allow it.