Concerning Moral Hazards: casting my eye about, here is what I see.
Essentially I want to talk about the war in Iraq. What’s going on there? What’s going on here?
But, you tell me: the war is so successful it’s off the front pages. Now we are engaged in the important business of shopping, and plasmaTVs, and 5.30 am doors open at Macys. Now we are consumed with being first on Black Friday. (As Rudy Giuliani told us on 9.11 –Shop and Grieve.)
For we are a shopping people, and we want our STUFF.
Back to the War in Iraq. What War in Iraq?
OK. Let’s get serious for a moment.
There is no Iraq: there are no Iraqis!
I’ve been making this point for some time now, and repeat it here. And try to explain myself a little better, and why I believe it essential to understanding what is happening in our current costly, inept, and shameful war. (A war that more and more of us are being silent about. They say that in America we only like successful wars.)
Q. No Iraq, you say? But there it is, on the map…right next to Iran, and Jordan, and…
A. That, you might say, is part of the problem: look at those borders, especially at those straight lines. You might ask: when were these lines drawn, by whom, and for what reason?
In 1922, when the Brits were presiding over the demise of the Ottoman Empire and ordering the territories, British PM Lloyd George and his Chancellor of the British Navy –one Winston Churchill– saw the particular oil-yielding area that we now call Iraq as the answer to the British Navy’s prayer– switching over from inefficient coal to oil.(The British Navy, of course, was the main hammer in the toolbox of British Empire, its Enforcer-in-Chief, you might say.)
The straightline borders were actually drawn around the oil deposits by Winston. The space was labelled “Iraq”. It is not recorded what kind of pen Winston used.
The Brits were “drawing lines on maps” a lot in 1922. That same pen is what brought us eight or so internecine decades in the North of Ireland.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t hate the Brits; actually I try not to hate anyone; indeed, I say, –somewhat retrospectively at this point, I hope, –but, if you’ve GOT to be colonized by anyone, let it be the Brits.(I think…)
Q. Who had been living “in Iraq” and what became of them?
A. That is a key question.
Where there had been no Iraq or no Iraqis, with only Kurd, and Shia, and Sunni living there, now in 1922 came an instant nation with instant borders, and oil for Mr. Churchill and the British Navy, and with a friendly-to-Britain ruler installed in Iraq to ensure an endless supply of oil.
After a few decades of “Advantage Brits” the natives got restless all over the region, and so it was in Iraq also. “Nationalism” was afoot.
Somewhere in Tikrit –an ancient town in a freshly minted Iraq, a young Saddam Hussein still had quite a few years before he would have to be getting ready for his closeup. Let’s not bore each other with the multitudinous details of his eventual imperial tyranny, but –some three decades of iron-fisted narcissism and brutality; with hundreds of thousands of Iraqis shot, strangled, tortured and then shot, or otherwise put down; with endless triumphal parades up and down the Avenue of Heroes with its crossed-scimitars; with twenty+ imperial palaces put up; (and five Romantic Novels penned and put out); with all this notwithstanding, Saddam was eventually…gone.
Now it is we who are occupying Iraq, who have so ineptly spent so much life (ours and theirs)and so much of yours and my money –we had nothing better to do with it, right?– on a costly, inept and shameful war.
But Mr. Bush had talked to God and –he would have us believe– was carrying out a Divine Mandate.
After four years of failure, and a lost election in 2006, Mr. Bush was grasping at straws to save his war and his reputation. A war which after all was defining him.
He had to change. Even firing –too late–the inept and strutting Rumsfeld was not enough. In order to keep his war going, a desperate Bush, with now significant opposition building even from within his own party, was forced to change his approach in Iraq.
And so –Enter,The Surge!
On January 10th, Bush announced The Surge. The Surge would be a two-part plan. Give me 3 months –it had the feeling of a desperate plea to it. But actually I thought at the time that behind it all, Bush was more playing for time. Something will come up. I’ll talk to my (real) father. I’ll pull it off because I always win –until I’m stopped, which hasn’t happened yet.
Part One of The Surge was the American part. It meant putting 22,000 extra US troops –that’s ALL we had– into Iraq for three months, specifically into parts of Baghdad, with some 5000 going to Anbar province.
The objective: to secure those areas sufficiently so Part Two of The Surge could happen. (I know, I know: some of us now want to talk as if there was ever only a Part One. We want to talk about how incredibly successful it is on the verge of being.
Part Two of The Surge: in this part of the plan, Iraqi Government head man Mr. Malaki and his politicians would finally be able to safely and securely get on with the business of governing.
Or, at least they would have no excuse for not doing this.
Recently we have been hearing about how much deaths are down; how the strategy is working; how finally, victory…may be in sight. Refugees are trickling back; street markets are coming back (Even though electricity has yet to trickle back.)
Why, just today I read of this recently returned to Baghdad pretty-but-modest young woman who is sitting out at a sidewalk cafe eating, for heaven’s sake, coffee icecream with a spoon.
Q. So –the surge is working, right?
Q. Come on! –the surge is working, right?
A. Well…sorry, no, not really. In fact, not at all.
Yes, the extra US troops are there; yes, deaths are down; and yes, someone pretty-but-modest-but-pretty was seen eating coffee icecream at a cafe. With a spoon. It does sound pretty good, doesn’t it.
Only –WHERE THE HELL IS MALIKI and his recalcitrant retinue??? Why is he, or they, not standing up, so we can stand down, and get the hell out of there. We will –won’t we?–all bite our tongues and call the whole costly, inept and shameful mess a VICTORY if it means getting the U.S. out of Iraq.
As I have said earlier, I’ll even raise the money for a Medal of Honor for Mr. Bush (twice as big as the one he had forged for George “Slam Dunk” Tenet)and pin it on him.
Postscript: about that Surge. Think of it this way: if you were to put 22,000 extra police on the more troubled streets of any city in the U.S. you would expect crime to come down. More cops, less crime. More U.S. troops, fewer violent incidences.
That is no surprise.
But here’s the real way to put The Surge in context: General Shinsecki said we had to have a 300,000 troop-strong US army in Iraq if we wanted to win.
So, what did the inept triumvirate of Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld do? They put in a pathetic “surge”, a mere 7% of the Shinsecki figure, and they put them in FOUR YEARS LATE.
And we can’t even keep that small number in Iraq any more than a few more months. This is no Surge. This is…a mini-Surge.
One last point: I squirm every time Mr. Bush proclaims, “Bring it on” style, a cherry-picked success. And I recoil to think how many U.S. soldiers lives each triumphalist taunt costs.
And shut up about bombing Iran, will you. Every time Bush or Cheney (and now “Bomb Iran” Giuliani leaps on the bandwagon with his “Bomb Iran” advisor Norman “King neoKong” Podhoretz, who wants bombing “AS SOON as it is logistically possible”. Shut up, please: don’t you know that –more than anything else– that’s what’s driving up the price of gas at the pumps. Today my local filling station is selling premium for $3.49 a gallon. People: you’re going to have to start thinking of it as the Bush-Cheney-Republican tax-increase.
By the way, higher gas prices are a significant element –both real and psychological– in the dreaded (and now unavoidable?)onset of a recession. That and the unconscionable Sub Prime “Caveat Sucker” calamity. How wonderfully well our unregulated free market pirates are serving us all, torpedoing, unpunished, the global economy.
Moral Hazard, indeed! Which one???
How wonderful our nation looks to the whole world, with our inept, costly and shameful war, our repugnant waterboarding and our tortured denials and evasions broadcast worldwide, our shrinking dollar, and our inept “caveat sucker” sub-prime manipulations –with such disastrous global repercussions.
Where is honor? Where are our higher aspirations? Where are our better angels? Is this what we want America to be? Is this what we have allowed America to become?
(Show me I’m wrong. Tell me to be quiet. Engage in a debate. Only, do something.)
Only do something.)