Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Drifting toward disaster

Saigon, April 30, 1975
We can all see it coming.

The disastrous adventure in Iraq is moving inexorably toward its desultory, entropic non-ending. No one can predict with any degree of certainty how it will shake out, but the nature of the conflict precludes any possibility of a festive V-E Day, or even an exhausted and somber Armistice Day. My own guess is that the end will come slowly, with a gradual reduction of US forces culminating in a Saigon-like fiasco.

Iraq will eventually come under the influence of some political entity, in all probability, a radical movement a las Khmer Rouge, or Bolsheviks, that will spark the imagination of a tormented and abused people, and rise quickly, like a brush fire, to seize control. Tigris and Euphrates will run red for a time. The United States will be humiliated and weakened.

George W. Bush is trapped in a perdition of his own making. At one time, he was Ares, the god of war, striding confidently across the globe, immune to doubt. But it was all an illusion, wasn't it? Military and political realities offer no way out. His pipe-dream of a corporate-dominated Iraq run by a strongman of his choosing has vanished like a mirage in the Iraqi desert.

It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months. -- Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, February 7, 2003
Any chance of military success would require a huge reinvestment of US forces and treasure. But for that to happen, Bush must convince the public that the war is vital to the American "way of life," that it merits sacrifice and privation, perhaps even a draft. Alas, Bush already burned that card, back in the beginning when, in selling the war, his henchmen assured us that it would all be over soon, that real sacrifice would not be needed. For Bush to now attempt to rally Americans to his cause, after four years of war and with his credibility destroyed, would be too audacious even for him.

The oil revenue of [Iraq] could bring between $50 billion and $100 billion over the course of the next two or three years. We're dealing with a country that could really finance its own reconstruction, and relatively soon. -- Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, March 27, 2003
The political situation in Iraq is even more bleak. Bush's first choice for a despot to replace Saddam was Ahmed Chalabi, a convicted embezzler who proved invaluable to Bush by providing preposterous lies to peddle to a frightened American public in the lead up to the war. But Chalabi turned out to be too untrustworthy and an agent for Iran. Chalabi was on the outs about the same time that David Kay determined that the Weapons of Mass Destruction meme, the ostensible casus belli, was a lie.

Gimme a break!
Next came the free and democratic "elections." Remember when all the Republicans in congress were waving around their purple fingers in a show of "solidarity" with the Iraqi people? Let's examine how that turned out.

Nouri al-Maliki, a Shi'a leader, ended up at the top of a raucous, uncoordinated parliament that, lo and behold, only reflected the sharp religious and ethnic divisions of the country. The reality is that the Iraqi parliament seems to be a largely dysfunctional body, incapable of governing. Maliki seems to be cozying up to the Iranians in spite of Bush administration remonstrances, and who could blame him? It is hard to imagine that this is what the Bush administration had in mind when they arranged the elections.

Events have bereft Bush of all but two options: begin the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, or stay the course and pray for a miracle. Well, after all, it was prayer that supposedly led him to this place, so I guess it works out alright as far as he is concerned. Of late, he has eschewed public events, relying on his proxies to justify his obstinacy, shielding himself from the harsh, judgemental world. One can only imagine that, in those few moments during the day when he is alone, he spends much time thinking of his Crawford ranch and the lonesome prairie, where he can be alone with his dogs and his chainsaw, clearing brush. His own little piece of heaven, far away from shouting reporters, and whispering advisers, and anguished, tearful Gold Star mothers. Someday, Junior. Someday.

Meanwhile, for the rest of us, who cannot look forward to a comfortable retirement isolated from the troubles of the the world, shielded by wealth and influence, those of us who cannot avoid the consequences of our mistakes and the mistakes of those who acted in our name...for us, the war drags on.

Armistice Day, Waterloo, Belgium 1999

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