Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The lost Iraq just as they will lose America

As we rightfully condemn this "Administration" for leading us into a stupid, aggressive and immoral war in Iraq, let us never forget that this war was winnable.

That they could have marched in with neo-conservative imperial aspirations, bombed the shit out of a bunch of brown people they didn't care about, deliberately targeted journalists, conducted their horrific "shock and awe" campaign and aggressive invasion, and gotten away with it with the history books possibly even on their side.

They could have shut us up forever.  They could have had Republican majorities and presidencies based solely on foreign policy for the next decade.

But their own immoral ideology was their very undoing.  The very nature of who they are inexorably demanded the defeat of America at the hands of as pathetic a foe as Iraqi insurgents.

Impossible, you say?  Hardly.  And they KNOW IT.

For all the celebration of William F. Buckley's admission of defeat in Iraq, and the lampooning of Bill Kristol's latest statements on Fox News, it is actually KRISTOL who gets it right.

You see, Buckley remains so myopic about this issue that he has simply joined the chorus of "Operation Blame the Iraqis."  Kristol, on the other hand, puts the blame (though he can't say it too loudly) squarely where it deserves: on Rumsfeld.

What he doesn't go on to say is that Rumsfeld (together with Bremer) was simply doing in Iraq what conservatives are doing to America today.


Much of what is wrong in Iraq today is blamed on incompetence.  But this is really missing the point. IT WASN'T INCOMPETENCE.  It was insouciance--a fundamental failure, amazingly, to even care about the things that you or I would have placed as our top priorities.

Folks, when Bush starts playing the guitar and laughing with hand-picked seniors during the Katrina disaster; when Michael Brown declares himself a "fashion god" as people die in the SuperDome; when Condi Rice goes shoe shopping as the levees fail; THAT IS NOT INCOMPETENCE.  That is a failure to care.  It's insouciance.

When a woman complains to Bush that she is working three jobs, and he tells her, "Uniquely American, isn't it? I mean, that is fantastic that you're doing that," that's not incompetence.  That's just a fundamental failure to care on a most basic level.

And when Donald Rumsfeld gives his famous lines about "going to war with the army you have, and not the army you might wish to have", while inadequately supplying our troops with body armor, vehicle armor and even sandbags, that's not incompetence.  It's just the same insouciant failure to care as the rest of it.


And that conservative insouciance killed us in Iraq.

The war in Iraq was ALWAYS immoral, but it was NOT always hopeless.  It is only hopeless now because they MADE IT that way--and it took Republicans to turn it into a FUBARed disaster.


Fundamentally, you see, all true political conservatism (and I'm not talking about the Biblical-literalist fascism that dresses itself in conservatism) really is, when you break it down, is a failure to care.

It's a failure to care about the poor.  The sick. The downtrodden.  The exploited.  The hungry.  The mentally ill.  The wounded in war.  The oppressed of different races from their own.  The nameless, faceless foreigners killed by our indiscriminate bombs.  The children whose schools grow in class size and shrink in efficacy every day.  The laborer, legal and illegal, who toils increasing hours for decreasing wages.  Air quality and the environment.  The plant and animal species disappearing from this earth, never to return.

ALL OF IT is sacrificed at the altar of the eternal ME.  And since the conservative "Me" is typically the rich, business-invested "me", everything good and decent in this world--everything Jesus Christ himself taught us to care for, whether we believe in his divinity or not--is sacrificed at the altar of "What's Good for Business is Good for America."

And they did it in Iraq, too.  They turned Iraq into a laboratory for conservative ideas--and now Iraqis and American soldiers are paying the price.  


As we concentrate heavily on the horrible emerging violence between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Iraq, we must not forget WHY they are warring.  There's a lot more to it than religion.

It must be remembered that Sunnis and Shi'ites coexist rather peacefully throughout the rest of the Arab world.

Sectarian violence in Iraq today is an excuse to let out their frustrations with their lives.  And it is the same frustration that America is starting to feel in small thimblefuls that I wrote about in my diary Palpable Rage.

Iraqis are rioting because 70% of them are UNEMPLOYED.

They are rioting because they have no water or electricity.  They are rioting because gasoline is ten times as expensive as it used to be.

And WE JUST DON'T CARE.  In fact, we're making it worse:

The disastrous social conditions that exist for the Iraqi people after decades of war and nearly three years of US occupation are being dramatically worsened as a result of International Monetary Fund (IMF)-dictated economic restructuring.

In order to gain a $685 million IMF loan and the cancellation of some of Iraq's $120 billion debt, the government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari secretly agreed in December to begin eliminating the subsidies that previously delivered the Iraqi people some of the lowest fuel costs in the world.

On December 19--just four days after the elections in which Jaafari's United Iraqi Alliance (UIA) won more than 45 percent of the vote--the first cut in the fuel subsidy was implemented. The immediate impact was to increase the price of petrol, diesel, cooking gas and kerosene by an average of 500 percent. Petrol rose from just 3 US cents a litre to between 12 and 17 cents.

And it could all have been avoided--even had we stil gone ahead with the invasion.  But it would have required CARING.


You see, Bill Kristol was right: look again at what he said:

KRISTOL: We've been trying, and our soldiers are doing terrifically, but we have not had a serious three-year effort to fight a war in Iraq as opposed to laying the preconditions for getting out.

And why not?  Because Bill Kristol knows that General Shinseki was right.  Bill Kristol knows--in hindsight--THAT WE COULD HAVE WON THIS WAR WITH 400,000 TROOPS.

What Bill Kristol knows is that 400,000 troops could have stopped the looting of Iraq's museums and infrastructure AND secured the oil fields all at the same time.

That 400,000 troops could have secured Baghdad's airport road.

That 400,000 troops could have secured the school, water main, and electricity stations all across Iraq.

That 400,000 troops could have turned Abu Ghraib prison into a high-speed internet access library AND maintained security from common criminals all at the same time.

That 400,000 COULD have won Iraqi hearts and minds.


But as important as what Bill Kristol knows is, what is even more important is what he does NOT know--or cannot yet admit to himself: that this was by design.


You see, Iraq was more than just a Neo-Con attempt to remake the Middle East in our image.  It was an attempt to remake the Middle East in the image they wish they could make America.

Iraq had become a laboratory for Conservative "ideas", including the tying of the hands of government regulators and a 15% cap flat tax.

Iraq--like the "Culture of Corruption" America they creating here--became a place where giant corporations could rake in shitloads of money on the backs of ordinary people with no oversight.  They didn't give a shit about Ahmad Six-Pack.

Iraq was a giant experiment, you see--not in democracy, but in conservative ideology.  Iraq was Grover Norquist's little playground.

They asked the question: Can we invade a country with few troops, maintain a pathetically small security force, destroy the people's infrastructure, give massive handouts to corporations, let the IMF rape the country, do practically nothing to rebuild the country's economy and infrastructure, impose a flat tax and let oil prices bloom, and have a healthy democracy?  Can we care nothing about the regular people, fuck them over, and let big corporate steal all their oil?

And they got a resounding answer: NO.

Iraq needed an FDR after the invasion.  What they got was Ronald Reagan on crack.  And now they're fucked.

But they can't admit it.  They can't admit that this war was winnable, and that their own ideology snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  Because they are desperate to do the same goddamn thing to the United States of America.


And they're going to lose America the same way.

They've divided our country between urbans and rurals, Reds and Blues, fundamentalists and progressives, whites and non-whites--just as Iraq is divided today.

They've taken away our security, our jobs, our economic well-being, our health, our environment, our schools--just as they did in Iraq.

It's the same ideology--it's just that we had more to start with, and didn't get the shit bombed out of us first.

And in sowing these whirlwinds, they will reap nothing but the wind.


In the meantime, however, let us never forget.

Let us never forget that Republicans LOST THIS WAR.  They lost it because of insouciance.  They lost it because they simply didn't care about about the common Iraqi.

They lost this war because they're Republicans.

And let us never forget that not only would Democrats never have started this war--Democrats would never have LOST this war had it been started.

[Update:] In no way am I saying that we could have won the occupation as envisioned by the NeoCons, any more than Britain could have "won" in India. What we COULD have done, however, is topple the evil dictator (which is what Saddam was), lock down the country with 400,000 troops, create a massive and expensive Iraqi New Deal that hired Iraqi contractors to rebuild everything as speedily as possible, keep the IMF's dirty nose out of things, set up the basics of democracy, and let them carry it from there. We could have left in under a year, before anti-American sentiments grew too large, and while there was still appreciation for making their lives better than they had been under Saddam. And it would have been less expensive, to boot.

It was possible, but it would have taken a 180-degree reversal of ideology.

[Cross-posted at the Daily Kos]


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