Saturday, September 01, 2007


Here's what I don't get about George W. Bush's current rationale for the ongoing carnage in Iraq.

Essentially, Dubya is arguing that if we don't stop them over there (meaning Iraq), the terrorists will continue the fight over here (meaning America.)

Sounds good, right? We kill each and every terrorist in Iraq, not to mention Afghanistan (which is an unlikely, almost ludicrous prospect in the first place), and then they won't be able to blow us up in our own homeland.

Fine. But this is the thing. The terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan don't have passports.

I may sound flippant, but I'm serious.

Who bombed the World Trade Center? Sixteen middle-class dudes from Saudi Arabia. How were they able to travel around Europe and end up in America in the first place? Because they had passports.

The terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan are not middle-class. They are not doctors. They are not lawyers. They are not even teachers. They are desperately poor and hiding in the hills. I'm not saying that to justify their actions; I'm saying that to point out the fact that they don't have passports, and they won't be able to get passports, ever, and so they won't be able to get on the planes that would take them to the United States to continue the carnage.

Granted, they may have powerful friends who do have passports, but I don't think anybody from the Iraqi National Congress is willing to blow themselves up on the streets of downtown Baltimore. They've got enough problems in their own country without wanting to seek vengeance on grocers in Vermont. (Or wherever.)

Who was behind the recent, attempted attacks in Scotland and England? Middle-class doctors from India with a distorted theological rationale for their own violent, destructive actions. All of whom, it goes without saying, had passports.

What's amazing to me is that this fact hasn't been remarked upon more often (if at all) in what passes for the mainstream media. From Bush's words, you would think that the only thing that's stopping these terrorists from hopping on the first flight to Hartford is the price of a plane ticket. They ain't going anywhere, these terrorists, the one in Iraq. I have no doubt that there will be more terror attacks attempted in Europe and the United States, but they will only be done by middle-class folks with a twisted ideology and an axe to grind and, you guessed it, a passport.

One more thing: Besides Bush's absolute inane comparison of Iraq to Vietnam in the past few weeks, arguing that the States should stay until forever and a day and win this war that will most likely be generational, if not multi-generational, the other thing I can't get my head around is the fact that the American government and American media are somewhat naive about the fact that they just want to leave now, while the getting's good, and that the Iraqis will somehow be able to handle things on their own.

Now, I don't think it's good to stay, and I don't think it's good to leave; I think the U.S. is screwed four ways from Friday either way, frankly. (And yes, I don't quite know what that last phrase means either, but it sounds kind of neat.) I don't what the fuck to do there.

But it seems to me a lot of American poliicians' arguments boil down to: "Look, we invaded your country and started a war that you didn't want and didn't ask for, with no plan for what we would do once we were actually in control, and we have been killing you and your people for the past, what, four or five years, with our motives changing like clockwork every year-and-a-half or so from 'disable the weapons of mass destruction' to 'spread democracy in the Middle East' to 'stop them over here before they come back home'. We have the most powerful, advanced, high-tech army in the history of the planet, and yet we are getting are our asses completely wiped by a bunch of medieval religious nuts, poorer than dirt, who totally tear down our choppers and tanks using home-made bombs the size of a six-pack. We've fought for a few years, and we can't beat them, just like we couldn't defeat dirt-poor Vietnamese peasants a quarter of a century ago, so what are we going to do? We're going to pull out completely, and let you, the Iraqi army, take care of it, even though you are completely incompetent, corrupt, understaffed, underfunded, and devoid of adequate weapons. As I said, we are the most powerful country in the world, but we couldn't make much headway here, but you guys, you guys with your six-shooters and twenty-dollar-a-month wages will, I'm sure, be able to defeat the insurgents. After all, Allah is on your side. Good luck!"

An oversimplification, but I think the reality is that the United States is going to have to somehow figure out a way to stay for a little while longer (meaning years, not months), or else Iraq itself will collapse in on itself in the very near future with one gigantic whoosh of dust and air and blood and bones.

What I think will most likely happen is that Bush, with only one year and change left in his mandate, will keep most of the troops there, hand it all over to his successor, and then, five, ten years from now, when the troop pull out actually happens, and Iraq remains a devastated, distorted mess, will be able to point out comfortably from his couch at Kennebunkport that things would have been just hunk-dory if everybody had just stayed a little bit longer, and not been so wussy about the whole thing. (The scary thing is that I'm actually kind of agreeing with Bush about staying, but disagreeing with how he handled the whole thing to begin with, and how he will justify it to historians later. Either way, I seem to be siding ideologically on the outcome with Bush. Hmmm. Don't tell anyone.)

The circumstances are completely different, but after living in Cambodia for years, and seeing what a mess that country still is (though getting better -- anything after genocide is a step or a staircase or an elevator up, obviously) I think it's fair to say that Iraq will still be a poor, fragile, massively fucked-up nation when I hit the big 5-0. The best we can hope for, as in Cambodia, is that the war will have stopped, peace will have come, the schools will have lighting, and books, and desks, and democracy, corrupt and misshapen, but democracy nevertheless, will have a solid grounding. There will still be disease and unemployment and dirty water and dirty politicians, but people will be able to stroll the streets of Baghdad without the fear of bombs blowing them out of the markets. That's what the aim should be.


That's my two cents, for what it's worth.

(And that's two Canadian cents, so my intellectual value has just really depreciated...)

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