Stop the World!
A curious, downbeat week, by any standard. If you recall that Capitol Hill effort to rename "French fries," there might have been some success. Republican legislators were wroth up over Paris's failure to take Washington's marching orders and line up the Tricolor beneath the Stars and Stripes. The issue was an arbitrary and capricious decision by "the leader of the Free World" to invade Iraq and not bother to submit the issue to the United Nations.
The vice president of the United States bad-mouthed both France and Germany, calling them "Old Europe," casting them as timid and afraid to take on new challenges. At the time, a German general commanded his nation's soldiers in securing a sizeable chunk of Afghanistan, around Kabul. The administration had made its case after 9/11 to clean out the Taliban and its "guests," al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Other nations jumped right in.
The shameful, petty "Freedom fries" incident came to mind yesterday, when reading about France's dead and wounded in the country that brought this White House's first "mission accomplished." It wasn't. Nor can it be stated in next-door Iraq that anything has really worked. That's not quite true.
A straight-faced Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz promised the financial costs of invading and taking out Saddam Hussein would be paid by the immense oil deposits that Baghdad controlled. A substantial share of this country's economic distress can be traced to the hundreds of billions put out to bring security and to repair the Iraqi infrastructure destroyed by the United States.
Meanwhile, as the saying goes, the present Shiite government has amassed and kept in its tight control billions and billions generated by petroleum's skyrocketing prices. They're looking on all that money as the nest-egg to bring the country under their tighter control. In case you missed the item, Baghdad has launched an offensive to destroy the independence of the Sunnis' awakening movement, the one started by the U.S. to head off al Qaeda's success recruiting among the Sunnis.
The coalition of Sunni tribes worked so well that Moqtada al-Sadr had trouble keeping his Mahadi hooligans gainfully employed; they split into a variety of splinters after the threat lessened. But the boy imam got what he really wanted: the Iraq government demanded a rough timetable for the departure of U.S.-led forces. Looking at their history many Iraqis feared we would hang around like previous foreign forces: the British were there for over 40 years, and remember the Ottomans centuries.
In yesterday's New York Times, Gen. David Petraeus did everything but stub his toe and mutter "aw, shucks," as he admitted he had turned his predecessors' judgment that Iraq was lost, into today's glowing model of safe streets, busy shops and traffic thronged streets. He briefly acknowledged the surge's 30,000 added troops, but carefully pointed out the masterful way he deployed them. To cover his very careful rear-end, he did say conditions were "fragile."
No where did the general, who's packing for his departure, recognize that the situation is more stable and casualties fewer because Iraqis saw no advantage in killing themselves and their neighbors, along with the invaders, because they knew one day they would have their country back.
Washington finally flatly gave up trying to dictate what follows. Had that wisdom occurred shortly after the invasion there would be a lot fewer dead and horribly mangled – and more buildings standing. What the administration really desired was a condition dictated by the Salvation Army, not American troops. It wanted to save their souls for democracy, we were told.
Of course, the state of democracy is not really safe around these parts. We have a government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation – and the media – running off at the mouth about how Bruce Ivins killed and infected all those folks by mailing anthrax.
In Thursday's installment, bureaucrats bragged about the totally new techniques that enabled them to trace the deadly infection back to a bottle Dr. Ivins possessed. But the story was forced to cede that about 100 – give or take – fellow scientists had access. In the bottom line, they were able to prove absolutely nothing.
With so much confusion and blame in the air all going nowhere, I think it's time to stop the world! And try again.