Oh,let it be the end!

December 21, 2011

I stopped reading Thomas  Friedman several years ago, but I couldn’t resist his latest column commemorating the departure of the last U.S. soldiers from Iraq.  He called it, The End, For Now.  Oh, would that it was the end of his scribbling!!

A few morsels to choke on:

With the withdrawal of the last U.S. troops from Iraq, we’re finally going to get the answer to the core question about that country: Was Iraq the way Iraq was because Saddam was the way Saddam was, or was Saddam the way Saddam was because Iraq is the way Iraq is — a collection of sects and tribes unable to live together except under an iron fist.

I suppose this was the reason for the war:  just a big intellectual experiment.

Iraq was always a war of choice. As I never bought the argument that Saddam had nukes that had to be taken out, the decision to go to war stemmed, for me, from a different choice: Could we collaborate with the people of Iraq to change the political trajectory of this pivotal state in the heart of the Arab world and help tilt it and the region onto a democratizing track?

Is this the same guy who was jumping up and down shouting about WMDs in Iraq?  Perhaps he is drawing a fine distinction here:  “Oh, I said WMDs, but I never said “nukes

But was it a wise choice?  My answer is twofold: “No” and “Maybe, sort of, we’ll see.”

I say “no” because whatever happens in Iraq, even if it becomes Switzerland, we overpaid for it. And, for that, I have nothing but regrets. We overpaid in lives, in the wounded, in tarnished values, in dollars and in the lost focus on America’s development. Iraqis, of course, paid dearly as well.

Here, Tom follows the great American tradition of celebrating and mourning our losses, while those losses we caused to our ‘friends’ were so much larger:  2 million Vietnamese, half a million Iraqi civilians… of course, of course.

 So no matter the original reasons for the war, in the end, it came down to this: Were America and its Iraqi allies going to defeat Al Qaeda and its allies in the heart of the Arab world or were Al Qaeda and its allies going to defeat them?

Al Qaeda wasn’t in Iraq until we offered them an invitation there by reducing the country to primitive chaos.  With people like Friedman, no need for real enemies:  we’ll create them as we go along.

…the most important product of the Iraq war: the first ever voluntary social contract between Sunnis, Kurds and Shiites for how to share power and resources in an Arab country and to govern themselves in a democratic fashion. America helped to midwife that contract in Iraq, and now every other Arab democracy movement is trying to replicate it — without an American midwife. You see how hard it is.

So, the ‘Arab Spring’ arose in imitation of our war in Iraq?  That jerry-rigged “democracy”, which may be falling to bits as I write, is what they were striving for?  We are truly a beacon to the future!

The best-case scenario for Iraq is that it will be another Russia — an imperfect, corrupt, oil democracy that still holds together long enough so that the real agent of change — a new generation, which takes nine months and 21 years to develop — comes of age in a much more open, pluralistic society. . . I don’t know if Iraq will make it. The odds are really long, but creating this opportunity was an important endeavor, and I have nothing but respect for the Americans, Brits and Iraqis who paid the price to make it possible.

Wow!  So that’s what it all comes down to?  An “important endeavor,” a few hundred thousand dead civilians, lots of dead and maimed soldiers of our own, untold havoc to our federal budget, a gaping hole in the credibility of our government, and, oh yes, a lot of respect from Mr. Tom.  Not to mention the very real possibility that it will all unravel completely in the very near future into the fulfillment of the fiasco that began it.

Batting 500

May 2, 2011

I thought he would never be captured or killed – I was wrong.  Oh, well, I was right about those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The reasons for my relative sang froid regarding this event are illustrated by this quote from the journalistic blusterer, Ross Douthat:

They can strike us, they can wound us, they can kill us. They can goad us into tactical errors and strategic blunders. But they are not, and never will be, an existential threat.

This was not clear immediately after 9/11.

As with his fellow windbag, Thomas Friedman, as well as many, many, politicians and talking-head wannabee pundits, he takes far too long to learn his lessons.  The sense of those two sentences that are in bold was very evident to me in 2001, and to John Kerry in 2004, and to the writer of an op-ed piece that I recall from the NYTimes shortly after 9/11 (citations, please, if anyone can find it![Here it is.]) that stated that Osama bin Laden’s was a form of ‘politics’ doomed for the dustbin.  Yes, there were plenty of reasonable people who understood what was what, but the hysteria of people like Ross and his fellow scribblers, not to mention GWB, made it hard to understand what they were saying.


October 26, 2009

Napoleon III - Emperor of the French

File this under incompetent leaders of great states, right next to George W. Bush: 

The Paris of today that everyone dreams about was given to us in the 1860s and 70s by this man, Napoleon III, and his civil servant, Baron Haussmann.  His reign began in liberal democratic enthusiasm, progressed to despotism by way of coup d’état, and ended in dismal, utter, spectacular, and mind bogglingly stupid failure. 

He was manipulated into provoking a war with Prussia, convinced he would win in a walkover.  Bismarck, Prussia’s leader, couldn’t have asked for a more pliable victim.  The military catastrophe is chronicled in the first part of Zola’s book, The Debacle.  thousands of desparately hungry, exhausted soldiers marching to and fro over the French landscape, despondent and demoralized as they realize that they are being led by a gang of complete idiots. 

Think of Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 without the wild hilarity, and you’ll have a notion of what I’m reading now.  In the film, The Life of Émile Zola, there is a scene early on in which the general staff is incensed at Zola about this book – they are out to get him. 

After the disaster came the Paris Commune, with its murder, insurrection, and brutal suppression.  Then, as time heals all wounds, socialist, communist, and liberal came together across their political differences to slake their thirst for revenge (la revanche!)  against Germany.  Much to the consternation of some leftists, dreaming of international solidarity, the worker’s parties supported France’s lunge into WWI – the time to regain lost territory had come at last.  More lambs to the slaughter.

He kept us safe…

January 18, 2009


In many letters to editors, I have heard this sentiment expressed in defense of GWB’s miserable record as president:  “No terrorists have attacked us…he kept us safe.”  Well, 9/11 did occur when he was president.  Here is a small gallery of momentos of our safety with W.

Our fearless leader keeps cool, and keeps reading “My Pet Goat” as the attack plays out.  What decisiveness!

safe1    bushreadingthepetgoat

Our great leader was brilliant during the phony energy crisis manufactured by Enron (remember them?) that nearly bankrupted California.


Once again, Numero Uno was on the ball when Katrina hit, and his valiant lieutenant, Brownie, did a “helluva job.”  Oh well, it was an act of God…

katrina-neworleanssuperdomesat3sept-moretrashstillwaiting2bevacd-reuters-shannonstapleton       _42130348_domebaby_getty416b

WMD?  WMD?  Did somebody say something about weapons of mass destruction..?  Well, he kept us all safe, right?


Well, Bush isn’t the only great leader and visionary we had to guide us these last years.  Now we see the results.  I bet he  and his friends kept their money really safe!


Oh, that stupid Bush!

January 4, 2009


Yes, I am getting a bit tired of all this Bush-bashing.  Frank Rich’s column in the NYTimes today is a good example.  I agree with everything in it, but really, what’s the point?  Here’s the opening, emphasis added:

WE like our failed presidents to be Shakespearean, or at least large enough to inspire Oscar-worthy performances from magnificent tragedians like Frank Langella. So here, too, George W. Bush has let us down. Even the banality of evil is too grandiose a concept for 43. He is not a memorable villain so much as a sometimes affable second banana whom Josh Brolin and Will Ferrell can nail without breaking a sweat. He’s the reckless Yalie Tom Buchanan, not Gatsby. He is smaller than life.

Uh…I’m not sure I get the logic of that clever allusion to Hannah Arendt, but I”m sure Rich’s smart fans do.  Or think they do.  And his references to all of us leads to the old joke about the Lone Ranger and Tonto:  “What you mean “we” white-man?”  Behind it all, Rich is separating himself and reaping satisfaction with his “I told you so’s” heaped on the Republican right.

Well, if he is going to say “We like …,” he ought to face up to the unpleasant fact that we elected him.  Yes, even those of us who didn’t vote for him!  We live here.  We aren’t renouncing our citizenship.  It’s our country, our society, and it made a big mistake.  If you want to talk about our country in the collective, you have to own up to its failures, too.  It’s like being in a family – the sins of the wayward are, in some sense, your burden, if you are truly a family.

Intellectuals like to harbor the secret thought that if everyone were just smart enough to listen to them, the one’s who are really smart, everything would go fine, but it never works that way.  People are just too…well, let’s say it, dumb! (Or are they not dumb enough?)

Rich isn’t talking about all of us, he’s talking about himself and his friends.  I happen to agree with him completely, but those yahoos who supported Bush aren’t going away, and neither am I.  We’re just going to have to find a way to exist together.


September 19, 2008

Train wreck …as metaphor, from Wikipedia:

The term is sometimes used metaphorically to describe a disaster that is foreseeable but unavoidable.

I sing to you of the presidency of George W. Bush:

  • I sing to you of hanging chads and a Supreme Court putsch…
  • Of the black day, September 11th, and a leader caught in the headlights of history I sing…
  • Of Hank Kissinger, proposed for a truth-finding commission, a divine oxymoron, I do raise my voice…
  • Of bullhorns, and tyrant mayor wannabees, and bloody shirts innumerable waved in flapping breezes unending…
  • Of “Swiftboating” skillful, I marvel and sing…
  • I sing to you of “Kenny Boy Lay” and Enron…
  • I sing to you of Dick Cheney intoning on the free market as emails plot market skullduggery…
  • I sing to you of fraudulent yellow cake and weapons of mass destruction unfound…
  • I sing to you of smoking gun mushroom clouds, and preemption extraordinary…
  • Yea, I sing to you of shock and awe gone shockingly awful…
  • Of Abu Ghraib…
  • Of Baghdad looting…
  • …and of Mission Accomplished I sing…
  • I do sing of Brownie doing a “helluva job” in the Crescent City…
  • Of torture made legal…
  • Of habeus corpus suspended…
  • Of secrets unknown and unknowable…
  • Of science denied, and malarky made policy…
  • Of history denied, I sing…
  • Of Ken Delay…of partisan firings unjust…of regulation defanged I sing
  • And lo, I now sing of economic meltdown, the fitting finis to a sing-song dirge I do sing…

Let us chant together with Clio, History’s muse:

worst president ever!
Worst President Ever!

McClellan book signing at Walter Reed Hospital

May 31, 2008

Wouldn’t you love to see that headline? Scott’s new memoir, in which he regrets his involvement in the “culture of deception” that led our country into “an unecessary war” on false premises is getting a lot of attention these days. Imagine – Free first edition copies of his new memoir to be distributed with signatures to recovering and disabled veterans at the Army’s Walter Reed Medical Center. Bring your latest artificial limbs, and he’ll sign them too! Those without hands need not worry – Scott will not be offended inf you don’t offer to shake and let bygones be bygones.

Well, I guess the devil made him do it…

Master of Stupid

December 5, 2007


Thomas Friedman, the idiot savant is at it again.  Today, in the New York Times, in a column called “Intercepting Iran’s Take on America,” he has written a “satirical” column on what the leaders of Iran must be thinking about us, including:

First, 9/11 has made America afraid and therefore stupid.

It is, I believe, at least the second time he has voiced regret over the 9/11 induced “stupidity” of America’s body politic.  Hmmm…interesting.  As I recall, he was one of those who was rooting for the war in Iraq, saying we had to act “a little bit crazy,” etc. to root out the terrorists.  When it comes to stupidity, he should speak for himself only.  I won’t say he’s as bad as David Brooks who frequently sounds as if he just arrived from Mars, but he is remarkably shallow and glib.  Basically a journalistic shill for the powers that be…for the moment.

Victory Strategy Anyone?

September 12, 2007

There is a lot of talk about how W has no “exit strategy” for Iraq, and, of course, how he had no strategy at all when he invaded. On the other had, supporters of the war, like McCain, say we must not “lose Iraq,” or did he mean China?…ooops, he’s not that old! Others say we are on track for successs, for victory, i.e., Victory! Just give the ‘strategy’ a chance to succeed.

I have to wonder, what is the Victory Strategy? That is, how will we know when we have won, and what will we do then? Do the supporters of the war honestly think, if they have their way, that we will win and leave the country a stable parliamentary democracy, in one piece, that will be friendly to the US and hostile to our enemies, and won’t require the presence of tens of thousands of American troops funded by billions of dollars a year? Is that the Victory Scenario? It was six years ago, but now?

Or do they imagine that after another three or four years like this one, and untold piles of cash, Iraq will have a nominal central government that appears to keep the lid on secessionist fighting, and that has reduced sectarian atrocities to an “acceptable” level, mostly because various regions have been “cleansed” so that they are ethnically homogeneous? And that we will continue to pour money into the place and maintain large numbers of troops there so it doesn’t blow apart or get swallowed by Iran or Turkey? This seems to be the best that they can hope for.

And if this best-case Victory comes about, what is our “strategy?” What do we do with this victory, this ally, this burden? I guess we just maintain our presence there indefinitely, like in Korea. This is what some call “projecting American power.” Others call it Imperialism, but whatever you call it, the return on investment seems rather paltry.

General Pyrrhus, shown in the picture, knew about this bind. And he usually won his battles! He is said to have remarked after one of them, “Another such victory, and I shall be ruined.”