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Beinhart's Body Politic 

click to enlarge Larry Beinhart - DION OGUST
  • Dion Ogust
  • Larry Beinhart
Happy New Year. It feels like a year of change and hope. Then I realize, with a sense of real astonishment, that George Bush is still president of the United States. Dick Cheney is still vice president. They have not changed. There will not be a kinder, gentler Dick Cheney. He will remain as ruthless and rapacious as an oil company and he will still smirk from the depths of his soul. George Bush has not heard the alarm clock go off. He has not awakened, as from a dream, newly realistic, humble, and conciliatory. He still tells himself he’s been chosen by God and that we mere mortals won’t get his legacy right until long after he’s dead. Their people still run the executive branch. They will continue to do their best to maintain maximum secrecy, wage a bogus “war on terror,” remove civil rights and constitutional protections, funnel money to the religious right under the guise of faith-based initiatives, subvert environmental regulations, and open federal lands to oil drilling, logging, and mining. They will continue to stack the federal courts with neo-con extremists. They will fight for unlimited presidential power. They will fight to have classes of people who have no rights—not even the rights of criminals or prisoners of war. They will fight against the Geneva Convention. They will fight to be able to torture people and for Americans to have immunity from being charged with war crimes. They will continue to pursue unsound economic policies, favor the ultrarich over even the moderately rich, let alone the middle and working classes. I don’t mean to rain on your New Year’s parade, but the rain seems to be a result of global warming and this administration will continue to fight tooth and nail against anything that will slow it down. Which brings us to the war in Iraq. Iraq is chaos. Murder, rape, kidnapping, extortion, theft, bombings, shootings, and looting are all common, daily occurrences. The government doesn’t function. It can’t deliver basic services like water, sewers, garbage removal, schools, medical care, electricity, telephones, mail, banking. The police and the army don’t function—at least not in their official capacity. Their members, however, make up militias and death squads. The goal of the Bush administration has always been “victory.” The strategy has been “We’ll stand down when the Iraqis stand up!” Clearly, at this point, they’re not standing up. There has been a lot of talk recently about putting pressure on Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to do more standing up and cracking down. It would seem, on the face of it, that, if he could, he certainly would have already. Strange as it may seem to Americans, the head of Iraq’s government has more to lose from the collapse of Iraq than we do. I have heard TV pundits say that he’s failing to act because the Americans are doing too much for him. Cut that kid’s allowance, make him go out and get a job and he’ll learn the value of running a country right! They would, if they could, but they can’t. At this point, “We’ll stand up when they stand down” is a formula for perpetual chaos. The Iraq Study Group has released its report. It’s intelligent, thorough, and realistic. If there is a solution to the Iraq problem, the ISG report may well be it. But it’s moot. It requires the United States Government to be honest and realistic. To be patient and flexible. To have respect for other countries and for the United Nations. George Bush is incapable of those things. Bush’s basic attitude toward the world is “F**k you.” As revealed by Michael Isikoff and David Corn in Hubris, we went to war in Iraq because George Bush thought Saddam Hussein was saying “F**k the United States.” We don’t need to rely on a psych evaluation to say that Bush will react that way. When asked at a press conference on December 13 if he’d heard any new ideas about Iraq the president said, “I’ve heard some ideas that would lead to defeat and I reject those ideas. Ideas such as leaving before the job is done.” Bush continued: “We will stand firm again in this first war of the 21st century. We will defeat the extremists and the radicals. We will help a young democracy prevail in Iraq.” But how? He is going to come up with his own plan. What will it be? There are currently 130,000 troops in Iraq. John McCain has suggested adding 20,000 more. The Pentagon has been floating the number 50,000, to bring troop levels up to 180,000. We went into Iraq with 160,000. With that number the country spun out of control. Now it’s worse. The “insurgents” are organized, armed, angry, and have had a taste of success. Who would think that McCain’s suggested troop levels—still less than our initial numbers—would do the trick? Or that 20,000 more than that will bring us victory? Before the war General Zinni and General Shinseki estimated we would need at least 300,000 troops. According to a May 9, 2004, op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Stephen Budiansky (“A Proven Formula for How Many Troops We Need”), the standard, based on the occupation of Germany and used by NATO to figure out troop levels for the occupation of Bosnia, is one soldier for every 40 inhabitants. Iraq has 26,000,000 people. That’s 650,000 soldiers. Where are we going to get that other half a million men and women? The answer, is we’re not. We’ll go with McCain’s number or the Pentagon number and the effort will fail. What if we cut and run? Will some chaos follow that is worse than the chaos that already exists? Possibly. If we manage to hang on for another year or two, will we forestall it? It is possible we will. Will that prevent it? The answer is no. A stable, secure Iraq is not going to grow up under the plan we have now. Or with an additional 20,000-50,000 troops for three to nine months. The chaos is there. If there’s more to come, it will come, sooner or later. Long ago, and far away, when John Kerry was young and brave and smart, he went before the United States Senate and he said, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”

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