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This is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Tuesday, December 19, 2006



"Failure in Iraq at this juncture would be a calamity that would haunt our nation, impair our credibility and endanger Americans for decades to come,"
-New Secretary of Defense Robert Gates

At what juncture is a calamity "okay"? We aren't failing in Iraq - We HAVE FAILED in Iraq. The question is: What now?

This one statement says so much, it's almost haunting. It is the realization that the quagmire in Iraq has approached and surpassed the administration's self-imposed "Mendoza Line" to "calamity.

It notes that, right now, our nation is haunted. We are being haunted by the needless deaths of our children as soldiers; we are being haunted by the needless deaths of Iraqi civilians; and we are being haunted by the future of a generational occupation, the likes of which we have never experienced before.

Gates stated that a loss in Iraq will "impair our credibility". What credibility? It's already gone. The real tie between the terrorist attacks of 911 and the war in Iraq is the fact that all of the good will the US had built up from that day disintegrated when we invaded, occupied and then destroyed a nation that had no means of attacking us. Our credibility with the rest of the world is gone. How can we damage what no longer exists?

As for "endangering Americans for decades to come", well, the Bushies have already accomplished that. How many of us will feel safe enough to travel outside of our hemisphere today? This is no longer a safe world if you're an American.

"All of us want to find a way to bring America's sons and daughters home again,"

Then do it. If you think that Iraq is now a political problem, then bring them home and get the rest of the world involved. What sense does it make to keep our troops in harm's way for a problem that can't be resolved by their involvement? Why do we have to keep them in the crossfire between two factions who both hate them? How do you tell a soldier he will be the last soldier to die for a "mistake"?

Almost 3,000 dead American soldiers, with more than 30,000 injured and at a cost in excess of $300 billion to the US middle class (so far) is enough. Think of something else as our boys and girls are sailing back home.

Secretary Gates said he will go to Iraq and meet with the Generals and troops on the ground, possibly before the end of the year. My first question to you Mr. Secretary is this: If the Generals tell you that Iraq is a lost cause; that there is no more sense in staying and sacrificing any more American lives for this lost cause, then will you advise the President to bring them home now?

My second question is even more haunting: What will you do if these Generals tell you we can "win" if we adopt the Powell Doctrine and they ask you for half a million troops?

-Noah Greenberg

And Even More on The "W" Legacy
The Failed Occupation

Many on the left have frequently claimed that the Administration's hope to democratize Iraq is pie in the sky.

Here is a brief layman's synopsis of the conditions which make Iraq unready for democracy.

1) Corruption- the regime of Saddam Hussein was a corrupt government, and the Provisional Government supposedly purged them from power. Unfortunately this approach took away the mid level bureaucrats and replaced them with incompetent people who have shown themselves susceptible to corruption. Decades of practice cannot be wiped away by ukase. A lengthy, competent and highly interventionist occupation might have been able to build a civil service that was honest and competent. Neo-Conservative ideology demanded an instant return to market based capitalism and this was instantly converted into baksheesh driven factionalism.

2). Factionalism- Zinni spoke of 100 armed factions vying for power under the Saddam regime. The Coalition Occupation which has always been feeble allowed these groups the scope of action needed to get a grand melee into action. This continues and will continue with or without us until the Iraqis wear themselves out.

3). Sunni recalcitrance- the Sunnis are only about one fifth of the country and live in parts of Iraq that contain no oil, yet they have run the country for their benefit. They did this by brutalizing the Kurds and Shiites, they would resume this practice immediately as it is their only hope of maintaining their control of the country's oil wealth.

4). Shia revenge, I guess this is something that Americans should understand- the situation for the Shia is something like the situation of American Blacks after the Civil War, oppressed and brutalized, they are the overwhelming majority in the sections of the country they live in. Armed, in control and with scores to settle, they have not yet settled down into the accomodationist mind set needed for politics and democracy,

5). Occupation indifference to the rule of law. The Maliki government has been actively supporting death squads and using US trained, equipped and paid security forces to carry out their vendettas. In juxtaposition to the Saddam trial it must appear to the man in the street that the US invasion has nothing to do with the well being of the Iraqis as their situation has deteriorated with US collusion.

The consequence of continued occupation may be now exceed the consequence of withdrawal.

If we continue our occupation, the failures of the Maliki government and the weakness of the constitution will be blamed on us.

It is human nature not to look hard at one's own failures, thus it is easy for the Arabs to blame the repressiveness and corruption of their own governments on the influence of the oil hungry west.

In Iraq, occupied by the US, the link is direct and the entire Islamic world is set on blaming us for the bloodshed and violence in Iraq.

This opprobrium has tangible consequences, it is not merely a matter of speech making. Arab and Islamic investors will seek other partners, American security interests will receive lower priority, our diplomatic prestige will suffer making necessary relations with one third of the world more difficult.

Until the US withdraws it will confirm the perception that Iraqi internal violence stems from our interference in their affairs.

The presence of the Occupation is not a calming influence in Iraq, on the contrary, it provides the cover and excuse for continued killing.

The end of the Occupation may be 18 months or five years away, but it will inevitably be followed by a period of bloodshed and civil war in Iraq as the factions seek to find the natural equilibrium.

The sooner we leave and let them alone, the sooner they will be able to find their equilibrium.

Only someone entirely transfixed on the oil spot market price can believe that the consequences of a US withdrawal are worse than the consequences of our continued Occupation.

In addition to the ever worsening consequences of our continued occupation, the Administration has yet to state a single positive outcome from our sacrifice of men and treasure in Iraq.

-Robert Chapman

Tis the Season--to Stop Quibbling Over Nothing

The flaps about decorations and holiday greetings are driving me crazy. To quote Rhett Butler: "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn."

I've never gave a damn. Wherever I was, I was happy to see holiday decorations whether they were Christian or Jewish or some other religion or just pagan (such as Christmas trees). If somebody said "Happy Holidays," "Merry Christmas," "Happy Hanukkah," or "Happy Kwanzaa," I was happy enough to respond in kind and feel good that the person was friendly enough to give me good wishes. I still feel that way.

I live near Raoul Wallenberg Square. Wallenberg, a Christian, saved a lot of Jews during the Holocaust. So, when Hanukkah comes, a Jewish group puts us a giant menorah in the square. It is delightful. I think it's really lovely that a group of Jews would honor a Christian that way. And if I want to see Christmas trees, well, they are all over the place anyway--from Rockefeller Center to my home to the homes of many family members and friends. So it's nice to see a menorah out there. And it's nice to see creches when they are set up too.

Hey, they have a Christmas tree at the White House. That's a government property. If we get a Jewish president, I would hope to see a menorah there. What's the big deal? Who gets hurt?

What the heck is wrong with holiday displays anyway? They are pretty? And they express the happiness of people who celebrate these holidays. What is wrong with greetings of all kinds? They give us an opportunity to share good wishes with each other.

Every year, I've been wished Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas by various people. I liked that. And now I like that even more now that I know I have a dual heritage--being a genetic Jew who was raised as a Catholic. I'm lighting my new menorah in my office so the candles can show out the window. And our Christmas tree is in the living room. And added to its beautiful decorations is a string of Magen Davids. I figure Jesus was a Jew anyway, so what's the problem? And a Christmas tree is pagan so who cares what we hang on it?

The only cause for complaint that I can see if is someone asks to have a tradition included and it is not. But I'm not going to go to my borough president and ask for a crèche over here. Oh please! If I want to see creches, I can see plenty of them elsewhere but there aren't a heck of a lot of menorahs. I don't want that menorah to come down like the one in Westchester.

I think we should all lighten up and just enjoy the beautiful and diverse ways that people express holiday joy and not be so quick to get upset if it isn't "our" way.

We have a lot more important things to worry about.

-Billie M. Spaight

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-Noah Greenberg