Today marks one day short of the sixth anniversary of the bombing of the World Trade Center and was graced by the appearance of General Petraeus, chief military officer in charge of the present debacle in Iraq. Never missing an opportunity to mislead the country and betray the public trust, the White House originally wanted the general’s presentation concerning progress in Iraq to be given to Congress on the anniversary proper even though countless studies and a complete lack of evidence has demonstrated that Iraq had nothing at all to do with the terrorist attack. Voices were raised on Capitol Hill pointing out the malevolent intent of the White House to use the anniversary of the tragedy to once again mislead by timing the report on Iraq with 9-11; the general’s appearance on the hill was moved up one day. One must keep constant vigilance when dealing with scum which has risen to the top.
Nevertheless the General and ambassador Crocker made their appearance and testified, as expected, that the president’s military “surge” was a success. Never mind that the most striking reduction in terrorist activity occurred in Anbar province where tribal leaders reached agreement to cooperate against Al Qaida independent of American involvement, demonstrating that we are fighting this war with the wrong forces. What is needed is a political solution as the good sheiks have demonstrated, not the ratcheting up of military force. The rest of the quagmire still begs for solution. Several congressmen pointed out that the “surge” was supposed to buy time for the Iraqi government to forge these political agreements. Instead the Iraqi Congress has taken a recess while our troops continue the fighting. There were some qualifications to the unabashed optimism, but it was unconvincing and the outcome remains in doubt. Clearly the general’s appearance served as a predictable public relations stunt in keeping with a long line of such stunts pulled by this administration.
If poor George had only listened to his pappy’s friends who last fall pointed out in the Baker Commission Report that the problem begs a political solution involving negotiations with our friends and adversaries in the region. But boy, always the toy soldier, is enamored with the use of guns. The awful reality in the region is that there are major players who have a vested interest in maintaining the viability of the Iraqi state. Jordan and Saudi Arabia to prevent the dominance of Shi’a Muslims in the region and the subsequent persecution of the minority Sunni Muslims should the Iraq spiral down into a fundamentalist theocracy. These countries also have a vested interest in preventing the wholesale emigration of Iraqi exiles into their countries. Likewise Turkey who opposed our invasion in the first place and wouldn’t allow U.S. coalition forces to go through their country when military operations began. Turkey fears the growing power of the Kurds, the largest people on earth with no homeland, breaking away and creating a greater Kurdistan which would threaten the eastern part of the country. Likewise Iran. For although Iran flirts with the disintegration of Iraq to form a natural alliance with the Shi’a majority; Iran also knows that a greater Kurdistan would threaten the integrity of its western regions.
There are three stars on the Iraqi flag. To the uninitiated, the uninterested and to perhaps a certain intellectually challenged soul currently in residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this might appear to represent something unique in the national experience. Perhaps “W” thought that the stars represented the provinces in Iraq, kind of like the states of our union on our flag. No that couldn’t be it for there are more than three provinces. Perhaps as he discovered early in 2003 that the country was divided among three major groups that the Kurds, the Sunni and the Shiites were each represented by a star on the flag. Surely that must be it.
It is not. In the late 1950’s, in what marked the high tide of the pan-Arab movement, Egypt under the leadership of Abdul Gamal Nasser led an effort to unify the three countries of Egypt, Syria, and the then Kingdom of Iraq. Each represented by a star. As part of that movement the Ba’ath (or rebirth) party was formed in Syrian and Iraq, dominated by Sunni Muslims and transcending the territorial divide between Iraq and Syria. This is the same party that brought to power Saddam Hussein and the leadership in Syria. The point here is that there are historical, ethnic, religious, political and yes military bonds between the two countries dating back decades. For this reason, as well as the emigration problems, Syria has a vested interest in the resolution to the present mess, an interest that goes directly to the protection of the Sunni minority, the Ba’ath party, and the integrity of it’s borders.
This is to suggest, as the Baker Commission tried to inform the boy blunder, that most of the players in the region have many of the same interests as we do in preventing a total destabilization of the country. This gives us a unique opening to begin a dialogue with forces we have been unable to reach for decades. If only the boy would listen….
But, alas, the cheerleader become warrior is enamored of guns. Gore Vidal once said of Teddy Roosevelt that one should never give a gun to a coward for he will go about shooting up the countryside. Ditto George….
All of this comes in the context of what occurred to me driving to work this afternoon. I was thinking about how deplorably bad our education prepares us for life. We are led to believe that through hard work and effort, through getting oneself educated about how the world works that merit would rise to the top. This is an illusion and runs counter to most of human history. A recent study done by some English scholars has pointed out that the United States is currently the most stratified country in the industrial world with a greater gap between the “have’s” and “Have-Nots” than even in the aristocratic societies of Old Europe. Increasingly in America where one begins in life determines where one ends. It is startling to come to the realization that here in this country we have less upward social mobility than in England or France. Instead we have those born to privilege with a growing stranglehold on the rest of the country.
It is not simply that we in the United States have fallen behind the rest of the world in the study of math and science, it is not simply that we are woefully ignorant of geography and foreign lands, it is that our educational system does not prepare us for the abiding reality that it is not through merit that one succeeds in these here United States.
I rest my case on the present inhabitant of the oval office. The fortuitous product of social class and wealth he weaseled his way out of military service by getting a sinecure in the Alabama National Guard; he was a dismal failure in the Texas oil fields and was rescued from financial ruin by daddy and his rich friends, he distinguished himself as CEO of the Texas Rangers baseball team by trading Sammy Sosa to the Chicago White Sox and getting the good citizens of Dallas and Fort Worth to belly up to the bar and build the franchise a new baseball park creating millions in equity that the boy simply blundered into. Next came a stint as governor of Texas remarkable only for the further deterioration of the tax base, the schools, the infrastructure and the economy.
There is nothing to recommend George W. Bush to the presidency. Not military service, not business acumen, not political success, not native intelligence. If he were George W. Jones, or George W. Blythe, or George W. anything other that Bush he would have been laughed off the stage in 2000—especially after he opened his mouth and demonstrated conclusively that he was indeed ‘too stupid to be president’. But his name was Bush and his pappy was president, if not an entirely successful one. Presidencies by the right of primogeniture if not by divine right itself. Because daddy was president I have legitimate claim to the office.
This is not the “meritocracy” promised in this land of opportunity. This is not the Jeffersonian experiment of an informed citizenry based on universal education, governed in politics and business by those most informed, educated and best able to lead. No this is a form of Bastard Feudalism.
Where once the country was governed by an aristocracy supported by vast feudal estates or in the case of the early United States large commercial plantations we are now presented with a new nobility of Ranchers. Johnson of Texas, Reagan of California, and now the diminutive “W” also of Texas. You know, he of the “Bush Dynasty” late of the oil fields and now baron on that big spread in Crawford. You know the one with two cows.