Dec 20, 2011

December 17, 2011: The End of an Error, What Lurks Beneath, Hang in the Balance.

This year witnessed two important, if not earth-shaking events: the end of Glenn Beck’s stint on Fixed Noise and our military withdrawal from Iraq. What these will mean in the coming years will, from this vantage point, be difficult to surmise but one can only hope for the best.

After years of haranguing his audience with increasingly shrill, paranoid and, at times, delusional commentary Glenn Beck had become an embarrassment to even the likes of Roger Ailes at Fixed Noise. It is difficult to say at what point his daily tirades went over the line but for those of us who never thought we would live to see the day that the depths of journalistic depravity would never be sounded at the Murdock flag station it was indeed a happy day to see the fool crawl back under the rock that is talk radio; but we are left with only half a victory knowing that he still has the microphone and can still poison the well of public opinion. Why is it that these conservatives are such corpulent ignoramuses? Why is it that they all have the same prison pallor? Why is it that they every one of them--Boortz, Limbaugh, Beck, Rove, Coulter--all have that same pasty countenance one normally encounters when one overturns a rock to reveal what lurks beneath? Perhaps this is why John Boner spends so much time in the tanning booth, for they all know that their moribund ideas will not withstand the light of the noonday sun. In any event cable television, if not talk radio, has become that much more civilized.

Speaking of civilized, the Iraqis’, in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, now too have god on their side. It was announced this week that the United States is completing its military withdrawal from Iraq after nine and a half years of conflict. Much was made of the events here in the States with the nightly news showing the American Flag being lowered for the last time in Baghdad juxtaposed with scenes of welcome home celebrations as our soldiers return to their homes and families. The press, as always, has given a veneer of success and happiness to the event with the implication being that the withdrawal was at our initiative with the Iraqi government ready to step into the breach. John McCain, always the polecat at the barn dance, looking for yet another way to savage this President and lamenting the premature end to his hundred-years war, took to the Senate floor to condemn the administration for pulling out of the beleaguered country.

The truth is otherwise, for the United States did not go into that good night voluntarily or quietly. In fact for months the administration negotiated with the Iraq government to allow us to leave several thousand Americans in the country holed up in military bases that would serve as a quick strike force should trouble (say the nationalization of the oil fields) develop. The Iraqis, eager to further legitimize themselves by ridding the country of foreign occupation balked. Even so the final stumbling block, it has been reported, proved to be the question of “extraterritoriality” wherein U.S. forces were subject to U.S. not Iraqi law. Having had enough of the likes of Blackwater shooting up the country only to be tried and largely let off by U.S. authority using U.S. military justice, the Iraqis balked at continuing the practices. The result was that we were, not so politely, asked to leave. And so the curtain falls, and we witness the end of yet another error.

Of course the supporters of the conflict will rightly point to the nascent Iraqi experiment in republican government and, misreading history, will claim that it was the much heralded ‘push’ engineered by George the Lesser, known in this column as ‘ol two-cows’ that was responsible for the successes that we have had. This has the salutary effect of legitimizing our military involvement and helps salve the wounded national conscience.

But even after nearly a decade and trillions of dollars in the effort it is difficult, at this distance, to speak with anything like confidence in the outcome. Just how far is the reach of Malaki’s government, how honest or efficient it is, and what is it’s span of control are, at this reading, matters of conjecture. I suspect only time will tell. What is clear is that the major ethnic and religious divisions still lurk just beneath the surface ready to re-emerge as soon as the United States is safely out of the equation.

The press, as always, follows the ambulance or in this case the pictures. Scenes featuring the changing of the guard and homecoming celebrations replete with assurances that it was our military intervention that made all the difference give this latest foreign adventure all the trappings of success that we gave to our dalliances in Cuba and the Philippines. In fact, what stability the central government in Baghdad now enjoys has much more to do with the several tribes and Sunni factions that --outraged by the arrogance and ruthlessness of Al Qaida --changed sides in 2007 and moved quickly to re-establish some semblance of order. Still, withal, one hears reports even recently of large scale suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism. How long the relative peace will last is still a question in dispute.

But there is also a larger story. The infrastructure in Iraq is still a shambles even in the wake of massive infusions of American aid. Electricity in Baghdad is available, in some neighborhoods, only a few hours each day. Sanitation systems are in ruin. Military roadblocks dot the landscape even in the nation’s capital. Why is that? Why after all these years and so much money are things still this bad? The answer is graft, corruption and the security issue. Billions have simply disappeared and security has been so bad that construction projects have been delayed or cancelled. How then can we see this as a success, and what does that augur for the future of the country? In the opinion of this observer we have done what we should have done, at least after the mistake to invade Iraq in the first place, and that is simply declare victory and go home.

But for the Iraqis and their government the end-game and our alliances hang in the balance.

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