Sunday, December 17, 2006

Support the Troops: Bring 'em home (alive). Don't Fund the Occupation.

Recent news reports have suggested that rather than accept the will of the people and the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group, and reduce the American bootprint on the face of Iraq, pResident Bush will instead choose to go the John "Nine-Inch-Nails" McCain route and increase the number of American soldiers currently being wasted there. I absolutely agree with Representative Dennis Kucinich, who argues that the Congress must use its budget power to cut off the funding for Iraq immediately. He argues that there is enough funding "in the pipeline" to get the troops out of Iraq. Even if funding is cut, it will be in 2008 when the troops come home. Without this action, the soldiers are unlikely to be back much before 2010, I fear. The Democrats are said to be afraid of the issue, despite the polls and election results, and are expected to back funding the continuing occupation. That will get the Democrats kicked out in two years, even before the troops are out of Iraq, if they can't do it. If they really want to bring the troops home, they have to show commitment and play hardball, at least cutting off the funding and maybe shutting down the government, Newt-Gingrich style, if need be. Apart from the representatives, the American people will have to get serious and make their opinions heard, not through the ballot box this time, but by mass demonstrations that stop traffic and close down entire cities. The pre-war demonstrations were large and passionate, but didn't stop the war, considering that there was a "silent majority" that was anti-Saddam and willing to trust Bush to do the hit. Now that there is a majority that wants out, they may have to make their voices heard again if the government still doesn't move on this.

I have to confess that I was also one of the people who supported military action in Iraq at one point. I supported the war before it started (and up until the occupation forces showed they didn't have a clue what to do). Although I despised Bush, I despised Saddam more. I didn't think that Bush was persuasive; he seemed incoherent, but I did think that Tony Blair expressed my feelings exactly. Unlike some people, I think that a Democrat would have probably done the same thing, (as Blair is an example) but would have been more effective at bringing in the UN and other US allies, and would have withdrawn successfully as in Bosnia or somewhat less successfully as in Somalia, before the situation became really ugly. There would not have been the blatant profiteering.

The Bushies were able to manufacture 80% public support for the war with fabricated documents, cherry-picking findings from the CIA, and outright lies. Now, 70% of the public oppose continuation of the war. 30% continue to support the US staying to kill more Iraqis. That means Bush has lost 50% of the US public. What I wonder is: How can anyone continue to support that?

Looking at where I went wrong, I see two things. First, I believed that if three governments' intelligence agencies were saying something, it was very likely to be true. I now know that the US was cherry-picking, and that British and Italian intelligence etc was also false, wrong, skewed, for various reasons. Applying my renewed faith in skepticism, I notice that the US, Russia, and China all said that North Korea has detonated a nuclear bomb. Their explosion was half a kiloton (550 tons of TNT) while every other country that has tested a nuclear weapon has used 20 kilotons or something more notable in the megaton range. I think the nuclear test was probably a lie, too; it serves the countries that hate the DPRK to say it is a nuke, and it serves Kim to fool people into thinking he has it too, although that strategy occasionally backfires, as in Saddam's case. If the US, China, and Russia tell us a huge asteroid is on a collision course with the earth, or that the sun is going to explode, I won't believe that unquestioningly, either.

The second thing is that I actually thought that Bush's team was capable of doing it right. I really thought they would be competent. They were miserable failures at everything. We really cannot trust them to do anything right, and everyone realizes it after Katrina. I suppose that the first George Bush's successful restoration of the erased nation of Kuwait, and actions by Clinton to stop genocide in Europe influenced me to think it was possible for an organized force to reduce suffering by righteous violence.

I realized something was wrong when the United States began talking about having elections a few years down the road. They should have been polling people as they rolled through towns and put the most-respected and least-despised non-Saddam-affiliated person in charge immediately, within hours or days. I also thought it was strange when they began patrolling the streets and announced that every person must turn in their gun. Given the widespread gun ownership in Iraqi society, the impossibility of (an invading army) disarming everyone, and the impossibility of a few occupation troops maintaining order, I would have expected them to order all able-bodied males between, say, 20 and 65, to form neighborhood defense committees of 10 or 15 people, and to take charge in patrolling their own neighborhoods. Perhaps the US would ask them to register with the US post in their vicinity and inform them of each defense committee's chairman, so the US could reimburse them with a small stipend. That didn't happen. I also would have thought they would have people come in with their old ration cards, any other identifying documents, 2 or 3 people to vouch for their identity, and that the US could take scans of people's fingerprints on a USB scanner, upload the identity to the networked database, and issue an new national ID card with a biometric so elections and the like could get underway. Giving a person $100 to show up and get a new ID card would be relatively inexpensive with only 23 million people in the country. That would also allow them to start weeding out the criminal prisoners which Saddam had released. The biometric would mean even if the card were lost, stolen, destroyed, or transferred, the ID would remain. By asking for witnesses and family contacts, a social network database could have been built up.

I am not a military expert, and these are just things I assumed would happen without thinking much about it. When the odd declarations such as disarming the entire population came out, I briefly wondered if it was some advanced military tactic beyond my comprehension, but time showed it to be the sheer idiocy it first appeared to be.

By the time of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, I figured that was the load of bricks that was dumped onto the camel's back, that the last American who believed in the war would log off, and that the occupation would end within weeks or months. I am still a little shocked that many people just shrugged and at how long it has taken, actually years since then, to realize that we lost. Saddam lost, too, but America lost very soon after that.

The war should finally be winding down, but it may take a little push. Incoming members of Congress may be afraid that Bush will use his special executive powers given him during the recent one-party-state period to declare congressional opponents "enemy combatants" and have them disappeared, as has been done by many US-installed client dictators and by Hitler, the old Bush family idol. If the Congress knows from their mail and from public demonstrations that the public will back them and will not tolerate the war for another day, the outcome will be the right one.

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