Details and Devils
The comment thread from litbrit's post included a running exchange between Minstrel Boy of Harp & Sword and your host here at The Dark Wraith Forums, with others, including litbrit, herself, offering thoughts on Rich's column and on Mr. Bush's state of mind.
As is often the case, conversations with Minstrel Boy can be interesting and informative, his words being the product of both his experience as a soldier in the Vietnam War and his extensive knowledge of military history. During our discussion in that comment thread, he offered an important judgment that I wish to emphasize and then use as a touchstone for a point of my own; but first, it would be proper form to reproduce here some of the exchange on that thread from litbrit's post.
just a quick expansion of the webb story. three days before the reception at the white house webb's son's unit was ambushed in al-anbar province. the vehicle next to his son's was bombed, killing three members of the unit. young corporal webb behaved like the webbs have behaved in battle since the french and indian war for this country. with courage, compassion and selfless courage. senator elect webb had a lot on his mind and went to the reception because of his sense of duty and deference to the institutions of this nation. he purposely avoided the reception line because he did not want to make nice with the man who is stubbornly and idioticly putting our children's lives at risk for no good reason. mr. bush (who knew exactly what the situation was with webb's son, he fucking knew exactly) broke ranks and sought him out for a little session of frat boy bullying. the implied threat of "i can kill your son if you fuck with me." asshole. reprehensible asshole. i would have bitten throat out of that rear echelon mother fucker. then hit the buffet. webb has a lot more character than i do.
The Minstrel Boy
Thanks, MB. I wasn't sure what would happen if I put up the whole thing (men in black NYT vans suddenly pull up outside my house and pull me from my laptop while I'm still in my pink, sock-monkey-print PJs?) so I excerpted as heavily and as appropriately as I could.
You gots more balls than I do, Sir! (As Son Two would say, Well, Deet-dee-dee..., which I'm told is the new Duh in Hipworld.)
The Webb incident was just the latest installment of what has become a far-reaching collection of utterly unbelievable, utterly disrespectful Bush declarations. Think Cindy Sheehan. Think every parent or loved one of every soldier, the fallen and the still-standing alike.
Good morning, litbrit.
While I am glad for Frank Rich's column, allow me a tempering thought, here.
Poll question for the American people:
Which would you prefer?
A) A change of military strategy by the Administration that would allow us to win in Iraq.
B) A change of political strategy by the Administration that would allow us to leave Iraq.
In my judgment, Choice B) is the runner-up, the one the electorate has now chosen merely because Mr. Bush lost his credibility in delivering A).
When this war in Iraq is over for the United States—and that, by the way, will be a long, long time from now—I shall be woefully impatient with the inevitable "soul searching" in which politicians, pundits, and commoners will engage. They got what they wanted when they wanted it: razzle-dazzle, slam-bam, shock-and-awe right on the tellie. Must-see TV for the Payback Time Generation.
Senator Webb's son gets to have the other side of the coin: while we as a nation will someday gladly leave Iraq, those soldiers of our country who stood that ground in a miserable Middle Eastern country will get to have their own version of the old Charlie Daniels Band Song. Anyone remember it?
"I Am Still in Saigon."
Mr. Bush might very well ensure that soldiers remain in Baghdad for quite a while to come, but it was the American people who were ultimately responsible for ensuring that Mr. Webb's son and tens of thousands of others like him will spend the rest of their days still in Iraq, regardless of how far from that awful place they run for the rest of their days.
Let us never forget to thank the voters for that for the rest of their days.
The Dark Wraith has had his say.
...[T]o answer your question, I choose B because I was always against the illegal and immoral invasion; now, as then, I believe our military muscle and national treasure are put to their best and noblest use protecting and providing for Americans right here at home. Defending the Constitution, fighting "food insecurity", and all that.
I should add that A is probably impossible, unless you're one of those who'd happily wait for that infamous infinite number of monkeys--the ones with infinite typewriters and limitless time--to churn out a bit of Shakespeare.
Something tells me you're not, though. B it is.
I find it altogether troubling that Mr. Bush is still able to frame the debate about "pullback" in terms of "win" and "lose" being mutually exclusive opposites, which is not the case in a conflict that has become a slow-bleed war of attrition. Only by allowing a failed military/political strategy, one that from its inception included both lies and wholly silly theoretical underpinnings, to distend into what Iraq has become for us does "losing" become the alternative to "winning."
Mr. Bush has dug his own grave, and he continues to do so. I just wish he would continue his descent into Hell using a shovel not made from the bones of Americans and Iraqis.
The Dark Wraith can't wait to see the look on his face when he makes it all the way down to Satan's office complex.
another factor to consider in "get out now" (which by the way is something that should be done except for the reasons i'm about to go into)
for the last eight months or so i have been pointing out to people (along with wes clark, colin powell, david hackett fisher and a few others) that the situation on the ground in iraq, the geography and the mood of the people there precludes us pulling out without a bloodbath along the lines of la noche triste where cortez had to fight his way out of tenochtitlan. there was another british retreat from afghanistan (i think 1920's about the time they made up the concept of iraq and set the stage for today's current clusterfuck) where they were slaughtered by small tribe after small tribe.
the distances, the anger of the people, the geographic choke points, the fact that our forces have been stretched and bled dry on this misadventure for the last five years all show that a quick bug out is not wise or even plausible.
so then, what to do?
some folks argue that forting up might be the key. turning the u.s. presence into knights in a castle who ride out when the residents light a bonfire (or flash the bat signal to the sky). great idea except that then we have sitting targets for mortars, rockets and other long range weapons. which they will get, and use. because they hate us so much.
a massive rescue effort (taking far more personnel than the suggestion of john mccain's 20,000, which by the way, is troops we do not fucking have). link up, join in and (to quote the old good bad movie "the warriors" bop our way home. this would require the saudis to accept another massive u.s. ground presence. the turks also.
withdraw to kurdistan (a de facto entity folks it was that before we invaded and will remain so). same as a retreat to the south except with a much more harrowing final exit route. (north through the soviet union, or through turkey, the turks might be bought off with an entry ticket to the EU so there's some small hope)
this scenario plays out like the crows anthem from the wiz which is returning to broadway soon, but i digress.
you can't win
you can't get even
and you can't get out of the game.
this is a clusterfuck of monumental proportions. bush is the spiritual heir to quintus varius. (look it up)
The Minstrel Boy
"These (Aztecs) then came and I told them to observe how they could not triumph, and how each day we did them great harm and killed many of them and we were burning and destroying their city; and that we would not cease until there was nothing left either of it or of them. They replied that they had indeed seen how much they had suffered and how many of them had died, but that they were all determined to perish or have done with us, and that I should look and see how full of people were all those streets and squares and roof tops. Furthermore, they had calculated that if 25,000 of them died for every one of us, they would finish with us first, for they were many and we were but few."--Hernan Cortés--
The Minstrel Boy
And so, then, we came to the only possible option remaining.
We fed them to each other; we pitted them against their own brethren in a spiraling vortex of blood spraying up into the caustic sky. Hatred that had festered in rotting tombs for centuries, we dredged it from the very soil, itself, and we made them to feed; and so they did. Great was their hunger, and flesh—any flesh—was their supper that night as we watched in awe at what we had done.
But anon, we would have to leave; and leave we did, amid the screams, amid the wailing, amid the roar of war become the glowing iron of self-destruction.
We departed, and they did not see us in our quiet flight.
We departed, and they did not care, for we had shown them an enemy to hate far more than they could hate us: we had shown them the enemy that is themselves.
One day, God forbid, we shall see that enemy here in this land, too, for that enemy lives in the hearts of all men who would surrender, willingly or by duress, to the animals of our nature.
Already, I can hear it howling patiently from my shores, even as I come marching home.
Even as I come marching home the defeated hero that I am.--Dark Wraith--
The American pullout scenarios envisioned by many on the Left and even some on the Right merit in their details the kind of harsh light Minstrel Boy brings to bear. One solution touted by the some was mentioned favorably by Andrew Sullivan in a December 5, 2006, column entitled, "The Gathering Storm," a wide-ranging op-ed piece that begins with his own, personal endorsement of Robert Gates as the new Secretary of Defense, this despite Dr. Gates's status as what could easily be described as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Reagan Administration's criminal acts collectively known as the Iran-Contra scandal, as recapped by, among others, Ray McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the CIA.
After the endorsement of Dr. Gates to resume his former career as a public official with a history of manipulating intelligence to get Congress to do Presidential bidding, and before launching into a simplistic characterization of 16th and 17th Century European history as "...a massive, sectarian, regional bloodbath" that will happen all over again in the 21st Century, Mr. Sullivan makes this passing statement about the situation in Iraq:
"The best hope for Iraq is perhaps a temporary surge in U.S. troops to make one last effort at some effort at a relatively peaceful de facto partition, before the near-inevitable U.S. withdrawal and subsequent involvement of Saudis and Egyptians in support of the Sunnis and the Iranians on the side of the Shia."Mr. Sullivan puts it on the table, the emerging silver bullet: partition. His version has the shiny, testosterone gloss of one last roar of U.S. troops kicking serious booty to get all those fractious Iraqis into line before we bug out.
Oh, yes, and the Saudis will flow in to see to it that our will be done as far as that partition goes, this despite the rather inconvenient situation on the ground with the House of Saud having to deal with its own running battle with internal anti-government militants. We'll get this mess under control, if only Dr. Gates can get Bush to see the light of letting Iraq break apart into three states, something called "Kurdistan" for the Kurds, some miserable piece of left-over turf for the Sunnis, and the rump Iraq with lots and lots of oil for the Shi'ites.
Yes, that's a good endpoint at which the United States should now aim, according to Mr. Sullivan. Unfortunately, that scenario, or some minor variation on it, has a good chance of becoming the widely preferred combo meal at the American Opinion Drive-Thru Solutions Diner.
Now, let us briefly but objectively think about the details of the pieces of this partitioning solution.
First, whether or not "Kurdistan" will ever be recognized as a full-fledged state, it already exists, but that does not mean it's not going to be a problem. Neighboring Turkey will have on-going and serious issues with even an unrecognized but de facto homeland for the Kurds since provisional Kurdish militias still routinely make cross-border, terrorist-type raids into Turkey, and Turkey routinely reciprocates with cross-border, punitive attacks to kill Kurds who might or might not have been involved in the original raids. That conflict will continue to simmer for decades, and it will inevitably flare up every now and then into something that looks an awful lot like war. And adding a rather strange twist to that mix will be Israel, which has a difficult but deepening matrix of commercial, political, and military ties with both Turkey and Kurdistan. One might argue, of course, that perhaps Israel's greatest movement toward maturity as a nation-state will be when it finds itself in the unenviable and entirely novel position of having to act as a peace broker between two of its allies that it really wants to keep from each other's throat.
So Kurdistanwhat was once northern Iraqwill be a source both of hope for stability and of spasmodic warfare in the coming decades; and as a point to Mr. Sullivan, that on-going tension and occasional, open conflict will not be "sectarian," nor will it necessarily be a "bloodbath."
Below Kurdistan is another matter: a bloodbath awaits almost any solution at this point, but no matter how many times the mainstream news media and some bloggers call it "sectarian" violence, that does not make it so. The Sunni/Shia distinction is obvious right now, but that is merely a pair of focal points for many issues that internally divide Iraqis, those being the divisions that Saddam Hussein was so masterfully able to contain in a way that makes George W. Bush look like an utter, incompetent, pathetic, rank amateur by comparison.
Cleaving a border to wedge the Sunnis and the Shi'ites from each other is a fool's goal, and the tragedy is that it has a very good chance of being the final solution, once President Bush is no longer an impediment. In any partition, the Shi'ites will get most of the territory that has the oil under it. The Sunnis will get dirt, and it will enrage them for generations, if not centuries, to come. The talk of bringing Iran and Syria into the brokered settlement is just brilliant, too: they're going to broker the maximum deal for the Shia majority of Iraq, and then they're going to run that new, rump Iraq of the Shi'ites like their own fiefdom. Lebanon under Syrian political and military domination was nothing but a shell of a state. The difference between Lebanon and the rump Iraq of the Shi'ites under the political shadow of Iran and Syria is that there won't be any chance whatsoever for an eventual Cedar Revolution for the latter, but there will be a very high probability that, sooner or later, Israel will feel compelled to use military force to contain what it will perceive as a clear and compelling threat to it.
The very idea that Iran needs to be brought into any "solution" to the crisis in Iraq shows just how miserable the choices are at this point. Any place where you find yourself in a poker game where the Devil is welcome to the table is a casino you never should have entered. But here we are: a weak, annoying little state that once in a while used to sponsor terrorismdespite Dr. Gates's mid-1980s lies to the contraryhas now become a regional pain in the backside able to just sit back and wait for us to come begging.
As a rhetorical question, just for the record, who brought us to this unhappy place, the poker table where the Taliban and Ba'athist enemies of the hegemons in Tehran are no longer around to keep Iran in a vice grip? Why, that would be none other than George W. Bush and his neo-conservative genius war-mongers.
And finally, let us be clear about the on-going and coming "bloodbath" in Iraq: whether we stay or leave, for a long time to come, that word will characterize the miserable land we invaded. All we're debating right now is how much American blood will be in the rivers of it that flow through the coming decade. Is anyone bold enough to openly say the awful truth about our eventual departure?that part about how we Americans have made an unbelievably huge mess, a human tragedy of just about epic proportions, but now we need to leave so those Muslims can kill each other and leave us out of it?
Whether the President who caused this eventually goes to the gallows or into disgraced obscurity, we as a nation now must carry the blame for a catastrophe we simply cannot undo, cannot fix, and cannot find someone else upon whom to lay the blame.
Fortunately, we can always use our wholly facile, irrelevant language of "sectarian violence," "civil war," and "pullback" to assuage our national conscience and mitigate the glaring discomfort that comes with direct, unavoidable culpability; and we can bring back to power a skillful liar from another deceitful Administration; and we can put into power a party of men and women who consistently, for six long years, cowered before the neo-conservatives when the winds of popular support blew far from the world of measured skepticism that should never have been abandoned as the hallmark of statesmanship.
The good news is that it really is okay if we walk away from Iraq without feeling overwhelmingly mortified by the bloodbath that bears our imprimatur. Someday, just like always, we'll pay, and we'll pay dearly.
And when we do, watch just how morally outraged we'll be by the injustice of it all.
The Dark Wraith has spoken.