Sunday, March 1, 2009

Jump Out the Back, Jack

I had just finished the fourth grade on Friday before the Monday first thing in the morning bright and early when my Mother left my Daddy. That Friday had also been payday, and my Daddy had cashed his check and dutifully brought home the housekeeping and grocery money, such as it was. My Mother put me and my sisters on the bus with a transfer to make at Five Points in downtown Atlanta, as the moving van pulled away from the house where my Daddy would return after work to learn the empty truth.

Maybe that’s why I say it is ok with me to leave Iraq while nobody is looking. The dead of night. Or lunch time on the next to last dizzy day of the month of Ramadan self-denial and fasting. Just leave. Think of the traffic jam. I-285 and Spaghetti Junction, only no 8-lane super-highway modeled after the German Autobahn by General Eisenhower when he became President Eisenhower, just an old two-lane in the desert with sign posts pointing this way to Turkey, that way to Kuwait, the other way to Jordan. Of course, there will have to be a cease fire. Everybody freeze. Don’t anybody move. Not even an eyelash. Who is going to cover the back of the last American on the helicopter?

But on Day One, the new President did not ask me. Instead the Commander-In-Chief summoned his generals and ordered them to submit plans for ending the War in Iraq. Now he has announced withdrawal of all but 50,000 American troops by August 2010. Eighteen months. Not the 16 months he promised in the campaign. Why quibble and castigate? It is the end to the war we have but do not want by the duly elected government we have in the only world we have.

American power does not travel light, and not all of the $12 billion per month sent to Iraq has disappeared into thin air. Do the math. Six years, times 12 months per year, times $12 billion. I get $864 Billion. The kind of money being thrown around to Bail Out the current U.S. economic messes. In addition to uniformed American troops in Iraq, there are 100,000 contractors, 40,000 aircraft and vehicles, and 80,000 containers disbursed across more than 280 installations, according to Wired Blog Network.

U.S. Army Photo

The Baltimore Sun quotes one general as saying, "one Army office at one base is tracking 1.2 million items of property worth $14 billion, a partial list of materiel that includes objects such as dentist's chairs, chapel pews, swimming pool filtration systems and surveillance blimps. Separately, the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates military supermarkets and shops across Iraq, holds an inventory that includes 2.7 million candy bars, 15,000 strips of beef jerky, 1.6 million cans of soda and 330,696 CDs and DVDs."

Copyright 2009 by William C. Cotter


CP said...

Poetically said.
I would only add that 4251 American young people have died in the war, and thousands more have been permanently maimed. Over 90,000 Iraquis have died.
I think that was a mistake of such magnitude and with such awful results that even those of us who opposed it don't want to feel the truth of it or the anger and grief that goes with it. We just want it to go away.

Paw Paw Bill said...

I knew I could count on you to remember the important stuff. Thank you sincerely.

pascal said...

Junior thought Daddy a fool for halting on the road to Baghdad, but I think Daddy had a vision like Saul on the road to Damascus(?)and, wisely, it made a "christian" out of him and, sadly, Junior remained a fool.

Paw Paw Bill said...

The way of fathers and sons.

annettecotter said...

Well, it IS the duly elected government we have. And thank God we don't have the one we coulda had...that woulda kept on killing until some kinda warrior's victory could be declared (2020?). This reminds me of the song "Unbreak My Heart" except this is "Unfight This War" Not possible. So, whatdya want? Scenes of anarchy and all out carnage in Iraqi streets when we jump out the back? Scenes of a scant force of Americans (the last ones leaving) ambushed with no cover? Dubya marched us into deep voodoo. Is there a clean way out? Doubtful. But this may be our best shot. Whatever happens, our guilt-load will be Wounded Knee times ten.

tina said...

We broke it, and we didn't really fix it. There was a lot of death and destruction. And there may be more when we pull out. But I don't think the damage of leaving will in any way equal the destruction of the past six years.
There was a lot of cultural ignorance involved in this war.. attempts to change the core culture of a people. The best thing that could happen in the middle east is more prosperity to relieve the mass of people from their grinding poverty. Get rid of poverty and some of the edge will be taken off radicalism. I read some interesting stuff last night...the author said that it is possible for countries to partake of modernization without giving up all of their core culture. He referred to three main groups--Asian culture, European culture, and Islamic Culture and likened them to tectonic plates grinding against each other. The message was that we have to work for cultural co-existence and abandon neo-colonial ideas of forcing cultures half-way around the world to become Europeanized....'cause they ain't gonna do it.

CP said...

Tina's right that other parts of the world don't necesarily WANT democracy. One thing I always keep in mind about Iran, for example, is that it was a grassroots revolution that toppled the Shah, but the people were not seeking democracy. They welcomed a theocracy.This is far from the way I think, but I also understand that to many Muslims in the middle east, the concept we hold so dear -- separation of church and state -- is not only not a value but something they find sort of contemptible. With Iraq, we had mission creep. We didn't go in to do national buiding and start a new democracy. We went in because George W. Bush probably sincerely believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was somehow part of the attacks of 9/11.
And we broke a country that was only held together by a dictator.
I'm hoping as the President has promised before that we will leave as carefully as we were careless going in.


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