Thursday, June 29, 2006

Who's the War Party Now? 25 Ingredients for a Republican Disaster


Republicans have been fond of calling the Democratic Party "the war party" because of participation in four wars by Democratic presidents--the Spanish-American War (William McKinley), World War I (Woodrow Wilson), World War II (Franklin D. Roosevelt) and the Korean War (Harry S. Truman). The Vietnam War is a standoff; John F. Kennedy/Lyndon Johnson, who started it, and Richard Nixon, who continued it with an even greater number of casualties, both parties get tagged with that one.

The appellation "war party" dates from a time when the Republican Party was timorous and fearful of international entanglements. But take a look at what recent bumbling Republican presidents have managed to achieve. Had they set out to diminish America's image and stature in the world, and to divide and bamboozle the American people, they could not have been more successful. Here's a list of the doleful ingredients they combined to create the disastrous and indigestible stew that is Iraq:

1. Start by having no knowledge of the long colonial history of the Middle East, its nationalities, languages, cultures, religions, or fierce tribalism.

2. If you are Ronald Reagan, take sides in an eight-year internecine war between two neighboring countries, Iraq and Iran, that will cost a million lives on each side. Actively support, supply and prop up Iraq and its dictator, Saddam Hussein.

3. If you are George Herbert Walker Bush, attack your recent ally and evict Saddam from Kuwait in the Gulf War that follows. The punishment for biting the hand that fed it is to wear down the impoverished country with ten years of sanctions--in essence, starving its children with limited access to food, medicines and health care.

The remaining 22 ingredients in this recipe for disaster were contributed by Chef de Cuisine Dick Cheney and Sous-Chef George W. Bush (who has been allowed to think he is in charge of the kitchen).

4. If you are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, in response to a surprise aerial strike on the U.S. by a relatively small band of religious zealots, mostly Saudi citizens, do not relentlessly pursue the mastermind behind the disaster. Instead, allow a group of unelected neocon chickenhawks who never served in the military to make a case for a preemptive attack on Iraq based on the unproven presence of weapons of mass destruction. Quondam spiritual leader of the neocons is the Vice President. When asked about his succession of deferments during the Vietnam War and his own failure to serve in the military, Mr. Cheney's patriotic response was, "I had other priorities."

5. Attack Iraq and invade it with a "coalition force" composed mostly of American troops and a much smaller contingent of British troops.

6. Ignore your military experts' advice on the size of forces necessary to achieve military victory and to occupy a vast country. Instead, listen to civilian advisers from academia with no military experience.

7. Upon gaining victory over an inferior army, fail to anticipate inevitable armed resistance. Allow sectarian militias to be recruited and armed. Attempt to fight a guerrilla war with an army designed and equipped to engage Soviet forces in giant set-piece battles on the plains of Central Europe.

8. Neglect to secure critical sites, ranging from ammunition depots to museums. Look the other way when looting of the country's infrastructure takes place.

9. Fail to equip your troops with adequately armored vehicles and the latest improvements in body armor.

10. Upon finding no weapons of mass destruction, create the fiction that the purpose of the war was to democratize Iraq, a fractionated country that has never known true democracy.

11. Foolishly disband the Iraqi Army, whose officers and non-commissioned officers could have formed the core of new Iraqi defense and security forces. Allow Iraqi soldiers to return home with their weapons and join the ranks of the unemployed.

12. Have your military officers and civilian officials occupy Saddam's ostentatious former palaces and use them as luxurious living quarters and offices.

13. Take over Saddam's infamous prison at Abu Graib. Instead of bulldozing it, staff it and operate it as a detention center for suspected terrorists swept up in broad sweeps. Allow enlisted guards to humiliate and torture prisoners. Blame, then court martial and punish selected enlisted personnel for their offenses but not the officers in charge for dereliction of duty.

14. When insurgency flares up, hunker down behind sandbags and barbed wire in fortified bases, creating "Little Americas" that offer the amenities of life back home in sharp contrast to the highly visible poverty surrounding these camps.

15. Install in power wealthy expatriate Iraqis who had chosen to live abroad comfortably during Saddam's rule. Prime example: Ahmad Chalabi, the CIA's favorite source of tainted misinformation.

16. Dawdle on rebuilding the infrastructure you purposely destroyed or carelessly allowed to be looted.

17. Instead of creating jobs for millions of unemployed Iraqis, award lucrative no-bid contracts to American contractors in a process so rife with malfeasance and corruption that billions of dollars in disbursements disappear and are unaccounted for.

18. To guard favored American contractors holding no-bid contracts, underwrite a heavily armed, highly paid private army of soldiers of fortune leased from security companies like Blackwater and allow them to write their own rules.

19. Despite your failure to return basic services in Iraq to pre-war levels and as the number and intensity of hostile incidents increase, release rosy statements claiming that progress is being made and the situation is under control.

20. Direct the activities and decisions of an interim government and insist that it write a constitution satisfactory to the U.S. government.

21. Arbitrarily extend tours of duty and degrade your troops' morale, especially among Reserve and National Guard units.

22. In the face of steadily mounting casualties and the increasing number of grievous attacks on our forces, close your eyes to grim reality and issue upbeat statements about the imminence of victory.

23. Fail to change tactics to fight a growing insurgency and invite attacks with the challenge, "Bring 'em on." Remain unmoved by thousands of American dead and tens of thousands of American wounded or that you have killed and wounded many times that number of innocent Iraqi civilians. Allow no photographs to be made of returning flag-draped coffins. Avoid attending military funerals.

24. Have no exit plan or timetable for disengagement from Iraq.

25. In the face of plummeting approval numbers at home, refuse to concede that the Iraq misadventure was a gross mistake. Divert attention from your failures and attempt to change the subject by proposing constitutional amendments banning gay marriage and flag burning.

Stir well and season the mélange with the bitter crocodile tears shed for the fallen by this administration. Call the resulting inedible stew "Cheney-Bush Ragout à l'Irakien." Serve cold. Send the check for the meal in the billions of dollars to the table of the American people.

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