Thursday, October 27, 2005

Nobody Asked Me, But . . . (10/27/05)


Recipe for disaster. Want to diminish America's stature in the world? It's easy. Here are some do's and don'ts to make it happen:
1. Start by having no knowledge of the long colonial history of the Middle East, its nationalities, languages, cultures, religions, or fierce tribalism.
2. Take sides in an eight-year internecine war between neighboring countries Iraq and Iran that will cost a million lives on each side by supporting and propping up Iraq and its dictator, Saddam Hussein.
3. After evicting Saddam from Kuwait in the Gulf War, wear down your former ally with ten years of sanctions, in essence starving its children with limited access to food, medicines and health care.
4. In response to a surprise aerial strike on the U.S. by a relatively small band of religious zealots, mostly Saudi citizens, 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. Chief among these, Dick Cheney. When asked about his succession of deferments and failure to serve in the military, his response was, "I had other priorities."
5. Attack your former ally and invade it with a "coalition force" largely made up of American troops.
6. Do not heed your military experts' advice on the size of forces necessary to achieve military victory and to occupy a vast country.
7. Upon gaining victory over an inferior army, fail to anticipate inevitable armed resistance. 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 ammunition depots and do not prevent looting of the country's infrastructure.
9. Fail to equip your troops with armored vehicles and the latest 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 democracy.
11. Disband the Iraqi Army, which 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. Take over Saddam's infamous prison at Abu Graib and instead of bulldozing it, staff it and operate it. Allow enlisted guards to humiliate and torture prisoners. Blame and punish the enlisted personnel but not their officers.
13. Have your officers occupy Saddam's luxurious and ostentatious former palaces as living quarters and offices.
14. Hunker down behind sandbags in fortified complexes, creating "Little Americas" offering the amenities of American life in sharp contrast with the poverty surrounding them.
15. Install in power wealthy expatriate Iraqis who chose to live abroad during Saddam's rule, including Ahmed Chalabi, the CIA's favorite misinformation source.
16. Dawdle on rebuilding the infrastructure in Iraq you destroyed or 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 will be lost and unaccounted for.
18. To guard favored American contractors, lease a heavily armed and highly paid private army of soldiers of fortune from security companies like Blackwater and allow them to make their own rules.
19. As the number and severity of incidents increase, release statements claiming that the situation is under control.
20. Arbitrarily extend tours of duty and degrade morale, especially among Reserve and National Guard units.
21. In the face of mounting casualties and the increasing number and severity of attacks on your forces, close your eyes to grim reality and issue upbeat statements about the imminence of victory.
22. Ride herd on an "elected" government and help it to write a "satisfactory" constitution.
23. Fail to change tactics to fight a fourth-generation war. Remain unmoved by two thousand American dead and tens of thousands of American wounded or that you have killed and wounded many times that number of Iraqi civilians.
24. Have no exit plan for disengagement from Iraq.
25. Refuse to concede that you may have made a mistake.

Death of a friend. As were readers all over the world, I was shocked to learn of Isaac Asimov's death on April 6, 1992. Years before, as the editorial director of a book club, The Library of Science, I came to know this prodigiously prolific writer. Choosing his books as book club offerings was easy; they always became bestsellers. When I wrote a book about how to set up and operate a home office, he generously wrote a cover blurb for it. His phone number was in the Manhattan book--but not under his own name. It was listed under the single name, "Nightfall"--the title of one of his most successful science fiction stories.

I knew that Isaac was ill with an increasingly debilitating disease, yet the nature of it was mentioned. He had been hospitalized for triple bypass surgery in December of 1983 and came through the operation with no loss of brain power, his greatest fear. The only worrisome incident was an unusually high fever the day after the operation, but that soon passed.

By 1990, he developed a heart murmur and was scheduled to have mitral valve replacement. In tests before that operation, he tested positive for HIV, with only half the number of normal T cells. The operation was canceled.

Suddenly, it became clear. The culprit was the blood given to him during the bypass operation. It was neither autologous blood previously taken from him, nor blood from known donors. No HIV screening tests had been done on it. On the advice of the doctors treating him, the news was withheld from the public, possibly to protect their reputations. His wife, Janet Jeppson, herself an M.D., reluctantly agreed to keep the news secret.

Despite his illness, his output of books barely slackened. Growing increasingly weak toward the end, Isaac accepted the inevitable with courage. "It's been a good life," he said, "and I'm satisfied with it." He had made it past the biblical "three score and ten."

There's a troubling "what if" that goes with this anecdote. His blood type was Type B; my blood type is the same. Had he but known that the transfused blood would not be screened! He joins Arthur Ashe and perhaps thousands of others who were infected by tainted blood during surgery.

And so I say, "Ave, Ike"--the name he permitted only a few friends to call him.


AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Comments: Post a Comment | Postscripts Homepage

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?