Well, it’s been five years and our war’s growing up. John McCain is promising to defend the surge and protect our right to remain at war over the liberal wetnoodlery of those two peaceniks, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. George Bush is measuring the success of the war by the number of soccer games being played in Iraq (180, in fact, being viewed by General Odierno from on high in the safety of the air, on his last flight over Baghdad before he returned to the United States), and Senator McCain chimed in the same day proclaiming that the surge is working and that things are turning around in the Green Zone, at precisely the same minute that MSNBC interrupted coverage of his Pollyanna pep talk to announce that the Green Zone is coming apart at the seams and is under lockdown, and while all hell was still breaking loose in Basra.
The profits from Iraqi oil haven’t quite paid for the war as Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph E. Stiglitz notes in his just-released book, The Three Trillion Dollar War: The True Cost of the Iraq Conflict (he hates America, I’m sure).However, the cynics who said this was just a war for cheap oil were dead wrong as anyone who’s had to sell their car stereo to gas up their car can attest. When we invaded Iraq, oil was at $25 a barrel and futures trading suggested that it would still be at $25 a barrel in 2013. It closed at $105.62 a barrel just yesterday. That’s $80.62 more—I’m no economist, but that’s progress, I think.
Granted, I know we were having such a lovely war, but I have to confess that the novelty of this wore off for me a long time ago. Somewhere around March 2003, I think. But it really set in later, as I stayed glued to the TV. That’s what the hardened war veterans call “battle fatigue.” When we weren’t exactly greeted as liberators and the kids kept dying in droves even though George Bush flew in in his flightsuit and declared that our job there was done, I think I just lost interest and flipped over to 24, where the real war on terror is being fought.
But I’m still a good American (I like to think) and I’m still paying attention, and the last five years have been an education if nothing else. I’ve learned that Saddam Hussein enjoyed Doritos when he was in captivity, before he was hanged on the hottest YouTube video of late 2006. I’ve learned that his sons, Uday and Qusay, were barbaric playboy morons who were as evil as two spoiled sons of a sadistic dictator could be and would probably have been fragged by their own security detail at some point if we hadn’t gone in and killed them.
I’ve learned that yellowcake is not only something you don’t serve at a coffee social, but also that Saddam Hussein was never actually trying to buy any from Niger, regardless of what George Bush said in his 2003 State Of Union Address as we were gussying our guns up for war. I’ve learned that the quickest way to deal with someone who says otherwise is to use your Vice President’s office to out his classified CIA Operations Officer wife to a grumpy old conservative pundit and professional crank with an axe to grind against the naysaying left.
I’ve learned that just because the chief International Atomic Energy Agency weapons inspector resigned his post early in the war, conceding that “we were all wrong” in suggesting that Saddam was trying to weaponize ricin or possessed stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, it doesn’t mean that Saddam didn’t possess them in the first place when we went into Iraq.
I’ve learned that the last thing that you want to do when you’re invading a country and trying to win their loyalty is to fire everyone in the largest and almost only solvent outfit in the country, the Army, and give them lots of time on their hands and no money to let their imaginations wander and convince themselves that life was actually better under the dictator who was at least employing and paying them.
I’ve learned that you go to war with the military you have, not the military you want, because the military you want costs money, even if not having it gets a lot more kids killed. It’s a cost-benefit analysis thing that the leaders and their economists have carefully thought through. Besides, if kids die over there, that’s more low-wage jobs available over here.
I learned that a 6’4″ diabetic can survive in the mountains of Pakistan even nearly seven years after the leader of the Free World promises to get him “dead or alive” (in all fairness, that same leader later clarified the intent of his statement to read “I don’t really think about him all that much”).
Along those lines, I’ve learned that we’re fighting Them over there so we don’t have to fight Them here, and that we’re making absolutely sure we don’t have to fight Them here by closing the Statue Of Liberty and banning medium- and large-sized bottles of shampoo from airplane carry-ons, even though our ports, railways, and chemical plants have security holes big enough to navigate a truck or a 737 through. Those are over here, by the way, where we are, and not over there. Not saying the fundamental strategy is flawed, but when you devote so many people to fighting Them over there, you might be a bit distracted to pay attention to our vulnerabilities over here.
I’ve learned that being elected to represent the people doesn’t mean having to say you care, as Vice President Dick Cheney told Martha Raditz when she said that recent polls suggested that 67% of the American people were opposed to our involvement in Iraq, “So?”
I’ve learned that loyalty is paramount and that if, at any point, anyone doesn’t fall in line and goes against the official numbers, then their ass should be out the door faster than three-day-old haddock, like Assistant Treasury Secretary Laurence Lindsey, General Eric Shinseki, and Admiral William Fallon, and Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill who questioned the prudence of tax cuts when America was preparing for a war. Then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called Lindsey’s September 2002 estimate of an Iraqi war at $100-$200 billion, or about 1-2% of American GNP as “baloney”, shortly before he was shown the door (as of 2007, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that our democracy-building, terrorist-crushing exercise in Iraq would ring up to about $1 trillion by 2017 [or higher—see the aforementioned Joseph Stiglitz reference—but what does he know with his stupid no-count Nobel Prize in Economics]. Not sure how they’d go about firing the whole CBO, though, but I’m sure they’re looking into it).
I’ve learned that no matter how stupid the war, it still costs money, and $343 million a day is a hell of a lot of money, especially when we’re borrowing that, and our dollar is in ruins and foreign tourists are coming to New York City to shop for bargains, and we’re dipping into the kitty to bail out Bear-Stearns but are saying fuck all y’all to the morons who were foolish enough to accept the sub-prime mortgages that were being offered up like Starbucks’ samples in Times Square.
More than anything, though, I’ve learned that John McCain is charming and a captivating interview, and that, like George Bush and Dick Cheney, he believes like he believes in his family and everything near and dear to him (whatever that is anymore) that the surge is working and will be maintained under a McCain Presidency, even if we have to stay there for a hundred years.
In any case, the surge is alive. Long live the surge. I’ve also learned that I have more beer in the refrigerator, and all of this reflection upon what I’ve learned from our continuing and never-ending Mideast adventure makes me want to drink it all, tonight.