October 24, 2020

Used War Salesmen

Used War Salesman

used war salesmen_04-08-2008Joe Biden has the single best line of this year’s Presidential campaign when he said of Rudolph Giuliani that “every sentence out of his mouth consists of a noun, a verb, and ’9-11′.”

On a much graver note, he knocked another one out of the park during today’s Armed Services Committee hearing when he asked Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker if al Qaeda was a larger threat to the United States in Iraq or on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. As Crocker trotted out his boilerplate answer that “al Qaeda is a strategic threat to the United States wherever it is…”, Biden cut him off.

“Where is most of it? If you can take it out, if you had a choice, the Lord Almighty came down sat in the middle of the table and said Mr. Ambassador you can eliminate every al Qaeda source in Afghanistan and Pakistan or every al Qaeda personnel in Iraq, which would you pick?”

Crocker tried desperately to stay on message, but was clearly rattled by Biden’s persistence. “Given the progress made against al Qaeda in Iraq, the significant decrease in its capabilities of the fact it is solidly on the defensive and not in a position as far…”

“Which would you pick, Mr. Ambassador?”

“I would therefore pick al Qaeda in the Pakistan/Afghanistan border area.”

“That would be a smart choice,” said Biden.

Indeed. Jason Linkins of The Huffington Post wrote last month that “(al Qaeda in Iraq) is little more than a Rotary Club version of the notorious terror organization,” numbering somewhere in the neighborhood of 850 individuals.

That was of little note to Ambassador Crocker and General David Petraeus who were more interested in selling Congress and the American people on the Iraq model that just needs a little tinkering and she’ll run like a champ for another hundred years.

The continued justifications by the administration and their commanders feels increasingly like men marinating in bad cologne and chafing in cheap off-the-rack suits trying to sell us on a shiny ’95 Chrysler Sebring that belches blue smoke (“Just a little hiccup!”) and requires an extra elbow for the power driver’s side window to go all the way down. And both General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker today looked like a few sad sacks who had been peddling slightly-used conflicts for way too long.

I smell a resignation and tell-all book sometime very soon in General Petraeus’ future. His heart isn’t in this any more, and like the man trying to peddle the “like new” 1998 Taurus he knows was held in police evidence for three years after it was driven by a drunk into a crowded nightclub queue, he just doesn’t have the spin anymore for a conflict that is costing us somewhere in the neighborhood of $340 million per day, over 4,000 American lives to date (never mind the dead and displaced Iraqis, whose numbers are so great no one has a reliable count on), and has long since lost the support of the American people. “We haven’t turned any corners,” he lamented.  “We haven’t seen any lights at the end of the tunnel. The champagne has been pushed to the back of the refrigerator.” But things are getting better, except for Basra the past few weeks and bombs landing on Nouri al-Maliki’s doorstep.

In other words, “Well, it’s got its original upholstery. And it’s still in real good shape. It comes with the Scotch-Guard. And, um, it’s got the Kraco stereo, and it comes with eight FM presets. You like to travel? ‘Cause it’s got a spacious trunk. You can fit all your luggage in there. You have kids? Because this is a real safe ride. Real safe. My wife and I used to own one and we drove it to Yosemite with our two boys every other summer. Hardly ever had to stop for gas either.” Awkward pause. “So, what’s it gonna take to get you in this beauty today?”

And you can smell the bourbon on his breath as he excuses himself to talk to his sales manager to see if they can take another few hundred off the price tag, knowing full well you’ll be gone by the time he comes back from heading into the breakroom for another belt from his flask, resigned to another Saturday afternoon, another lost sale, because he knows he can’t sell these cars like he could back in the good old days when he was across town at the Subaru dealership.

Petraeus lost me pretty early in the sale today, and I was off to my car in a hurry. Sure, I was late for work, but still, this car’s seen a hundred miles of bad road, and I’m no closer to buying it than I was when it was shiny and new five years ago.