Favorite

Into the morass 

Remember the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President George W. Bush? It happened on Dec. 14, 2008, near the end of the president's second term. Bush had traveled to Baghdad for a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki. The two announced the signing of the U.S.-Iraqi Status of Forces Agreement promising that all American soldiers would leave Iraq by Dec. 31, 2011.

"This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog," yelled TV correspondent Muntadhar al-Zaidi in Arabic as Bush ducked nimbly away. "This is for the widows and orphans and all those killed in Iraq," he shouted as he flung his second shoe.

"I don't think that you can take one guy throwing his shoe as representative of the people of Iraq," sniffed White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who sustained a black eye in the melee.

Actually, things are a lot worse than that, it's been tempting to observe watching President Obama struggling to contain the predictable aftermath of the worst strategic blunder in U.S. history. For sheer destructive folly, only Vietnam rivals the 2003 Iraq invasion.

Predictable because, as Eric Alterman reminds us at BillMoyers.com, the 2006 National Intelligence Estimate, the consensus view of 16 different U.S. spy agencies, did predict it. Titled "Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States," it concluded that dismembering Iraq's government and disbanding its army had greatly multiplied the threat of Islamic terrorism.

As reported by Mark Mazetti in the New York Times, the draft report described "actions by the United States government that were determined to have stoked the jihad movement, like the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal."

At least that's what it said before the little gremlins in Vice President Dick Cheney's office censored the final document. Even so, a 2005 study by the National Intelligence Council also concluded "that Iraq had become the primary training ground for the next generation of terrorists."

History records that the Obama administration beat the treaty deadline by two weeks, completing the final withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq on Dec. 16, 2011. The president spent much of the 2012 presidential campaign bragging about it.

Well, he wasn't doing a whole lot of bragging last week. Indeed, listening to the president's cogent, almost professorial explanation of his administration's response to the rapid takeover of large parts of Iraq and Syria by ISIL militants, I found myself wondering how much Obama himself believed his own words.

"Iraqi leaders," he said "must rise above their differences and come together around a political plan for Iraq's future. Shia, Sunni, Kurds — all Iraqis — must have confidence that they can advance their interests and aspirations through the political process rather than through violence."

Yes, and snow cones and magic ponies for all the little children.

This too: "The United States will not pursue military options that support one sect inside of Iraq at the expense of another. There's no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States. But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven."

No military solution, just a more capable Iraqi army. All that and a defensive perimeter around Baghdad, too! Manned by Shiite militias of doubtful loyalty to Iraq's government and possibly by Iranian soldiers, Obama was careful not to say aloud.

Indeed, as Iraq descends into a full-scale sectarian civil war, the best possible outcome from an (amoral) American point of view would be bloody stalemate and ultimately, perhaps, partition.

But Obama can't say those things either, although he came close when he told CBS News' Norah O'Donnell that the idea of arming "farmers, dentists and folks who have never fought before" to overthrow a brutal dictator like Syria's Assad and also defeat ruthless jihadists was a "fantasy."

He said the Washington press corps needed to understand that. Above all, the president needs to heed Gen. David Petraeus' warning that the U.S. not let itself be manipulated into serving as a Shiite air force.

Politically speaking, however, here's a catch: The more President Obama does what Americans say they want done in foreign affairs — i.e. pulling back from insane Middle Eastern ethnic and religious conflicts — the worse his polling numbers get.

It's almost as if people yearn for a make-believe, action-figure president like the one George W. Bush impersonated until the roof fell in. Or possibly like Ronald Reagan, who got the hell out of Lebanon after a Beirut terrorist strike killed 287 Marines, but who talked tough and invaded tiny Grenada.

Basically, too many Americans want victory without sacrifice. They like to chant "We're Number One!" but with lower taxes and no fatalities.

That's a fantasy too, from which we may slowly awaken.

Favorite

Comments

Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Gene Lyons

  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • Drinking culture

    Here we go again. At the rate these campus sexual abuse sagas are making news, it's reasonable to ask what college administrators can possibly be thinking about.
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Can't be proven

    Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, specifically to September 1992, when Attorney General William Barr, top-ranking FBI officials and — believe it or not — a Treasury Department functionary who actually sold "Presidential Bitch" T-shirts with Hillary Clinton's likeness from her government office, pressured the U.S. attorney in Little Rock to open an investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton's Whitewater investment.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The cult of gun-toting

    That Idaho mother shot to death by her 2 year-old son in a Walmart store? Judging by Veronica Jean Rutledge's biography, you can be just about certain that she'd driven to the store wearing a seat belt, with her little boy buckled carefully into his car seat.
    • Jan 8, 2015
  • Choleric about love in our time

    For a guy who watches maybe 250 ballgames a year, I've always taken an interest in what was once called the women's page. After studying the sports section every morning, it's the next thing I turn to.
    • Jan 22, 2015
  • Live from darkest Arkansas

    Housebound in an ice storm, the columnist finds himself distracted by online trivia and tempted to yell at the TV.
    • Feb 19, 2015

Most Shared

  • New book documents the work of visionary instrument-maker Ed Stilley

    Ed Stilley is one of those special, extraordinary visionaries who are driven to create. In Stilley's case, God was the driver and He told Stilley in 1979 to build acoustic  instruments for children.
  • Best of Arkansas 2016

    Readers elect their favorites.
  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
  • These Hogs won't be thin

    This may be the strongest returning receiving corps that the Razorbacks have fielded in the post-Petrino days.
  • Trump-Putin 2016

    Among the thousand bizarre aspects of the presidential campaign has been the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin axis.

Latest in Gene Lyons

  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
    • Jul 28, 2016
  • Drinking culture

    Here we go again. At the rate these campus sexual abuse sagas are making news, it's reasonable to ask what college administrators can possibly be thinking about.
    • Jul 21, 2016
  • Can't be proven

    Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, specifically to September 1992, when Attorney General William Barr, top-ranking FBI officials and — believe it or not — a Treasury Department functionary who actually sold "Presidential Bitch" T-shirts with Hillary Clinton's likeness from her government office, pressured the U.S. attorney in Little Rock to open an investigation of Bill and Hillary Clinton's Whitewater investment.
    • Jul 14, 2016
  • More »

Event Calendar

« »

July

S M T W T F S
  1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
31  

Most Viewed

  • Hillary hit jobs

    It's always been my conviction that if Hillary Clinton could be appointed president, she'd do a bang-up job. Getting elected, however, might prove more difficult.
  • Michelle Obama: still who she was

    I had the good fortune to see Michelle Obama fairly early in her public life.
  • Trump-Putin 2016

    Among the thousand bizarre aspects of the presidential campaign has been the Donald Trump-Vladimir Putin axis.
  • Rent reforms

    Arkansas's landlord tenant laws work well for honest landlords, too well for slumlords, and they don't work at all for honest tenants.

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Hillary hit jobs

    • Well, a fact missed by Lyins and JCP is that Hillary's incompetence didn't just extend…

    • on July 30, 2016
  • Re: Rent reforms

    • "Prosecutors and city attorneys, and ultimately Arkansas taxpayers, end up footing the bill for evicting…

    • on July 29, 2016
  • Re: Rent reforms

    • Unfortunately, there can be another way for debtors to end up in jail. Arkansas law…

    • on July 29, 2016
 

© 2016 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation