Saturday, November 12, 2005

Bush betrays veterans again

House Republicans, in line with George 'AWOL' Bush's plans to reduce government expenditures, and ever mindful of the sacrifices of America's veterans as well as today's heroes dying by the thousands in Iraq, bringing democracy to that benighted country - whether the Iraqis want it or not - have rejected full funding of the Veterans Administration and veterans benefits yet again. Think Progress reports:
The backstory: Last week, the Washington Post revealed that the budget for veterans’ health care was suffering a billion dollar shortfall this year, a fact unearthed “only during lengthy questioning” of a Veterans Affairs undersecretary.
Yet today, even after the administration’s misleading claims had been exposed, and despite brand new data showing that demand for veterans health programs had grown twice as fast as the VA predicted earlier this year, House conservatives still voted to block any additional funding for veterans’ care.
Somebody please make this stuff stop; my head hurts.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Iraq, model democracy in the Middle East?

As I scan the headlines every day, I’m never sure whether I’m living in a real America or a skewed version of an old Marx brothers movie; you know, the one where Groucho, Harpo, Chico, et al, are the leaders of an oddly-named, Balkanish third world country*. We have the present administration, winners of a judicial coup d’etat, spouting Orwellian slogans (“Torture promotes freedom!”) and braggadocio (“Bring ‘em on!”), while The New York Times, the alleged newspaper of record, publishes government-planted lies on its front page, written by a media whore for an unelected Man Behind the Curtain.

This is truly dizzying stuff.

Now comes Ahmed Chalabi, a man who hadn’t set foot in his native Iraq for 20 years, but was installed as the puppet Prime second third-rate under Minister (some stupid title) -and Oil Czar - of that “country” by the American occupying force, back to America to present a paper to the American Enterprise Institute on how Iraq is to be a model of democracy for the Middle East.


Reality check, folks: Iraq is not and has never been a country. From the dawn of time, the area in which ‘Iraq’ is situated was always a province of somebody else’s empire. So far back, in fact, that the notion of ‘countries’ hadn’t even been invented. Four thousand years ago, it was part of the Assyrian Empire; that’s going back a few years, friends. After awhile, it became part of the Persian Empire, then the Alexandrian Empire, then the Roman Empire, then the Mohammedean Empire, which eventually became the Ottoman Empire. Not a single, solitary ‘country’ to be had in all those long years.

Most recently (c. 1946), the former territory of the Ottoman Empire called the Transjordan was cut up into administrative sections by the occupying forces of France and England after WWI, which then abandoned it after WWII, more or less leaving the Sunni, Kurds and Shia tribes to fend for themselves. Into this power vacuum arose the semi-military Baathist Party and the creation of the secular, totalitarian state of modern Iraq, a kind of mini-empire.

This is a patchwork creation joining three wholly distinct and antagonistic tribal nations: Kurdistan Muslims of the northern plains and foothills, Babylonian urban Arabs, and displaced marsh-dwelling Semitic Mohammedans of the southeast. A bloody mess, in other words, and one that could only work under a tyrant or other totalitarian framework. They share a common language and history of occupation, but that’s about it. Left to themselves, the tribes would no doubt spin off to form semi-autonomous regions, if not nascent nation-states. But, because of the damn oil, we can’t and won’t allow that to happen. That’s why we have to impose so-called democracy on them, by force and whether they like it or not, because they certainly wouldn’t do it themselves, as their history amptly proves.

Even if you accept the notion that Iraq should become a unified democratic state, the question arises, are we the country to help them do it? You must bear in mind that we have perpetrated a whole series of mind-boggling double-crosses in the Middle East for decades, as we initially supported the Persian kingdom of the Shah of Iran, then, after the Iranian revolution, we switched our allegiance to the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and supplied him with nerve gas weapons and the rest of it. At the same time, we also promised support to the Kurds in their desire to form their own autonomous state, separate from Hussein’s Iraq, then left them in the lurch after Operation Desert Storm, whereupon Hussein did indeed drop CIA-supplied nerve gas on the Kurds. And now we’re going to turn this god-forsaken country into a model of democracy for the Middle East? Good grief.

We have more than enough trouble here at home trying to maintain a semblance of a democracy, much less trying to impose it on a group of tribes that don’t even know the meaning of the word, but do understand foreign invasions and occupation. I say, let those people alone and let’s get the hell out of there now, before we do any more damage, to them and to ourselves.

*Duck Soup, 1933