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A Good War Spoiled
In Dissent, Number One Hundred and Thirty-Two
by Brian S. Wise
12 September 2003

A brief overview of current difficulties in, and concerning, Iraq.


Here is Chris Matthews interviewing Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) on Hardball Tuesday: “[You] can look at a map of the world and see where Iraq is, Senator. And any Senator who voted for this war must have known it was going to cost a lot of money, and lives, to convince an Arab country, which has been radical, to move to the center, to move to a more moderate stance. Where is the surprise here? Doesn’t anybody study history up there?”  In other words, Anyone over the age of 16 with even a casual knowledge of the Middle East knew Iraq was an ideological basket case and a difficult prospect for reconstruction; what did anyone in opposition to the war think was going to happen once Hussein was removed?  That the same people who walked through Baghdad streets in mid-April cutting their heads and bleeding from head to toe in display of religious fervor were going to come right out for moderate self-government?  Or anything moderate?

But those in dissent get all the attention, because whatever is positive is not as interesting as car bombings (or cement truck bombings).  To stay with the British parlance, it is better for the opposition to sex up the terrorist resistance because it gives the illusion of an Iraq completely out of control, as opposed to an Iraq where steady progress is being made, “steady progress” apparently being the problem.  We are the United States, after all – whatever cannot be prepared and delivered with the equivalent of fast food efficiency loses not only our passion but our interest.  By and large, America is not frustrated because its soldiers are being targeted and killed; the people understand soldiers are going to die when they fight wars and occupy the enemy’s land.  It is frustrated because the story just will not go away.  No one understands how difficult the task of Iraqi reconstruction will be, just that they are tired of hearing “Iraq” and “$87 billion” every day.

The administration’s problem is common perception.  What people see is a president who, nine months ago, tiptoed through the United Nations in order to keep up appearances, but who had decided to go about things on his own schedule, never mind the UN.  Fast forward to last Sunday and the president’s address to the nation.  No matter the actual intent “all along,” the perception is that when things started to get hairy, the international community was suddenly very relevant.

Well, they are not even all that relevant now.  The idea of asking outside concerns to stick their noses in Iraqi reconstruction is flawed only because of who we are asking to help: Russia cannot handle a theatre full of its own people being taken hostage without killing 130 in the process.  France is so damned unorganized it cannot properly handle a heat wave, to the tune of 15,000 dead over the course of the summer.  Germany is … well, they are Germany, and something about them suggests they are genetically incapable of taking the right side on something that matters.  Still, if the question is whether to surrender to the United Nations – an anti-American and anti-Semitic organization with so little interest in a properly functioning world it put a Hussein-controlled Iraq in charge of its disarmament efforts – control of the reconstruction in the name of saving some money and some soldiers, you will forgive me for saying I would rather forego the lives and the cost if it means not having to bomb Baghdad again in 10 years (or less).

The president’s $87 billion request is bothersome, though, in the sense that we are being asked to donate to Iraq a tremendous amount of resources we are not only not asking be returned, but that we are not offering to our own country.  For example, $5 billion of the proposed $87 billion would go toward strengthening the borders around Iraq, to make sure no more terrorists make their way in, which in theory will reduce the incidents of terrorist attacks.  Fine, but where is the $5 billion earmarked for strengthening the Mexican and Canadian borders, over which we let countless potential terrorists, murderers and thieves cross, unabated, every year?

President Bush will get his $87 billion, because Congress is the town pump; “no” is not anywhere in its vocabulary.  But now is not an unreasonable time to wonder how much will be repaid by the new Iraq, lest we be confused with the International Monetary Fund.

Brian Wise is the lead columnist for IntellectualConservative.com.

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