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Down To The Scratch Tickets.


WASHINGTON — A progress report on Iraq will conclude that the U.S.-backed government in Baghdad has not met any of its targets for political, economic and other reforms, speeding up the Bush administration's reckoning on what to do next, a U.S. official said Monday.
Excuse me, how many targets not met? All of them? 100%?

Here was the idea behind the surge: we'd in effect admit what has been staggeringly obvious since spring of 2003, to whit that the Rumsfeld Easy-Bake War theory was wrong. And we'd admit what I've been saying since day one, to whit (okay, no more whits) that an occupation necessarily begins with boot-on-neck, SWAT team tactics. We'd surge on in and impose some order on the chaos and behind our raised shield the Iraqi government (Iraqi government, ah hah hah hah, that's a good one,) would launch itself energetically into the task of forging a political compromise between Sunni and Shia, Kurd and Turkman, Sushis and Turds, murderer and murderee, the drill-in-the-neck faction and the car-bomb-in-the-mosque faction and oh, happy day, peace would bust out all over.

It's a sign of how thoroughly depraved the situation is that this actually qualified as the best available idea. It had the advantage of being not completely stupid which distinguished it from everything else the Bush administration and its bumbling generals have come up with. It wasn't completely stupid. Pretty much hopeless, yes, but not completely stupid. I wrote that the odds of success from this strategy were about like the odds of hitting a single number in roulette: 38 to 1.

Well, we've gone from roulette odds to Lotto odds now.

The Iraqi government (it's still funny, no matter how many times you say it) has not launched itself body and soul into political reconciliation. I know: shocking! Instead they've been lucky to occasionally reach a quorum and then only when the topic under discussion was vacation.
Vacation, all I ever wanted.
Vacation, had to get away!
We managed to bully the Iraqi Parliamentarians -- you know, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, and rest -- into staying at their posts. Well, not exactly at their posts, obviously, but let's say we've forced them to take sick days rather than use their vacation time. And yet, amazingly, they've shown no great interest in actually doing the things they'd need to do in order for our desperate gamble to pay off.

People have begun to blame the Iraqis. And other people have begun to cry that we shouldn't scapegoat the Iraqis.

Well, I'll take a little piece of both. What in Christ's name did we expect? We trusted the Iraqis more than we trusted the Japanese or the Germans in 1945? Based on . . . what, exactly? The long Iraqi history of good governance? The Arab tradition of respect for individual rights? The sophisticated Muslim approach to separation of Mosque and State? Of course they were going to fuck it up. Of course they were. The idea that we were going to let this political entity write its own constitution and run its own affairs was quite simply idiotic.

Once again, for the slow kids:

1) No Easy-Bake War. No shock n' awe Hollywood special effects. No cleverness. No subtlety. If you're proposing to occupy and transform a country you go in big and mean and you deliberately maximize enemy casualties. That's right: maximize, not minimize. You send B-52's onto defenseless enemy formations in the hope of killing every single man wearing a uniform. If they run away, chase them and kill them. Kill them fast before they can surrender. The goal is not to be liked, the goal is to leave no one standing who can point a gun at you. Men adapt and recover and become insurgents. You know what kind of man doesn't adapt? A dead one.

2) Whoever is left after the killing spree goes on your payroll. There should have been two kinds of Iraqi soldiers: dead soldiers and soldiers looking to collect US-financed pensions. Sure would have reduced the number of potential insurgents.

3) Impose order. Look for opportunities to shoot looters. Shooting looters is a good thing. Does a SWAT team bust down a drug lord's lair and ask everyone to behave? No. They toss stun grenades, shoot anyone who waves a weapon and put their boots on the necks of everyone else. Control, pee-pul, control. Especially in a country with precisely zero experience of liberty.

4) Then: here's your constitution, here's your Bill of Rights, here's the societal changes you're going to make, here's the list of sheiks, imams and ayatollahs we'll shoot if you have any problems with our "suggestions," and here's the map of the lands we'll take from you and give to your worst enemy if you piss us off.

5) Finally, look it's a new school! A new road! A new mall! Free electricity, yay! Cheap gas, yay! Subsidized food! Free medical care! American competence and largesse all over the landscape. Look how great your lives are now compared to what they were like before. All the pain is over, all the hurts are soothed, here's your middle class country full of stuff that actually works.

6) And now . . . slowly . . . slowly . . . we take the boot from your neck. And presto! You're Japanese! Now make us some cars.

Seriously, when did Americans forget how to fight a war? We've turned into Hot Chick #1 in every slasher movie. You know the one. Jason/Chucky gets the drop on her but wow, she has a baseball bat and she smacks Jason/Chucky on the head and down he goes. So she runs for the telephone, the silly twit, and up pops Jason/Chucky with a chainsaw.

When you nail Jason/Chucky with the baseball bat and knock him down you keep hitting him. You hit him until he's dead. Then you take his chainsaw and cut him up into pieces. That's how you get to be the heroine-who-appears-in-the-sequel and not just Hot Chick #1.

But all that is in the past and as much fun as it is to wallow in the blinding stupidity that has landed us where we are today (creek, no paddle) we should be looking ahead, to the future, and thinking deep thoughts about what we can do now.

What we can do now. Four years in. With the war polling only slightly ahead of chronic constipation. With a president who has so little credibility with the American people that 70% would ignore him if he set himself on fire. Months away from a wide open election. And a military that took six months to round up 28,000 surgers and is enlisting guys with criminal records and still not meeting goals.

Okay, now we have to admit things look . . . well, less than optimum. So. Whadda we do, man, whadda we do?

Whadda we do? Here's what we do: we follow the surge with the slump made inevitable by the military math. We pretend we have a new strategy that still involves patrolling around and around Baghdad playing wack-a-mole while we engage in "serious talks" with the various crazy people in the neighborhood. The serious talks go nowhere. (After three months the Iranians and Saudis agree on a common goal: kill the Jews.) We stagger along for 18 months by which time Democratic presidential candidates are debating who can get the hell out of Dodge faster and Republicans are saying "Me too!" but surrounding it with important words like "larger strategy" and "forward-leaning, stern-jawed, big-penis posture."

There's one tiny, shriveled bit of hope that maybe, somehow (who knows, aliens maybe?) the Iraqi government wakes up and realizes we are at last leaving and that when we do we're taking the Green Zone with us. Like I said: we're down to Lotto odds now.

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“Down To The Scratch Tickets.”

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