Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Whose History?

This is an article detailing a speech in which the President talks about how history will supposedly vindicate the invasion of Iraq.

In the speech, the President talks about Vietnam. Now, the approved version of history that we're supposed to remember is that we "cut and ran" from Vietnam and bad things happened.

But, the history we might remember is that we made war on a country where we understood neither the culture or the people (sound familiar?).

The message by those in the pro-war ranks was that if Vietnam falls, all the dominoes will fall - Asia will be all communist (sound familiar? If we "cut and run" or don't "stay the course" the Al Qaeda will take over the world). Last time I checked, I don't think that happened?

Another piece of history to remember - the US military fought bravely in Vietnam, but a corrupt and incompetent string of "governments" were not able to capably administrate the country (sound familiar? Look at the inability of the Al Maliki "government" to provide any of the routine mundane things that governments must do) .

More history. Our military was totally devastated both from a morale standpoint and and operational standpoint. This devastation took 20+ years to rectify itself. Do we have it in us to do it again? The jury is out on that one.

Wow, I guess the President is right. History can be applied to the Vietnam war to provide useful lessons.

Then the President cites Korea, and the history of Korean conflict. The history that I think we can glean from that is that 50 years from now we'll still have soldiers in Iraq as we have soldiers on the fringe of the empire on the DMZ?

I would like to suggest another historical parallel - The Battle of Adrianople, late Roman Empire (and there are a lot of people comparing the current US situation to Rome as detailed in a previous blog)

This is an excerpt from the above article that sounds a lot more accurate than anything the President is drooling out:

"The battle was a devastating blow for the late Empire. In effect, the core army of the eastern Empire was destroyed, valuable administrators were killed, and all of the arms factories on the Danube were destroyed following the battle. The lack of reserves for the army led to a recruitment crisis, which accentuated the strategic and morale impact of the defeat."

And now let's extend it out further. If we attack Iran, which many believe we are going to do, historians in future years are REALLY going to be scratching their heads. "Let's see. They had two wars going very badly - they were stretched thin and overextended, and they started a THIRD war with a bigger, more well equipped country. What the HELL were they thinking?"

This war will come due. Not today, not tomorrow, but it will come due. All the money that we borrowed will come due. All the devastation to our military will come due. All the neglect of the homeland will come due.

History will be the judge. My view is that it will be very harsh.

Friday, August 17, 2007

I read the news today, oh boy.

This from a recent Washington Post Article

Those positions only hardened yesterday with reports that the document would not be written by the Army general but instead would come from the White House, with input from Petraeus, Crocker and other administration officials.

"Americans deserve an even-handed assessment of conditions in Iraq. Sadly, we will only receive a snapshot from the same people who told us the mission was accomplished and the insurgency was in its last throes," warned House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.).

Is there any doubt of what this report will say? The 2004 elections where the Republicans got booted out of power didn't matter. The ISG (Iraq Study Group) didn't matter. Why on earth would there be any expectation that this would be any different?

To me, it will be a lot like Charlie Brown's teacher. You remember - woh, woh, woh, woh, woh. The kids understand her, but you have NO idea what she's talking about...

So, it will go:

Must stay the course, woh, woh, woh, woh, can't cut and run, woh, woh, woh, woh, woh, victory is just around the corner, woh, woh, woh, woh, woh, insurgency in its final throes, woh, woh, woh, woh, woh, must fight them there so we don't have to fight them here, woh, woh, woh, woh, Al Qaeda in Iraq same as Al Qaeda that attacked on 9/11, woh, woh, woh, woh.

Then this:

Iran is the reason for all of our problems in Iraq (no woh, woh, woh, woh - THAT will be very clear)

Iraq is not even the most pressing issue on the table. The most pressing issue is will we attack Iran?

Now, a lot of folks I know think I'm a maniac because I've been saying this for a few years (and, I'll admit, I'm influenced a little bit by my two favorite sites and A lot of folks say, why on earth would we attack Iran? The people in charge would be CRAZY to do something like that.

Here's a story for you:

"Cheney, who's long been skeptical of diplomacy with Iran, argued for military action if hard new evidence emerges of Iran's complicity in supporting anti-American forces in Iraq; for example, catching a truckload of fighters or weapons crossing into Iraq from Iran, one official said."

So, for Iran, we just need ONE TRUCK. For Iraq, we had mobile labs, yellow cake from Niger, reams and reams of documents - of course it was all fantasy, but hey, who's keeping track.

Don't forget all the military might in that region (aircraft carriers, air force jets in Iraq, etc)

Are we going to attack Iran or not? I hope that I reread this in two years and laugh because I was such a paranoid fool.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Are We Rome?

Interesting piece on comments from the Comptroller General:

In the piece, it is noted that:

"The US government is on a ‘burning platform’ of unsustainable policies and practices with fiscal deficits, chronic health care underfunding, immigration and overseas military commitments threatening a crisis if action is not taken soon, the country’s top government inspector has warned.

David Walker, comptroller general of the US, issued the unusually downbeat assessment of his country’s future in a report that lays out what he called “chilling long-term simulations”."

This is pretty interesting because I just finished reading Are We Rome? The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America ( by Cullen Murphy.

The book compares the Roman Empire to current day US (the book compares the capitols, force projection, the borders, government privatization, and a few other things). The author concludes that in some ways we are Rome, and in some ways we are not. It is a quick read, and if you have never delved much into the Roman Empire, it is a good introduction.

One good point in the book is that the fall of the Roman Empire did not happen in any one cataclysmic event. Most experts cannot agree, according to the book, as to when the fall happened, or even IF the fall happened. The "fall" crept up on them gradually.

I have been thinking and arguing that the end of the US "empire" could be creeping up on us.

Our infrastructure is crumbling at home. Our military, once vaunted is coming apart at the seams and is stretched way beyond the breaking point (this includes the National Guard which may simply not be there the next time there is an emergency in the homeland). Our multiple military missions (Iraq, Afghanistan, The Balkans, Korea, and others), are simply becoming unsustainable with the current force levels. Our economy, while APPEARING strong is a house of cards built on credit and the promise of cheap, plentiful energy, either of which could evaporate at any moment (and as far as credit goes has been heading that way).

There are other critical indicators as the Comptroller General mentions in the piece above, such as health care (including the broken military health care system), homelessness and hunger, and education.

I liken the current situation in America to the story about the frog in the frying pan (and I never get this quite right). If the pan is hot, the frog will jump out. If the heat is turned up gradually, the frog will be lulled into a false sense of security and will burn up.

A lot of people are saying, well, why don't we just bring back the draft and make the military bigger? This assumes that every mission we are currently involved in is a vital mission, and that stopping any one of them is off the table as a discussion point.

Why not contract the requirements of the current military? This includes asking the hard questions. When is it time to leave Iraq (now, in my opinion). Can we afford to have bases spread out all over the world? Can we afford that kind of empire?

The hardest question not hardly ever asked is WHAT DOES A VICTORY IN IRAQ LOOK LIKE? To save America, we simply must start asking this question. To not ask it is to invite eventual collapse.


This MUST be understood. The war is not contributing to our security, OR our financial well being.

Bill Lind has recently written a great article on how to win in Iraq. His picture of victory looks pretty sound (unlike the pure fantasy views of victory - establish a democracy in Iraq, defeat the insurgency, etc).

We need to get out of being the frog in the gradually heating frying pan, and wake up to what's going on.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Crumbling Infrastructure Extravaganza

A bridge collapses in Minnesota.

A steam pipe blows up in New York City.

Rolling Power Outages occur from time to time in California.

Refineries are shut down causing non-production of an already strained supply of gasoline.

These all seem to be random happenings, yet they are very much related.

The fact of the matter is that the US infrastructure is old, decrepit and strained to the breaking point, and there is not enough money to fix it.

It is curious how there can be enough money to fix Iraq's infrastructure. But is there really the money to fix their infrastructure? It is a known fact that most of the war is being financed through borrowed money from countries like China.

I would imagine that the Chinese LOVE the idea that our infrastructure rots to pieces while we struggle to fix Iraq's infrastructure, and pour buckets of money, borrowed from them, not into our own infrastructure, but into Iraq's infrastructure.

Of course, we have to fix Iraq's infrastructure. We broke it.

Iraq's infrastructure is a system which we had a large hand in destroying. And despite billions of dollars and 4+ years of American "know how" (this should give you pause when you start to think about how we're going to fix OUR infrastructure problems) their infrastructure - electricity, sewage, water, etc, is not even back to pre-war levels - recent articles have detailed shortages of water due to there not being enough electricity to purify it and pump it.

When basic human needs are not met, democracy cannot flourish. In fact, the scarcity mentality takes over - groups in Iraq want to make sure they can take care of their own (Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds), so they'll do anything necessary to insure that happens. This usually manifests itself in sectarian killings and driving others from their homes (to "cleanse" neighborhoods).

Our infrastructure is aging, and is in need of an upgrade - examples of this are our highway system, our electrical grid, and our aging gasoline refineries. But, since we've poured so much into Iraq, where are the massive amounts of cash going to come from to fix it?

Taxes? Heck no. Those will go straight to pay our massive debt.

We caught a glimpse of what COULD happen when a system fails completely in New Orleans post-Katrina. Very few in the US are food producers. Those living in cities and suburbs all over America would have a difficult time surviving with a massive infrastructure collapse.

This collapse could come from natural aging of infrastructure, or deliberate repeated targeting of brittle infrastructure by terrorist groups (either domestic or foreign).

That sounds like a scenario hatched in a Hollywood studio (i.e. Mad Max, The Terminator) - visions of apocalyptic anarchy. I hope that it doesn't happen.

I don't have much faith in those who are supposed to keep it from happening though.

Monday, August 6, 2007

A Few Dead Priests, What's the Difference?

On Saturday, I was reminded of a tragedy that occurred in Iraq in early June. The Priest in my Parish was preaching a sermon on our culture, and how we're more concerned with fluff and commercial exploits than real life, important news.

He mentioned the murder of Father Ragheed Ganni, a Chaldean Catholic priest, and three deacons with him: Basman Yousef Daud, Wahid Hanna Isho, and Gassan Isam Bidawed (story below).

Not surprisingly this received little coverage in the news. As our Priest said the news about Paris Hilton and her drunk driving escapades during that time was much more important to the American public.

I find it extremely interesting and a little disturbing that American Christians are not interested in this.

By all accounts Christians were no more persecuted or less persecuted in Saddam's Iraq than any other group (Saddam's Iraq was secular. Sunni's were on top. Shiites, Kurds and others were oppressed - that cannot be denied. But, remember Tariq Aziz was a Christian). After the invasion, all were hopeful that a new era could begin in Iraq.

Christians in Iraq are now subject to the boiling over of ethnic and religious hatreds which were accurately predicted by virtually everyone EXCEPT for the people who made the decisions to take us to war and their neoconservative cheerleaders (and Christians who believed that George W. Bush was acting on a mandate from God).

To admit now that the Christians of Iraq will never be really free, and despite centuries of life there are now having to choose between death or fleeing admits that the "freedom" and "democracy" touted by the Administration is false.

Now, there are those who say, "well, it's not our fault - the terrorists who are there, it is their fault." That is true to a certain extent. But the invasion created the conditions to allow this to occur. No security. Scarcity. Rampant violence leading to an "us versus them" mentality.

This is something that needs to be watched. We need to be thinking about our brothers and sisters. We need to be praying for our brothers and sisters. It sounds cliched to do those things, but there is not a lot more any of us can do as long as we are the occupiers of Iraq.

Unfortunately, if the war ended tomorrow, the dynamics are such that the Christian community in Iraq is probably a thing for the history books.