Saturday, August 9, 2008



Senator and presumptive Democratic nominee for President Barack Obama, delivering this morning’s Democratic response to the President’s Saturday morning radio address, joined the ever growing chorus of American public officials and ordinary citizens, from both the right and left (whatever those two terms mean any more) in calling for the Iraqi “government” (whatever that is) to pay for the rebuilding of Iraq.

On its face, this argument makes eminent sense. With Iraqi oil production reaching pre-war levels and the price of oil still astronomically high by historical standards, the Iraqis are quickly building huge dollar reserves, most of which are invested outside the country in safe, short term investments. The Iraqi “government” claims that its budgetary systems are still not up to the task of deploying the growing windfall and the challenges of investing the money properly are beyond its expertise at this points. With the lethargic, at best, state of the U.S. economy and our astronomical federal budget deficit, it is frustrating for American taxpayers to be expected to foot the bill to rebuild Iraq. Americans of all political stripes take the Iraqi protestations as so much balderdash with a degree of legitimacy, and demand that the Iraqis begin to pay for things. After all, our President told us that this war would be self-financing.

The frustration and anger among the U.S. citizenry and governing class is understandable, but badly misplaced. Imagine, for a moment, that we are not dealing with our own country, but with some mythical superpower. Call it Freedonia. Freedonia invades a distant country, call it Fenwick, with little provocation for reasons that seemed murky at the time of the invasion and grow to seem outright duplicitous as the war and the ensuing occupation continue. Scores, if not hundreds, of thousands of Fenwickians are killed; more are injured. Cities, infrastructure, and the economy are destroyed. Supplies of Fenwick’s major export, (a product, by the way, to which Freedonians are addicted, according to Freedonia’s prime minister) are impaired to the point at which Fenwick’s ability to survive, let alone recover from the damage wrought by the Freedonian invasion, is destroyed. After awhile, things settle down, but only in a relative sense. Exports of Fenwick’s major product resume, enabling Fenwick to begin, and only begin, to get on its feet economically after the devastation wrought by the Freedonian invasion. Freedonia then presents Fenwick with a bill for the destruction Freedonia has wrought and demands payment.

We would be, quite correctly, utterly appalled at Freedonia’s actions, which sound remarkably likes the tactics of the Gestapo and the Red Army, which were known to make families of the victims of their horrifics pay for the bullets, gas, etc., used to murder their loved ones, or of the Roman legions, who made the relatives of their victims clean up the gore that resulted from the Romans’ especially cruel methods of execution or less drastic punishment. Yet these are exactly the actions of our government in Iraq: our government destroyed the Iraqi economy, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, left their infrastructure and their ability to recover in a shambles, and now we are demanding that the Iraqis pay to clean up the utter destruction we have wreaked on them and denigrating the Iraqis as being “ungrateful” because they are reluctant to pay.

Mr. Bush started this war, with little or no provocation, for reasons that keep changing but have never been clear. When he started this war, he had tremendous support from both Democratic and Republican members of Congress and the overwhelming support of the American people. To use a trite expression, we broke it, we bought it. We are already living with the human consequences of Mr. Bush’s adventure, which, again, met little opposition from the Democrats. The financial consequences, though not nearly as ghastly, are huge and will continue far into the future. And they are consequences we will surely bear.

Perhaps the prospect of paying for our leader’s potvaliance, which neither the citizenry nor the “opposition” party did anything noticeable to check, will dull the enthusiasm of the American people for the next jingoistic adventure proposed by a misguided, uninformed, reckless, gormless president. We can only hope.

1 comment:

Brian said...

And of course, we went in (tongue in cheek) to "help" the people of Fenwick, as if they asked for or wanted it. In reality, we knew that what we were doing was extremely likely to result in regional instability for the whole area around Fenwick, thus allowing us to then try to reinstate stability (the Freedonia kind).

Round and round we go. The cycle has gone full-circle now many times since at least the 20s