Friday, April 07, 2006

My Exit Strategy

ISLAMIC PEACEKEEPERS! How much louder can I shout it, and why haven't I heard this suggestion from anyone in government? The Bush administration's reckless adventure in Iraq is fast approaching the time when it will be beyond our ability to influence events on the ground. Our soldiers are in the crosshairs of every wanna-be jihadist with a weapon and the elected representatives of the Iraqi people refuse to compromise on a coalition government despite the prodding from Dr. Rice to hurry up and get something done before the U.S. mid-term elections.

This is something President Bush could accomplish on his own, without the coaching of his failed policy-makers or his soon to be jailed political advisor. President Bush has assets he could yet bring to bear toward a favorable outcome in Iraq. He has old friends in the Saudi Royal Family; an ally in Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan; a convert in Khadaffi of Libya; a grateful populace in Kuwait; and emerging Arab states like Qatar and the U.A.E. who wish to prove to the U.S. that they are trustworthy enough partners with which to do business. The President could appeal to these nations and leaders personally, or through Secretary Rice, to provide troops to act as peacekeepers while the Iraqis determine their own future.

This would relieve the American military of daily and deadly street patrols and allow them to redeploy to what John Kerry called in a N.Y. Times editorial, "a garrisoned position, over the horizon." Kerry failed to note that U.S. trained Iraqi security forces are not yet capable of suppressing the violence, either against coalition forces or against Iraqi civilians. If the American and British forces were removed from the equation and replaced by Muslim troops, proportionately Sunni and Shia to the Iraqi population, neither Al Qaeda nor home grown Iraqi insurgents would be so zealous to kill them in the name of jihad. The U.S. could prove to the Iraqi people that we have no permanent designs on their country by withdrawing our forces to secured positions and allowing those Arab states that claim to be America's friends, to stand up and prove it and assist us in our time of need.

The time is running out in this endeavor. If the breaking news concerning the Scooter Libby testimony to the grand jury proves to be true, the President is about to become embroiled in a maze of political and legal difficulties that will dominate the remainder of his term, however long that may be. President Clouseau promised to get to the bottom of who was leaking classified information from his administration, but he forgot to get a "lizenze for his minkey," and found the leaker in the mirror. The President claims patriotic amnesia. While mountain biking in Crawford, he heard one too many Toby Keith songs on his iPod and felt justified in trashing the reputations of the sneaky traitors who dared question the true lies that the White House Iraqi Group so meticulously concocted. Jethro's in a heap of trouble this time.

But our soldiers in Iraq can't afford to wait for legislative justice to be meted out to the neo-cons and war planners who's bankrupt ideology put them there, along with the President who said of Iraq that "God told me to strike them, and so I did." Unless God suddenly changed His mind and decided, "Blessed are the warmongers," Bush was probably hearing the voice of God through Dick Cheney. It is now clear that both Cheney and Rumsfeld believe that if Bush the Elder had given Norman Schwartzkoff one more week, he would have been in Baghdad and either captured or killed Saddam. But Poppy Bush wasn't interested in the uncertainty of a long term occupation of Iraq. That's why Bush the Clueless wasn't interested in asking his father's sissy advice and instead claimed council from a "Higher Father." It's tough to argue with schizophrenics or politicians who claim they hear voices.

Everyday the status quo is maintained in Iraq, is one day farther from resolution, and another day of bloodshed. The discredited architects of this conflict are now obligated to extricate us from it. They should, without delay, impose upon the President to call on America's Arab friends, cowboy hat in hand if necessary, to request military assistance in helping to lessen the turmoil in Iraq. It is in the interest of modern Arab states to assist first in ending the slaughter of Muslims by their fellow Muslims; to pacify the home grown insurgency and restrict Al Qaeda targets by limiting the American military presence; and to assist in encouraging the emergence of a representative Iraqi government that could put a check on Iranian ambitions in the region.

The question is, can this macho, posturing administration find the humility to ask for help? Our armed forces have done everything that could possibly have been asked of them and more. The American military cannot impose a political solution on the Iraqis, and their presence is now a flashpoint for Islamic rage. Bush is the first president since Nixon with a daily body count. And though Nixon was elected on a "secret plan" to end the Vietnam War, over 20,000 more soldiers died before the "secret plan" was implemented. Will Bush's Urban Cowboy attitude cause him to keep our forces in Iraq beyond the point of their usefulness? A personal appeal for Muslim troops may yet earn Bush his coveted place in history as the man who was brazen enough to alter the Middle East political landscape. Then this President can honor the service of the men and women he placed in danger by returning them safely to their families.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I Have A (Bad) Dream

I have a bad dream today. That one day, this militaristic administration will realize the dire conditions in which they have placed our armed forces, and try to find a premise to re-institute the draft, just as they found one to invade Iraq. Because of Secretary Rumsfeld's complete misjudgment about the forces needed to control Iraq, along with our soldiers stationed in Afghanistan and around the world, our military is stretched like a taut rubber band. Ask any member of the cabinet or the Congress and they will say that there is absolutely no popular support for a draft. Yet, they don't rule it out. And with our armed forces missing their volunteer goals month after month because war doesn't seem like much of a career choice for someone who is merely trying to raise money for college, we simply need more soldiers. This means that any provocation against the United States, be it along the Iranian border, or another attempt to strike at a major American city, can be used by experienced propagandists to stir up patriotic fervor to, by God, raise an Army large enough to crush our enemies.

Please don't think I am being paranoid about a draft. After all, the Selective Service system was never disassembled after the draft was ended by Congress in 1973, and it is still the law for young men to register with Selective Service on their 18th birthday. Though representatives from both parties continue to repeat that proposing a draft would be the political kiss of death, reported that on an obscure federal web site devoted to the war on terror, the Bush administration quietly began a public campaign to restaff and restart the regional draft boards that men from the Vietnam era remember so well. The announcement read, "If a military draft becomes necessary, approximately 2000 Local and Appeal Boards throughout America would decide which young men...receive deferments, postponements or exemptions from military service." The only thing that has changed about a potential draft are the rules.

Neither President Shemp, Deadeye Dick Cheney, or Karl "The Konquerer" Rove, ever had to worry about the draft during the Vietnam War. Cheney, the king of deferments, merely stayed in college until it was over, and Rove was likewise disqualified. President Shemp, of course, was in favor of the war in Vietnam and allowed the military to train him as a jet fighter pilot. Only, that was sufficient. He didn't really want to fight or nothin'. Now we see that the National Guard and the Army Reserve are no longer safe havens from combat and if required to confront North Korea or Iran, we don't have the manpower to do it. Under current law, if the Congress and the President agree that military forces are needed in the defense of this country, the President's signature re-activates the draft. Federal law then requires the Selective Service to immediately set up a lottery and begin to send out induction notices. And you can forget about that college silliness. New law states that students who's lottery numbers are picked would only be permitted to finish their current semester and then it's "grab your toothbrush and get on the bus."

In addition, a proposal from Selective Service director Lewis Brodsky to senior Pentagon officials, just released under the Freedom of Information Act in 2004, suggests for the first time, that women should also register for the military draft and that young Americans regularly inform the government if they have acquired any "niche specialties" needed in the armed services. If you think you are too old for the draft, Brodsky also proposed extending the age of draft registrants from the present 25, to 34 years old. If the war in Iraq continues to be, in Rumsfeld's words, "a long hard slog", where will the new soldiers be coming from? Just this week, the Supreme Court ruled that any University that accepts government funds must allow military recruitment on campus. This riles former Vietnam era students who rallied to prevent military recruiters on campus when their only purpose was to find warm bodies for the meat grinder in Southeast Asia.

We have been told by leaders of both parties that it's not a matter of "if" but "when" there is another attempt at a terrorist attack on this country. This administration is filled with master manipulators, and it would take very little to appeal to the sort of patriotism we saw after 9/11 to raise the forces necessary to fight Bush's wars. My observation is that young people, especially college students today, are on the whole a patriotic group and would be inclined to serve if their country called. They should remember the words of Mark Twain that "Patriotism is being loyal to your country all of the time, but to the government only when they deserve it." I try to emphasize to my 20 year old step-son that it's important to differentiate between the nation and what it stands for, and a regime, only temporarily in power, that uses jingoism and patriotism to achieve its political agenda.

This is my bad dream and greatest fear; that this government will attempt to rob young people of their plans and futures in order to fight in a rich man's war. Already, this new conversation about a "War on Christianity" has Karl Rove's fingerprints all over it. This is a blatant attempt to create an emotional wedge issue in time for the 2006 mid-term elections. Banging the drums of war hysteria accomplishes the same purpose, and what better issues for the Republicans to run on than God and War? Already, congressional leaders have proposed bills to introduce some sort of mandatory "national service" for young people, be it in the military where they are needed, or some quasi-altruistic program based on Peace Corps ideals that they haven't thought up yet, but will be impossible to join because of the waiting lists. Here's the most frightening part. Should President Shemp sign legislature re-instituting a lottery draft, federal law requires that the first group of conscripts be processed and ready for boot camp within 193 days of the program's start.

I can't tell my step-son what to do. The best I can tell him is how the draft affected every aspect of my young life, and put strain and anxiety on me and my family who were frustrated at my inability to resolve this personal crisis by appealing to the Draft Board. And I was one of the lucky ones. I avoided killing or being killed in an unjust war of choice, begun by a lie. We don't need another memorial wall on the Mall in Washington. This latest rumbling about a draft must be opposed at all costs. And if my step-son should come to me for advice about what to do should he find himself in such a situation, I will tell him to do the honorable thing and go to jail.