all analogies are useless…

…but some are more useless than others.

Good morning, America! And how are we on this fine, clear, beautiful… what’s that you say? Quiet down? You’re not feeling well? Uh oh. Sorry, here, I’ll dim the lights a bit. So what happened then? Get a little rowdy last night, did we? Eyes bigger than your liver? Woke up next to some country you didn’t recognize or even find particularly attractive, wondering where that ring on your finger came from? Tsk tsk, you’d think you’d’ve learned to drink in moderation by now.

Ladies and gentlemen: the imperialism hangover.

I’ve been avoiding saying much about Big Trouble in Little Persia for a while now, because, well, fuck, it’s not like I had much left to say. The anti-war coalition was the usual horrible assemblege of the earnest and the deranged, and it got worked over like an 86-ed patron at a mafia nightclub who got too lippy with the bouncers: wham, bam, here’s your teeth, don’t come back. After the Marines rolled into Baghdad, turning away and concentrating on trying to have a life again only made sense. The US press showed no interest in looking closely at the coterie of carpetbaggers that the DoD had lined up to be Iraq’s new government, and even that became a moot point pretty quickly when it became obvious that no government of any sort was going to be taking root in Iraq for at least six months if not more. We broke it, we bought it: nothing to do but sit tight and pray the MPs could learn on their feet, `cause the problems facing post-war Iraq were and are the sort that respond not at all to state-side protesting or editorializing, much less blogging.

So having cleverly disclaimed any notions of relevance or usefuless, I’m going to natter away on a few small points that have been bugging me recently.

First off: Niger? Uranium? State of the union address? Someone page the Forestry Service and see if we can borrow one of their seach and rescue teams, because this story seems to have vanished without a trace. Okay, it’s not like this was particularly surprising: with the GOP in charge of both houses of Congress, the odds of any substantial inquiry into this were exactly zero, but as a card-carrying member of the Liberal Media™ (or at least its support organization), it’s still depressing: the President gets caught red-handed lying to the entire country about Iraq having an active nuclear weapons program (you know, putatively the exact reason we went to war), and the best we can summon up is 2 weeks of moderate outrage and then it’s on to 24-hour Kobe Bryant coverage.

What I want to know is: just how badly do you have to fuck up to get fired from the Bush administration? Seriously here. Let’s just ignore for a minute that the Niger story was actually completely unexceptional in that it was merely one slightly bigger-than-average lie among an entire herd of lies all being driven in service of a policy that was formulated, devised and implemented in a spirit of prevarication. Let’s take the administration’s excuses at face value: some flunky at the NSC got overly happy about the Niger story, Condi Rice signed off on it, and poor, hapless W recited it on prime time. Why was said flunky not summarily dismissed? Why does Dr. Rice still have a job? Can’t they even pretend to take this shit seriously for a minute?

Point the second: In my lofty position as a person of no particular influence whatsoever, I’d like to take this moment to call for a universal and permanent moratorium on comparing the situation in Iraq to Vietnam. Yes, it’s a quagmire, yes we’re overextended and underbefriended. Yes, we’re well into the “mission creep” phase. But it’s the wrong analogy. Really. Vietnam was a civil war cum superpower proxy battle, which we actually joined late in the game, and in which it can honestly be said that we did have plenty of allies on the ground, we just happened to pick the side that couldn’t win under the rules the war were fought under.

Iraq does look suspiciously like a past conflict, but Vietnam isn’t it.

About twenty years ago, an advanced western-style army swept into an unstable but still holding-together middle eastern country, ostensibly to protect themselves from an imminent threat, but really because the people orchestrating the attack believed that it was the first step in completely and positively reordering the politics of the entire region. The loud and repeated objections of the rest of the world were blithely ignored. They did this with confidence partly because of promises from a group of rebels on the inside who’s strength and support turned out to be largely illusory once they arrived. They romped to an easy formal military victory, but shortly thereafter found themselves unable to actually control the country they’d conquered, and became sitting-duck targets in the middle of a multi-way civil war where the only thing the various factions could agree on was dislike of the invaders. A few of the native leaders who were interested in cooperating with the occupiers were quickly assassinated by other factions, and the remaining ones lost interest as a result.

Sound familiar yet? To my eyes and ears, Iraq in 2003 is starting to look painfully similar to Lebanon in 1982. And surprise surprise, there’s good ol’ reliable Ariel Sharon stuck right in the middle of both of them.

The second time, not as farce, just a bigger, messier tragedy. Are we having fun yet?

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