What's All This Then?

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Monday, December 11, 2006

A few comments on some recent news items. Very few. I’m still struggling with stupid medical problems.

On August 20, 2006, I quoted a list of questions that conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager said should have been asked of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he was interviewed by Mike Wallace. They were good questions. Prager is a bright man. He’s also a religious nitwit and he displayed that part of his nature when he wrote a piece attacking newly elected congressman Keith Ellison for his decision to use the Koran when he does his photo-op oath of office bit. Prager says that’s a terrible thing to do. He should use the Bible - not the Koran.

Of course the swearing in ceremony, done en masse for all newly elected representatives, is done without any kind of Bible or Koran or one of the Harry Potter books. The oath of allegiance is to the Constitution and doesn’t call for anyone to be holding any alleged "holy" book.

But then, Prager is what I would call a "Jutheran." He would be as comfortable being a born again Christian as he allegedly is a religious Jew. He aligns himself with the rigid thinking of the religious right. In Prager’s world it’s perfectly O.K. to have crosses on display on the front of every public building and the Star of David on the back or on the sides. But no other religious symbol. The intolerance is inflexible. So I guess what I’m saying is that no one should be surprised at Prager’s rant about Congressman Ellison and no one should waste time arguing with his point of view. He won’t listen. He won’t understand. He’s like the character in the joke about the pious Jew who prays at the western wall every day - and when asked what it’s like to undergo such an experience, answers - "it’s like talking to a wall."

Quite a few people seem to be impressed with Robert Gates and his "no sir" answer to Senator Carl Levin’s question - "are we winning in Iraq?" I’m not one of them. Not because of his answer but because of the question. In my view, what Senator Levin was doing with that question was political posturing. It’s a ridiculous question - a third cousin of "are you still beating your wife?"

The question itself begs another question - maybe a series of questions. Winning what? What do you mean by "winning?" We’ve already "won" the war to unseat Saddam Hussein. We defeated his military forces and in terms of that accomplishment, the president was correct when he said that we have prevailed. Since then of course, Mr. Bush has been talking about achieving "victory." About staying the course until we have achieved our objective. "Prevailing" was only the first course in this endless banquet of misery.

If "winning" means staying in Iraq until the country is stable, all sectarian killing has stopped and democracy reigns, we will be there for decades. And in that case, Doctor Gates gave the only possible answer to the impossible question. He could have been more blunt and said what most thinking people now believe. We made a horrible blunder in the decision to invade Iraq. We had no idea of the consequences of our actions and now we are persisting in pursuing that blunder at an unconscionable cost.

It’s like the gambler in Las Vegas who is on a losing streak but continues to bet rashly, convinced that his luck will turn - as it continues to get worse. Or a commodity market player who makes a bad prediction and stubbornly refuses to admit he was wrong as he watches his investment dwindle down to zero.

What we need to do of course is find a way to pull our troops in a way that will do the least damage and leave the Iraqis to sort out their problems on their own. It should be obvious by now that there is no way in the world that we can solve the sectarian differences of the Iraqi people militarily and there is no way our soldiers should be used to police the country until the various factions can reach a political solution.

The president of course will never admit - either that he authorized the invasion for no legitimate reason - or that we made a horrible miscalculation about the problems our invasion would cause. To keep on the present course of action to protect - or perhaps we should say - to shape his legacy - would be unconscionable. But that seems to be what’s in the offing, despite talk about "changing course." Our military forces will remain and our kids will continue to die - as they are now doing at an ever increasing rate.

If that continues to be our policy - then perhaps that which I have said would be a ridiculous waste of time and effort - should nonetheless be considered seriously. Articles of impeachment. Something has to be done to either call a halt to the madness or assign accountability for the madness.

And speaking of madness - I don’t know how much it cost for the Iraq Study Group to come up with their packet of suggestions - but for two or three thousand bucks, I would have been happy to supply my ideas for getting us out of the mess - and they would have been no more silly than the ones put forth by Messrs. Baker, Hamilton et al.

Talking to Iran and Syria is a good idea - if we started those talks four, five or six years ago. Or earlier. To suggest that it would be a good idea to go to them hat in hand now and ask for their "evil" help to sort out the mess that we helped create is ludicrous. Equally ludicrous is the idea that WE should tackle the problem of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict - as if we could impose a solution that groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad would accept and honor. And equally ludicrous is the belief that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is the source of all the problems that engulf and arise from the Middle East.

And speaking of Israel and the Palestinians, I note that our esteemed former President, Jimmy Carter, has made his contribution to solving that conflict by asserting that it’s all due to Israel’s occupation of "Palestinian territory" and that if Israel would just withdraw, peace and harmony would reign. Well, the book has already resulted in one "withdrawal" - that of Dr. Ken Stein, who resigned as Middle East Fellow of the Carter Center of Emory University after a 23 year association.

The conflict of which Mr. Carter attempts to analyze is a complicated one, but one or two things are crystal clear and not at all complicated. One is that there was no resolution of the so called Israel/ Palestinian conflict before there were any settlements or occupation of "Palestinian territory." There was nothing approaching peace between the two sides. Another is that following the six day war, there was no one with whom to make peace. Peace was offered and rejected. I don’t necessarily endorse the settlement program that followed - but had there been an acceptance of peace - had there been no Khartoum conference in 1967 with its "three no’s" - no peace, no recognition, no negotiations - there would have been no basis for the blame that Carter attempts to assign in his book.

I haven’t read the book, nor to I plan to read it, but the comments of Ken Stein are worth reading - and if you don’t want to believe him, track down Dennis Ross - who, on a television program a few days ago, virtually called Carter a liar for his fictional version of what went on at Camp David in 2000 in terms of who was prepared to accept and who rejected proposals for a comprehensive settlement. Maybe you can find it buried in this interview with Ross conducted by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman.