Wednesday, December 2

Is This Trip Necessary?

LYNDON Baines Johnson? Thirty-sixth President of the United States? Anyone? Rahm?

The United States of America, A Play in One Act

by James B. Riley

VOICE: Again, sir, we apologize for your inconvenience. We value your business, and we appreciate you taking the time to bring this problem to our attention. We will forward the matter to our management team, in the hope that we can improve our service and once again earn your trust. And thank you for shopping United States of America.

MAN HOLDING PHONE: Wait, wait! So should I try to reattach the arm myself, or just let it bleed out? Are you sending…Hello? Hello?


OH GREAT, Another Dog Ownership Metaphor: The cute puppy under the big red bow last Christmas is now a flatulent 120-pound hound with marginal impulse control, patchy fur, and toxic doggie breath, plus it howls if left alone, or in the dark, it turns out he's allergic to every known food substance except fresh poi, and his medical bills alone are bankrupting you. Your children, who had demanded the thing unceasingly from the previous September now would rather play video games, and can't be bothered--of course--with the feeding, walking, bathing, or catheterizing. You should:

1) Have the poor thing put down
2) Take a second job to pay for his hoped-for rehabilitation
3) Rue the fucking day you ever set eyes on the grifter who sold him to you, and vow to gut him like a rabbit when you get your hands on him?
4) Maybe see if you couldn't learn a lesson just fucking once?

KIDS Today: Candidate Obama vowed to "finish the fight with al-Qaeda". His "anti-war candidate" credentials consisted of precisely one streetcorner oratory in 2002 which pointedly, from the top, drew a distinction between the hunt for 9/11 terrorists and the "dumb war" in Iraq. Not to mention the wanger-in-the-wringer moment over "hot pursuit" into Pakistan.

The primaries, you may recall, turned into a referendum on what sort of racists the Clintons were, and what some evil PUMA said.

So now the Kossacks are outraged? Ms Maddow is not amused?

Look, this has been bouncing around my head in various permutations since the evening of Nixon's Silent Majority speech, through the metamorphosis of Reagan from Shoot-Em-In-The-Back Ronnie to Everybody's Good Ol' Slightly Confused Gramps and the screaming Democratic stampede in his wake, to the brilliant successes of the DLC Let's Become Whatever It Is That Gets Elected (Worked Pretty Well for Carter) routine, straight on through to Bush II: magical thinking has a warm burrow in the modern Republican party, where it conducts a very successful inbreeding program. It does not work in the Democratic party, but over and over again Democrats chose it over bare-knuckle politics, and as a result they're seen as the enemy of both popular Bronze Age augury and hard-nosed reality.

I mean, last night's exercise was pretty much lost on me. We may be in Afghanistan because the Bush administration was feloniously in charge at the time, but we'd have wound up there under President Gore, too. The public wanted blood, it wanted it while the blood was up, and it didn't particularly care whose blood it got. It's possible that an extraordinary leader could have calmed the public long enough that September to start peeling off the billion-dollar bills until the Taliban said, "Okay, Infidel, here's your bin Laden, trussed for the grill". It's not possible to imagine a Democrat doing so, since they're deathly afraid of being seen as insufficiently warlike.

The only way we weren't getting stuck in Afghanistan was to have a President willing to risk losing face, and support, to keep us out. If you can imagine such a person getting elected President of the Current US of A, all I can say is Quit Bogartin'.

If y'all wanted this stuff solved we should have elected someone who draws a distinction between legitimate self-defense and American Exceptionalism bullshit as an excuse to enrich legislators, defense contractors, and multinationals. Instead we elected a guy who saw a bright line between Afghanistan and Iraq.

And sorry, but under the circumstances increasing troop levels in Afghanistan is the correct thing to do, not that we really have any other options, and assuming that we spend the time gained trying to get smarter about Pakistan. This is the mess we made. It's the Glorious Patriotic War our countrymen demanded. Dear Reader, if you feel like kicking somebody today, kick one of them, selected at random. Or any of the Congresscreatures who voted us into it, watched it roll downhill for six years while they funded our Iraq adventure on the sly, were given majorities in both houses to start cleanin' up the mess, and raise their voices now. Anybody upset about this today, and not named Barbara Lee, can go fuck themselves.

What I don't understand is the big fucking production. The theatre commander wants more troops. Centcom wants more troops. It's what you said you would do. Do it, and quit trying to sop what used to be your base with the Deadline for Withdrawal, Unless Something Happens routine. They may not be all that savvy, but I don't think their memories are completely shot.

Not Vietnam, Mr. President? Of course it's Vietnam; it's the Vietnam you were proud to consign to outdated Boomer partisanship eighteen months ago. Vietnam is what we do with the half-trillion bucks we spend annually on "defense" (total does not include actual war expenditures): we get ourselves caught in these escapades, and we stay there because the phony governments we prop up will collapse without our interminable presence. Say anything, but don't say, "Oh, but this time we were attacked." We didn't send a half-million troops into the jungle, and lose 60 thousand of 'em, on an admitted lark. The insurgency we've created in Afghanistan no more attacked us on 9/11 than the North Vietnamese did in the Gulf of Tonkin. I'd be happy to support a practical solution to a problem you inherited--however willingly--and I'll listen to suggestions about a way forward. But I'm not buying Forward as a way out. Not after all this time. Call it the perpetually argumentative Boomer in me. LBJ? Still no one?


Unknown said...

Truer words, man...truer words were never written.

Dr. Harl Delos said...

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution was passed less than a week after Obama turned three. He doesn't remember VietNam so it's no wonder that he's willing to repeat the mistakes.

I, too, believe that we should stay in Afghanistan until we have achieved our objectives, except that we have no objectives in Afghanistan.

If the idea is to deny Al Queda a base from which to conduct attacks on the US, then we ought to bomb the airports in Boston and New York City.

StringonaStick said...

I'd say use the Afghanistan funds to prop up Pakistan, but the obvious endgame is just as bad as the one we've got now.

For those with exceptional memories, be sure to flip a carefully tended middle finger at Zbignew next time you see him trotted out on Maddow or Olbermann and the "liberal" senior statesman.

Grace Nearing said...

One thing about being both old-ish and blessed with the syndrome of inappropriate laughter (you can look it up) is that I can watch stuff like last night's grand pronouncement and, well, really laugh. Not in a cruel and malicious way but in a joyous, watching-the-Three-Stooges way.

Don't give me that look. You live here. You probably even vote(d). You still pay your taxes, even on your unemployment insurance. You should be laughing too.

Anonymous said...

If Obama's willing to be a one-term president over health care (that's what he said - "so be it," he said), how come he's not willing to be a one-term president over this war? His "decision" doesn't surprise me at all, but I can't say it makes me feel cheery. Maybe I was entertaining weak, liberal, groundless hopes without realizing it.

Wonder what spending an extra $1million per soldier annually (purportedly the cost of just keeping them in that godforsaken place, never mind all the other expense involved, like blood spillage) will do to the economy?

I wish I had inappropriate laughter syndrome, too, Grace. I'm sure I'd sleep better.

Li'l Innocent

Keifus said...

I believe at the time of the heated three-pronged candidacy, Obama was the only one who hadn't actually voted in favor of an ill-considered war resolution.

If only for the obvious reasons.

scott said...

We picked the least shitty option from the Buffet of Shitty Options left to us by the Worst President Ever.

Ivan G Shreve Jr said...


"...waist deep in the Big Muddy/And the big fool said to push on."

Murfyn said...

Candidate Obama had to say that pro-war stuff to get elected; he was invisibly winking when he said all that (I thought at the time). Turns out he wasn't kidding . . . huh . . .

DBake said...

Slightly off topic, but I guess I wish I understood why our generals are treated like strategic fucking geniuses in the popular culture. McChrystal's strategy is, as far as I understand it, 'Give me 10 times the GDP of this country, and I *might* be able to win.' New rule: if a general thinks that spending twice, hell, three-times the GDP of the relevant country on military operations will not guarantee success, he ought either to recommend we not fight, or else look for a new way of earning his money--renting out the empty space in his skull for storage, maybe.

Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

Obama need not remember Vietnam to learn from it. That is like saying you have to remember WWII to understand anything about it.

Read the Best and the Brightest. Smart guys cannot fix the original bad idea no matter how smart they are. We aren't ever leaving the Middle East until it isn't profitable to be there anymore. As long as we are driving, we will be there until the oil runs out.

It is a pipeline that got us in there and one that is going to keep us there.