Saturday, April 10, 2004


Its been a year. We need to talk. This is a little more disjointed than usual, but there is a lot of ground to cover.

A year ago a group of Iraqis toppled the statue of Saddam. It was a big, iconic moment in the war. This morning the local paper has a picture of a US Soldier in the same square, pulling off pictures of a popular Shiite cleric opposing the US occupation. Between those two points has been a year of frustration and loss for everyone involved.

From a personal level, the war is going better. This means nothing more than the people that I know are further away from the bad parts of the conflict. The daughter of a good friend has been moved from Kuwait to Qatar (where she has quarters with real walls and a TFIFridays in close proximity). An old college D&D friend, now a Lt. Col, has been relocated from Qatar to North Dakota. One of my poker buddies, who was assigned in "the part of Baghdad the President DOESN'T visit" (his quote), is back, and it looks like for keeps (we celebrated by taking a lot of his money last Friday in pot-matching games). And Kate's fellow Star Wars player, the one with solid preventive medical knowledge? They waited so long to deploy his unit that they fell to the bottom of the rotation.

Yet we've lost over 600 good people over there, and things are getting worse. Having won the war, we're being challenged to win the peace. And suddenly news is getting spotty and hard to confirm - Who controls what? How are we doing? Where are our people? Do we have a plan? Even the pundocracy seems a little confused - no one wants to say something that immediately blows up in their faces.

The boss is on the ranch in Texas (again), but I understand he's made a few phone calls.

And the whole June 30th turnover date is a mirage - not because it won't happen, but because everyone is playing it like that will be the end of our involvement. We're putting up permanent bases in Iraq, and will have a large military presence there for some time to come. And if the present government is threatened, we will be targets.

Daniel Ellsberg, in the memoirs, talks about his own research into Vietnam, which eventually became the Pentagon Papers. He points out that we got in deeper not when we were convinced we would win the conflict, but rather when it became clear we would lose. Faced with that hard truth, we committed more troops, even though with those additional troops, we would still lose. Similarly, faced with a number of popular uprisings, instead of asking why we're here, we are moving to push more resources (US Military Forces) into play. While a lot of the popular press is waving the "Vietnam Quagmire" flag, this is one area where we should be paying attention. Those who choose to forget the past and all that.

In the wake of the Fallujah attacks, a number of our chickenhawk pundits have fired back with "They don't deserve democracy - let's leave". I don't think they are wrong - not about the Iraqis not deserving democracy, but about us leaving. And I'm more than willing to leave for a bad reason, because we still can't explain why we're there in the first place.

The polite, shorter version of the Iraqi mood is "Thank you for getting rid of a tyrant. Please don't let the door hit you on the way out." I think we need to listen.

More later,