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Jim Austin's Vermonter at Large
Jim Austin
Jim Austin
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is a freelance writer from Putney, Vermont.

His previous columns are archived HERE.

Posted 12.14.06

JIM AUSTIN

Damned if I know

PUTNEY, VT | Frank Rich of the New York Times called the recently cobbled together Iraq Study Group "The Sunshine Boys". His reference is to a 1975 movie starring Walter Mathau and George Burns as vaudeville actors who plan a big comeback.

The Iraq Study Group seemed like a great idea at the time. Take a bipartisan approach to solving our problems in Iraq, head it up by two old warhorses like former Secretary of State Jim Baker and former U.S. Rep Lee Hamilton, then hammer out a solution. The only problem is that the bloody thing is lost already.

Some of their recommendations make sense but it's too little too late.

Get Iran and Syria involved in "influencing events" in Iraq. That would be great if they weren't our sworn enemy, one of whom was referred to as the "Axis of Evil" in one of George's State of the Union speeches.

Asking them for help would be like asking Japan to help us defeat Germany during WWII.

George Bush won't do it in any case. If he has proven one thing during his administration it is that he cannot admit that he is wrong and that he will follow a flawed course of action right off a cliff like a suicidal lemming.

Neocon advisors in the Bush Administration had cooked up a scheme to attack Iraq long before 9/11 and long before anyone was talking about weapons of mass destruction. They saw how easily our troops defeated Saddam's Republican Guard during Operation Desert Storm back in 1991.

They also remembered the criticism of George the First when he didn't carry on into Baghdad and roust Hussein. It was going to be easy.

The fighting part was easy. They reached Baghdad and tore down the statue of Hussein with very few losses. It was there that the plan ended.

The handwriting started to appear on the wall when American troops stood by and allowed museums and businesses to be looted by the populace. They banned members of the formerly ruling Baathist party from holding office. They rid the military of its officer corps.

Every decision was worse than the one before. Next came news of Abu Gharib and the torture of prisoners. We had gone from stupid to corrupt. And it went downhill from there.

This war is lost. There is nothing to be done now but get the hell out.

All the rosy thoughts of leaving behind a happy democracy are in ruins. We will probably stay on in some kind of training capacity for a while. Over the next few years we'll read about one "advisor" after the other being killed or kidnapped.

Finally, we'll pretend that the Iraqi troops and police are all trained up and leave like thieves in the night. This will be followed by the myriad of insurgents that have infiltrated the new recruits turning on their leaders and killing them.

The remaining troops will fall in with the insurgency and Iraq will be handed over to forces more dangerous to the US than Hussein ever was.

One of the most moribund of consequences of this impending defeat is our reputation. Despite losing in Vietnam, the USA was regarded as the last remaining super power. Now it will be revealed that a determined group of armed guerrillas can defeat the super power.

After we pull out of Iraq what's to stop this insurgency from crossing the border into Afghanistan and helping the Taliban regain power?

Outside of attacking Canada, I don't know how our foreign policy could have been screwed up more. Repairing the mess this administration has made will take decades.

George Bush is responsible for the needless deaths of 2,900 American service men and women so far and 21,000 wounded. Our national treasure has been pillaged to the tune of 400 billion dollars and could top one trillion. What could we have done with that amount of money had we stayed home?

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Muhammad Yunus spoke in Oslo recently saying,

"I believe putting resources into improving the lives of poor people is batter strategy than spending it on guns."

If that sounds like a Pollyanna philosophy just stop and think how much better off we would be today if we had won the hearts and minds of the Arab street instead of trying to blow it up.

A really good start for a new foreign policy would be to impeach Bush. He should be impeached just for the lies we know about.

Who knows what other evil is lurking in the shadows of this administration? Our next move should be to close the purse strings on Israel until they start dealing in a civilized manner with the Palestinians.

Our blind support of Israel is the core of this oozing boil that is poisoning the Middle East. We must drag the Israelites to the table and perform some binding arbitration. At least we must be seen to do this.

What should we do next? How should we deal with the mess in Iraq?

Damned if I know.

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