(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari Goldstein.)
“Shall Life renew these bodies? Of a truth
All death will he annul, all tears assuage?
Or fill these void veins full again with youth
And wash with an immortal water age?” - Wilfred Owen, (1893-1918), "The End", inscribed on his tombstone.
...not with a bang but a whimper.
Something interesting happened today about 6000 miles away. Our major combat operations in Iraq ended... for the third time. Yawn. If you missed it, you'll be given a free pass. After all, how can the ending of a nearly nine year-long war that cost nearly 5000 American lives, over 1,000,000 Iraqi lives, displacing four million more and nearly a trillion dollars compare to other news items such as Herman Cain wanting to be Defense Secretary, the upcoming Golden Globes and, thank you, Tweeps for saving this for top honors, #Nationalcupcakeday. (Just to be fair, at press time, #Iraq has barely broken through the top ten trending topics in the US.)
So why the muted trumpets and drums? Where are the headlines bellowing in 60 point bold as a necessary counterpoint to those of nine years ago when Dan Rather, Geraldo, Judith Miller and every single talking head on Fox "News" was screaming about smoking guns, mushroom clouds, Freedom Fries and Rah Rah, Sis Boom Bah-ing us into a plainly illegal war contrary to the UN Security Council's Resolution 1441 and every single pertinent international law despite a complete lack of evidence of WMD, Saddam's complicity with al Qaida and the slightest shred of proof of his involvement with 9/11?
Where are the randy sailors at Times Square grabbing and kissing random nurses and immortalized for posterity by Alfred Eisenstaedt's successor before melting into the NYC subway system, where's the Victory Day ticker tape parades for the returning troops, the booming postwar economy that naturally followed and continued well into the 70's? Where are the grateful, liberated Iraqis offering their daughters as thanks for liberating them from a dictator who'd killed tens of thousands to an occupying force that had killed hundreds of thousands?
Yeah, where's the gratitude for we, the liberators, the flower petals showered on our departing tanks, the new, shining Iraq filled with shiny, happy people that, according to the Geneva convention, is mandated to be rebuilt by the occupying and victorious country? Surely, Iraq will become the next West Berlin and the economic superpower that Germany became, no?
I hope that you, Constant Reader, will forgive me my unpatriotic snark. However, in my defense, I was hoping for something a little more substantial, something more closely resembling the red, white and blue cock-wanding that celebrates American arrogance than the way we slunk out of Iraq earlier today with barely more dignity than our back door lover's exit from a roof in Saigon almost 37 years ago.
Let's take a closer look and see what we're leaving behind and what our uncharacteristic modesty prevented us from saying:
Ultimate chair-warming bureaucratDefense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and other top civilian and military officials flew in to Baghdad to mark the formal end of the U.S. military effort, one of most divisive wars in American history.
Instead of addressing the deep questions about the war, Panetta paid tribute to U.S. troops, arguing that the combat losses and the enormous expenditure of resources since 2003 had not been wasted.
"To be sure, the cost was high -- in blood and treasure for the United States and for the Iraqi people," he told the audience of around 200 troops and a few Iraqi officials. "But those lives were not lost in vain -- they gave birth to an independent, free and sovereign Iraq."
But, but... if Iraq is now truly free and purged of all destabilizing, destructive influences, then how do we explain leaving this in our deflowered wake?
Yet an atmosphere of uncertainty permeates the U.S. exit.
Though security has improved dramatically since the insurgency's height in 2006 and 2007, Iraq remains riven by ethnic and sectarian divisions and beset by fears that the U.S. departure will cause violence to increase once again.
But fear not, Constant Reader,
No doubt, the first thing the newly-collegial mercenaries will focus on is building the nearly 6000 schools that Iraq's Education Ministry says it needs to meet the school building shortage. Perhaps Eric's band of merry mercenaries can also address the problem of why Iraqis, after over eight years of American occupation, are still getting just a few hours of electricity a day after a particularly brutal summer a few months ago that killed more Iraqis who desperately needed relief from the Middle Eastern sun.
And maybe, just maybe, if Blackwater has its hands full building all those state-of-the-art schools and rebuilding a once-functional electrical infrastructure, we can talk the British and American oil companies that have resumed their permanent residence there to look into the water problems that had plagued Iraq since our March 19, 2003 invasion (pdf file). Yeah, maybe they can take some of the burden from those NGO's such as UNESCO, burdens from which we'd decided years ago to quietly divest ourselves years before it broke that we couldn't account for almost 100% of the Pentagon's funding for their reconstruction.
And then, once they get a handle on the ongoing water problem, perhaps those petroleum giants can start building the hospitals for which we'd contracted Bechtel, a shortage that has received virtually no attention from the liberal mainstream media, if this Google search is any indication (although, in the interests of fairness, the children's cancer hospital in Basra much touted over seven years ago by Laura Bush finally opened last year when the Army Corps of Engineers completed it.).
No doubt, it'll be a special Christmas for the thousands of Iraq veterans who will be reunited with their families and loved ones in the coming days. Well, not all of them are coming home right away. First, we have to make a diversion through eastern and southern Asia.