May 11, 2007

HypoxiaMan Weighs in on The Central Front

"We are here, above all, because the terrorists who have declared war on America and other free nations have made Iraq the central front in that war," he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. "The United States, also, has made a decision: As the prime target of a global war against terror, we will stay on the offensive. We will not sit back and wait to be hit again." Dick Cheney, Vice President, speaking in Baghdad on May 10, 2007.

Just as a stylistic note, to which I'm perhaps more sensitive than the general population, have you ever noticed Cheney's habit of inserting throat-clearing phrases in the middle of his sentences? "Above all." "If you will." I think it's his way of adding gravitas to his sententious utterances. I doubt that anyone ever born takes himself as seriously as Dick Cheney takes himself. He loves mumbling dreadful, spooky things, and it doesn't matter how often history proves him absolutely dead wrong about everything he says, he just comes back with another ominous declaration about the way it all is. I don't know if Guinness maintains a category for Most Consecutive Times Wrong About Matters of Foreign Policy, but if they do, they should retire the trophy in Cheney's honor. If Cheney had flipped a coin, I think he would have had results at least 49% better than his actual track record, being generous and allowing him a 1% chance of being right about anything.

Possibly this is all related to the fossilized state of Cheney's vascular system. He spends about half his time in the hospital getting thrombi Roto-Rooted out, and I really wonder why he puts himself through the ardors of international travel in order to growl out another dumb-ass comment on world affairs. Such as the above. What the hell does it mean? If it's true that George W. Bush, with his philtrumless face and donkey ears, is a Fetal Alcohol experiment gone horribly wrong, and Cheney is HypoxiaMan, with maybe 10% of the required oxygen actually getting through to the cerebrum - then maybe America's foreign policy woes (and looming financial catastrophe) are easier to understand.

But back to a parsing of Cheney's trenchant insight: I think the terrorists who "declared war on America" are bin Laden and his gang, who were and are Wahhabist Muslims from an extremist sect originating in Saudi Arabia. From what I have read about bin Laden's operation, he ran a kind of terrorist grant committee, assessing various promising proposals for murder and mayhem and funding those he thought especially devilish and creative. The Brain, the oft-dunked Khallid Sheik Mohammed, brought an idea to Osama for finishing off the World Trade Center, a job KSM and his nephew began in 1993 but were unable to complete to their satisfaction. KSM was a Kuwaiti national. As has been said many times, no one who attacked America on 9/11, and no one who worked in the back room to make it happen, came from Iraq. I've never read anything which indicates Osama bin Laden has ever been in Iraq. Since al Qaeda is not confined to any particular nation, and since it's mainly just a name for a group of outlaws who conduct business primarily by burro, I don't know that the "Al Qaeda in Iraq" formulation popular in White House press releases means these jihadis have anything to do with the 9/11 plot. The "al Qaeda in Iraq" moniker, in fact, sounds suspiciously like the sort of name given to upscale hotel chains: the Ritz-Carlton on Maui, or Four Seasons in Grosvenor Square.

So of course jihadis have made Iraq a "central front" in a war against the United States. Like Willy Sutton's logical answer for robbing banks ("that's where the money is"), there are a lot of Americans in Iraq, and the U.S. soldiers are required by their "mission" to expose themselves daily to bombs and ambushes. If we weren't in Iraq, they'd have to find somewhere else for the "central front." (Hint: it won't be the World Trade Center.)

The part about the "United States as the prime target in a global war against terror" [sic] I prefer to chalk up, if you will, to oxygen deprivation rather than to the more sinister imputation of a Freudian slip.

May 10, 2007

An unfortunate historical precedent

I'm a little surprised that the learned commentators so abundant in the national press and blogosphere do not make more of the rather obvious historical parallels between the American situation in Iraq and the German catastrophe in Stalingrad in the winter of 1942-43. See if any of this sounds familiar: "The German high command urged Hitler to allow Paulus and his forces to break out of the encirclement and rejoin the main German forces west of the city, but Hitler would not contemplate a retreat from the Volga River and ordered Paulus to 'stand and fight.' With winter setting in and food and medical supplies dwindling, Paulus' forces grew weaker. In mid-December Hitler allowed one of the most talented German commanders, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein, to form a special army corps to rescue Paulus' forces by fighting its way eastward, but Hitler refused to let Paulus fight his way westward at the same time in order to link up with Manstein. This fatal decision doomed Paulus' forces, since the main German forces now simply lacked the reserves needed to break through the Soviet encirclement singlehandedly. Hitler exhorted the trapped German forces to fight to the death, but on Jan. 31, 1943, Paulus surrendered; 91,000 frozen, starving men (all that was left of the 6th and 4th armies) and 24 generals surrendered with him."
[from the Enclyopedia Brittanica article on the Battle of Stalingrad.]

The invasion of the Soviet Union, of course, was Hitler's original fatal decision. He compounded his mistake through obstinate refusal to come to terms with the extent of the catastrophe. The 91,000 Wehrmacht soldiers which Paulus delivered into captivity were the remnants of a 250,000 man army which undertook the siege of Stalingrad. During the bitter winter of 1942-43, most died of disease and cold. Of those who became POWs, only a small fraction ever made it back to Germany after the war.

Hitler had his own "surge" led by Field Marshal von Manstein, as a last-ditch effort to rescue Petraeus from annihilation. Excuse me, General Paulus. Hitler would not countenance, let alone permit, the more obvious solution of Paulus's "fighting retreat," the favored approach of "generals on the ground," you could say. Paulus wanted to save the men under his command; Hitler was interested only in his self image. The surge failed because the Soviets had been allowed to establish tactical and numerical superiority by the time Hitler reacted, as Der Fuhrer committed error upon error. And underlying it all was his inability to deal psychologically with the devastation he had wrought with his terrible miscalculation. With the destruction of the Wehrmacht in the Eastern Theatre, World War II was effectively over, and so were Hitler's dreams of a thousand year Reich.

As Justin Frank, M.D., Bush's unsolicited psychoanalyst, has diagnosed, Bush's psychological profile is that of a megalomaniac with elements of paranoid ideation. No doubt much of this same profile could be attached to the former German leader, or to Napoleon, or to Louis XIV and his "l'etat c'est moi" perspective. These are extremely dangerous qualities in a national leader, particularly one armed to the teeth with thermonuclear weapons. We can rest assured that Bush will never change course in Iraq because he is psychologically incapable of doing so. The Congress, Democrats and Republicans alike, are afraid to impeach him, and most of them lack Bush's unconscionable willingness to leave the military on the field of battle whether or not the funds are there to support them.

My own sense is that we'll be lucky to get to January 20, 2009, without Bush committing one of two horrendous acts. The initiation of a nuclear war, using Iran as the starting point and justification; or the invocation of martial law under the recently revised Insurrection Act, another gift from a complacent Congress. I hope we get lucky and he leaves quietly. Leaving Iraq for another President to clean up is not the worst thing that could happen to us.